Baldwin: Overwhelming sexism at World Cup

Several female reporters at the World Cup have been groped, kissed and harassed while doing their jobs on air. CNN's Brooke Baldwin and Christine Brennan discuss why.

Posted: Jul 6, 2018 10:39 PM
Updated: Jul 6, 2018 10:53 PM

In a time that has seen the #MeToo movement go worldwide, the planet's biggest football competition has provided a moment of sobriety.

From Burger King offering women a chance to win $47,000 and free Whoppers for life if they got impregnated by a World Cup player, through to the Argentine football federation publishing a section on "How to pick up Russian women" in its pre-tournament guide for staff and journalists, the specter of sexism and misogyny has never been too far away.

On Wednesday, German television channel ZDF took the remarkable step of lodging criminal proceedings against two social-media users who it says targeted Claudia Neumann, one of the channel's leading commentators, with a barrage of sexist abuse.

Of the 16,000 journalists accredited to cover the World Cup in Russia, just 14% are women, according to FIFA, the tournament organizer.

And for some of those women working in the media at the World Cup, the past couple of weeks have been a challenging experience with reports of sexual assault, harassment and online vitriol being directed at them.

The first incident to gain worldwide attention came when a female journalist working in the Russian city of Saransk published a video of herself being sexually assaulted while broadcasting live on air.

Julieth González Therán was reporting for German broadcaster Deutsche Welle's Spanish news channel when a man grabbed her breast and kissed her cheek.

González Therán maintained her composure and finished her report but was left visibly angry and upset.

After posting the video on her Instagram account, González Therán called for more respect for female journalists.

"We do not deserve this treatment. We are equally as professional and deserving. I share the joy of football but we must identify the limits between affection and harassment," she wrote.

#DeixaElaTrabalhar

González Therán's story is one that female sports journalists, particularly in broadcasting, have heard all too often.

In Brazil, the constant harassment suffered by female sports journalists led to a group of them launching a campaign with the slogan #DeixaElaTrabalhar, or "Let Her Do Her Job".

The campaign, which kicked off in March, came after Bruna Dealtry, who works for Esporte Interativo, was reporting live when a man attempted to kiss her.

Brazilian journalist Amanda Kestelman, who works for GloboEsporte and is a supporter of #DeixaElaTrabalhar, believes part of the problem is the sense of entitlement held by some male football fans.

"I was in Russia for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics but the World Cup has been far worse because it brings the worst out of supporters who believe it should be a male-only event," she told CNN from Russia.

"The problem has been especially bad in the streets with fans and drunk people.

"Once I left the metro and asked a boy to walk with me because there was a group laughing and pointing at me on the train."

"My friend and colleague was kissed before a live report on two occasions. That was the worst. No one can do this to a woman when she doesn't consent."

That friend was Julia Guimarães, a TV Globo and SportTV journalist, who won praise for her reaction toward a man who tried to kiss her while she was reporting from Yekaterinburg.

"It's horrible. I feel helpless and vulnerable," she told Globo Esporte after the incident. "This time I responded but it's sad people don't understand why people feel they have the right to do that."

Writing on Twitter after the incident, Guimarães said: "It's hard to find the words ... Luckily, I have never experienced this in Brazil. Over here it has happened twice. Sad! Shameful!"

Like Guimarães, Swedish journalist Malin Wahlberg was grabbed and kissed while reporting on Sweden's game with South Korea.

Other incidents involving Argentine ESPN reporter Agos Larocca and France 24's Kethevane Gorjestani were also reported.

Fatma Samoura, FIFA's first Secretary General, condemned those responsible, tweeting: "Many women are in Russia to carry out their duties in a professional manner & it's important we respect them & their work."

One female journalist told CNN she had witnessed sexual harassment in an official FIFA Fan Zone, an area that is designated for supporters to congregate before matches and watch action on the big screen.

"I work with a Russian girl, who is a translator, and I have noticed that she has difficulty to walk around the city quietly without being approached," Brazilian journalist Luiza Oliveira told CNN.

"We went to the Fan Zone to work on an article and she was approached by at least five different men, some touched her without permission.

"One day in Red Square, a Turkish man hugged her and took a selfie with her without asking permission. I intervened and told him he couldn't do that because it was disrespectful. He said that the photo was for his wife, as if that served as justification for the act."

Oliveira too, has experienced strange looks and glances in the media centers from fellow journalists.

While she is unsure whether the experiences of female journalists have been worse in Russia than at previous tournaments, she wonders whether the lack of a strong feminist movement in Russia means such behavior goes unchallenged.

"In my view, there is a strong objectification of the Russian woman, who is seen as a sex symbol worldwide," she said.

"Russian society is quite conservative and is still far behind in the defense of women's rights."

