Brazilian sports journalists may be having their #MeToo moment

It's Tuesday night in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Januario stadium is packed with people. The host football club, Vasco, i...

Posted: Mar 31, 2018 8:49 PM
Updated: Mar 31, 2018 8:49 PM

It's Tuesday night in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Januario stadium is packed with people. The host football club, Vasco, is making its debut in the prestigious Libertadores soccer tournament against visitor Universidad de Chile.

Fans in black and white jerseys pour into the stadium, cheering and pounding cans of beer. Reporter Bruna Dealtry positions herself in the middle of the action for her upcoming live shot. She's on the air describing the atmosphere for Esporte Interativo's viewers, when a shirtless man kisses her on the lips mid-sentence. Dealtry shrieks for a second and says on camera "That wasn't cool. I didn't really need that, but it happened."

"I felt humiliated," Dealtry told CNN. "If this can happen to me with the camera rolling, imagine what other women go through. I couldn't just stay silent."

That night, Dealtry wrote about the incident on her professional Facebook page, and posted an excerpt of the video.

"I've always been a reporter who loves to celebrate with the fans. I don't get bothered by people soaking me in beer, jumping around me or stepping on my foot," Dealtry wrote. "But today, I experienced first-hand the impotence so many women feel in the stadium, on the subway, even walking in the street. I was kissed on the lips, without my permission, while I was doing my job. I didn't know how to react and couldn't understand how someone could think they have the right to act that way."

Dealtry's post generated an immediate response -- especially among other female journalist who cover sports.

"Somebody had to take that first step," sports producer Paula Pereira Ab told CNN. "We knew we had something in common that went beyond being female journalists. We had all been victims of harassment, mansplaining and sexism in general, as minorities in the sports world."

For Ab, the issue went beyond what the journalists face from the fans in the stadium. A veteran sports producer, Ab said she was fired from one of her previous employers after speaking out against a superior who she accused of harassment.

"It's been years since this happened and I still shake when I think about it," Ab told CNN. "I was at the height of my career and had just come back from an international assignment when I presented my claim against my harasser. I was fired almost instantly and told I wasn't the right fit anymore."

#LetHerDoHerJob

Eight women who connected over Dealtry's Facebook post banded together and formed a messaging group on WhatsApp.

Two weeks later, the group had 52 members. They began discussing strategies to take action, and, inspired in part by the #MeToo movement, decided to use social media to spread their message.

They agreed to make a one-minute video about their experiences with harassment -- many of which had been caught on camera -- and the hashtag #deixaelatrabalhar (Portuguese for #LetHerDoHerJob).

They published the video on Sunday, March 25; since then, local media reported that it's been viewed millions of times across different platforms, citing the social media data aggregator CrowdTangle.

Interspersed with clips of harassment and assault -- including Dealtry's unwanted kiss -- the women speak to the camera about their experiences, demanding respect and saying they've had enough.

"I was pleasantly surprised by the response we got," Mayra Siqueira, a freelance journalist and commentator, told CNN. "A lot of people retweeted our post, including some of the football clubs and male fans."

Vasco, the team Dealtry was covering the night a fan kissed her, was among those who shared the video, along with Brazilian character artist Renato Peters and soccer legend Zico.

Ab said the support was overwhelming, but said that one group was notably silent: her male colleagues.

"We got so many great responses, but very few from the men who work in our profession," she said. "Some of our colleagues reposted and included nice comments, but very few."

What's next

Siqueira said the Whatsapp group has now grown to nearly 100 women, who work in sports journalism all over Brazil. The women have received messages of support from people all over the world and hope to broaden the campaign to include international journalists as well.

"We are part of a global movement," Siqueira told CNN. "Our fight can be any woman's fight. We've shown that when a group of us come together, our voices become louder and we cannot be ignored."

Siqueira said the group has no definite plans for a follow-up to the video, but they are discussing their next steps.

Nearly a week after the women posted their video, Brazil's Sports Ministry and the National Secretariat for Women's Policies launched a campaign featuring female athletes speaking out against sexual harassment in sport and denouncing it as a crime. It also included a call for action for women to report the incidents to an emergency hotline.

"We've been experiencing sexism and harassment in our society for a long time and tolerating it because it was considered normal," Dealtry said. "I think my experience caused an impact because it happened live, on camera and in the context of football. ... I'm hoping this example will leave an impact and make men think twice before doing something like that again."

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