By Esther Sánchez*
Brazilian women sports reporters launched the online #DeixaElaTrabalhar (#LetHerWork) campaign after journalist Bruna Dealtry was kissed and harassed on live television.
Dealtry’s incident helped incite the movement in late March after she covered a live soccer game at the São Januário Stadium earlier the same month in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
About 50 other women sports reporters joined the movement and spread the hashtag on social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. This campaign aims to raise awareness about the harassment female reporters face while working and encourages women to report their cases. Major news agencies took notice and are standing behind their reporters to help end harassment of women in the workplace.
In an email interview, Bibiana Bolson, a reporter for espnW Brazil, said she is attacked on social media daily, is questioned about her work and presence and has missed professional opportunities because of harassment. Bolson was also spat on while covering stories in a stadium and threatened with being raped. However, she said women are working together for change on the field and in the newsrooms.
“We knew that it would be huge in Brazil,” she said. “Most of us are very known faces on TV, voices of the radio and people are used to seeing what we say about sports. But to be honest, it was a surprise the way that press outside Brazil is talking about the movement. This union is helping to encourage those women who feared talking.”
A majority of female journalists experience harassment on the job, according to reports from Gênero e Número, the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) and Google News Lab. Their reports show that 70.4 percent of female journalists have received uncomfortable signals while working and one in 10 journalists receive proposals or demands of sexual favors for professional material and benefits.
One recent incident happened on April 1, when Bianca Machado, a journalist and press officer for the soccer team Operário Ferroviário Esporte Clube (Operário), was called offensive names while covering the Operário and Iraty soccer game in Irati, Paraná - found in the southern region of Brazil.
“I was offended by the worst words a woman could ever hear,” Machado told the Knight Center.
Machado took to Facebook to tell others about her experience with the harassment she encountered with fans from the stadium. She said after being called derogatory names, she overheard others who were at the same event saying, “but this is normal, fans even cuss.”
“It's not normal for me to be harassed while I do my job,” she posted on her Facebook. “And I confess that I felt very weak because I didn't know how to deal with the situation because I couldn't even count on what had happened to me and still to hear that that's normal.”
Machado said the campaign helps to encourage women to report all forms of violence and to unite women journalists, so everyone can help each other. When first starting as a reporter, she said that she was not aware of any movement like #DeixaElaTrablhar, but hopes the campaign grows so that more women are able to report these offenses.
“Some people believe this is normal because if a woman is working in a predominantly male space, like sports journalism, for example, she has to be accustomed to being offended,” she said. “This cannot be considered normal. The woman is working there and deserves respect, as do all the press professionals.”
News organizations and sport agencies are standing behind their employees as more cases become public. The Operário soccer club is supporting Machado by taking “appropriate measures so that this act does not go unpunished,” the journalist explained. She said the legal department of Operário is assisting with identifying fans to bring to court.
“Operário Ferroviário Esporte Clube repudiates the lack of civility of some fans of Iraty Sport Clube,” the organization posted in a statement on their website on April 2. “Operário is proud of the women who work in the club and of all those who are involved in the sport and who fight daily to legitimize their participation in an often sexist and intolerant environment.”
Bolson said there already laws that punish fans who incite violence within the stadium, but they are not efficient. On March 25, Globo Sports published an article that reported 16 soccer clubs joining the movement to help defend women that experience harassment.
“Football (soccer) clubs also have responsibility in this process,” Bolson said. “Such as identifying who commits wrongdoings. Security guards in the stadiums must also be prepared to identify and act efficiently in these situations.”
However, Machado said inequality is still visible in the labor market, such as discrimination against pregnant journalists.
“Also we are talking about those cases that happen in the newsroom,” Bolson said. “Sometimes decisions are made based on sexism, women have to prove all the time that they can do it, that they know how to do it, so it’s hard...it’s a long journey.”
There have been more cases across the nation, El País reported another incident in early March in which soccer fans “insulted and physically assaulted” Renata Medeiros in Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil, during a match between Grémio and Inter.
The issue is not new and journalists across the industry are being affected, including entertainment reporters. Last year, singer Mc Biel harassed reporter Giulia Pereira during an interview and continued to joke about the situation at a concert, saying he would, “break her in two” because she was a “hottie.”
Bolson said she agrees that the issue isn’t new, but this is the first time journalists are speaking out together, rather than separately.
“We realized that we had to do it together to make it louder,” she said. “We had to turn up the volume of this ‘fight.’”
This movement stems from the #MeToo movement that has evolved globally. Female sports reporters want the movement to continue growing around the world so change can come for women.
“The Internet is the key for this time that we are living right now, we have the freedom for talking and to be listened, Bolson said. “Recently, we saw the beautiful and powerful #MeToo, that happened in one huge industry, so why not to mobilize our country too? We all have the same story with different clothes. We all have been through hard situations of harassment and violence.”
Machado said others around the globe can support #DeixaElaTrabalhar by acknowledging the issue and giving it visibility through media outlets.
“It is also seeking to help all women who are subjected to harassment at work, at home or anywhere else, encouraging them to report and to ensure that this does not go unpunished,” Machado said.
*Esther Sánchez is a journalism student at the University of Texas at Austin and produced this story as part of the course "Journalism and Press Freedom in Latin America."
Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.