Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Harden the fuck up

I realised some time ago that, either as a function of getting older or as a result of covering the particular industry I was until very recently reporting on, I have become more politically conservative. I'm still most definitely left-of-centre, just a little bit further along the political spectrum. For instance, although I wholeheartedly support the carbon tax in practice and the need to protect the environment in theory, I get irritated when I see green groups making erroneous claims that aren't supported by the facts. It doesn't do anyone any favours. Similarly although I didn't vote for him I think our State Premier, who is conservative, is actually doing a... pretty good job.

I only mention this as maybe one explanation for why this article, written by a student journalist and published by a university publication about her "horrific" experience interning at a mainstream Aussie tabloid newspaper, made me roll my eyes and mutter "harden the fuck up" under my breath.

There are racist, sexist and generally awful people working in newsrooms around the country. Of course there are. There are racist, sexist and generally awful people walking around all the time - naturally some of them are going to end up working in the media industry. Having worked in the media for most of my adult working life I don't have many other workplaces to compare it to, so I can't say whether journos are more offensive than most other people. However, I would say that in my experience journos do tend to like the sound of their own voices (hence this blog, I guess) and, in some cases, maybe have a tendency to try and be a bit shocking or politically incorrect for the sake of a cheap laugh or to make themselves heard in a loud newsroom. Also the newsroom can be an extremely high-stress environment, which means reporters sometimes blow off steam in slightly inappropriate ways because they're exhausted, sad, stressed or generally shocked by some of the things they've seen and have to write about.

This doesn't mean you have to let people say offensive things around you and get away with it - by all means tell them to fuck off and/or refute their grossness by a calm recitation of the facts. I have had cause to do both of these things relatively recently when I was irritated by a colleague sounding off about gay rights issues and it was received with a sheepish and well-humoured "yeah maybe" by the person I was addressing, with whom I'm on good terms. Alternatively, if you're a work experience student trying not to rock the boat perhaps you could just ignore it, roll your eyes and Get On With Your Day.

In any case, I don't think this student does her case any favours by relating this as an example of disgusting sexist behaviour:
"Men were also continuously and unnecessarily sexist, waiting for me to walk through doors and leave the elevator before them"
I mean... really? That's a fucking crime now, is it? I understand people have different personal irritants (I hate it when people call me "sweetheart" or "love") but... come on. I hold doors open for old people and let them get out of the elevator before me - must I now be arrested for a hate crime? Sure, maybe these sorts of behaviours are hangovers from outdated patriarchal attitudes but some of the nicest, leftiest and most right-on people I know have, on occasion, waited for me to walk through doorways first if we're walking along a corridor together and I don't feel the need to push them to the ground and scream "sexist pig!"

It's quite possible that I've just been corrupted by a sexist, racist and homophobic patriarchal society and can no longer recognise offensive, oppressive behaviour when it's right in front of me. Alternatively it's possible that the student who wrote this article has been living in a university bubble for most of her adult life so far and faces a nasty wake up call when she has to go out into the real world and deal with real people who don't necessarily share her beliefs or attitudes and may sometimes offend her, deliberately or not. I know which theory I'd put my money on.

1 comment:

Linz said...

I concur wholeheartedly.