'Too high-pitched'

But it's not just those in front of the camera who have been targeted with sexual and misogynistic abuse.

In the UK, Vicki Sparks, who made history by becoming the first woman to commentate a World Cup game live on television when she called Portugal's win over Morocco, received a barrage of criticism.

Jason Cundy, a former Chelsea and Tottenham player, told a UK talk show that female football commentators are too "high-pitched."

"I found it a tough listen. I prefer to hear a male voice. For 90 minutes listening to a high-pitched tone isn't what I want to hear," Cundy told ITV's Good Morning Britain.

"When there's a moment of drama, which there often is in football, I think that moment needs to be done with a slightly lower voice."

Cundy later tweeted an apology, adding: "There are times when you have to hold your hands up and admit you are wrong and have been an idiot -- and this is definitely one of those times."

Criminal complaint

In Germany, broadcaster ZDF lodged a criminal complaint with the public prosecutor in Mainz after its commentator Claudia Neumann was subjected to a torrent of sexist abuse online.

"Perhaps men need their little oasis of retreat where they're allowed to be children," Neumann told German newspaper Zeit on Wednesday.

"Certain people seem to have lost any sort of decency. Anything 'other' rubs them the wrong way."

"Whether it's female commentators or homosexual players, footballers with a migration background -- some people seem to not want to accept that the old familiar things are gone."

'I learned very quickly'

In Australia, SBS presenter Lucy Zelic came close to breaking down on air after viewers took exception to her pronouncing the names of players correctly.

Social media was awash with criticism with some castigating Zelic, while others came to her support, including a number of immigrants to Australia thanking her for taking the trouble to pronounce names the right way.

Zelic has previously written about the abuse she has received, including sexist abuse, while hosting SBS's coverage of the 2014 World Cup where she was called an an "ugly bimbo" and a "f---ing slut."

"I learned very quickly to avoid my social media for a few weeks, to block the negativity and now, if I ever come across nastiness, they just look like words cobbled together on a screen," she wrote in 2016.

"Some people say that only God can judge them but I tell you what, these days I am more terrified of the things I have to say about my on-air performances than I could ever be of any critics."

This World Cup has already had its fair share of sexism with Getty Images forced to apologize after publishing a gallery of the "World Cup's sexiest fans," and Burger King issuing a strong apology after its badly advised World Cup offer.

Stories about players' wives and gratuitous camera shots to attractive women in the crowd have almost become expected during any World Cup.

But there have also been plenty of breakthrough moments, including Iranian women being able to enter a football stadium and watch their side play, something that they are prohibited from doing in Iran.

The contributions of female pundits, particularly on UK television, have been widely heralded, with England internationals Alex Scott and Eniola Aluko winning praise.

But there is still a long way to go, according to Kestelman, who hopes that #DeixaElaTrabalhar can begin to inspire women across the world.

Visit CNN.com/sport for more news and features

"It was a shock for me that there are such a small number of women covering the World Cup," she said.

"Really, it's such a small representation. In the media centers, when I enter, people look at me with a strange look and it's kind of embarrassing. It happens all the time."

"We still have a long way to walk but the #DeixaElaTrabalhar movement is helping us gain some attention and that's a huge deal."

Huntsville
Clear
76° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 76°
Florence
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 80°
Fayetteville
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 75°
Decatur
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 72°
Scottsboro
Scattered Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 75°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 49892

Reported Deaths: 1077
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6030162
Mobile4418137
Montgomery4339109
Tuscaloosa254448
Madison19078
Marshall186611
Shelby150924
Lee149437
Morgan12205
Baldwin111410
Walker105127
Elmore98919
Dallas9639
Franklin92216
Etowah88214
DeKalb8416
Chambers65727
Russell6570
Autauga65313
Butler64328
Tallapoosa61669
Unassigned58626
Limestone5741
Houston5526
Cullman5395
Lauderdale5376
Lowndes48022
St. Clair4692
Colbert4656
Pike4595
Escambia4528
Calhoun4365
Coffee4074
Covington39911
Jackson3742
Bullock37010
Barbour3672
Dale3621
Talladega3497
Hale33722
Marengo33011
Wilcox2968
Clarke2946
Winston2893
Chilton2872
Sumter28512
Blount2731
Pickens2556
Monroe2492
Marion24514
Randolph2449
Conecuh2277
Perry2091
Bibb2081
Macon2069
Choctaw20212
Greene1928
Henry1433
Crenshaw1273
Washington1277
Lawrence1170
Cherokee1127
Geneva920
Lamar811
Fayette781
Clay742
Coosa621
Cleburne411
Out of AL00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 57591

Reported Deaths: 710
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby12842214
Davidson12549138
Rutherford332638
Hamilton308837
Sumner180256
Williamson159115
Trousdale15055
Knox14719
Out of TN125610
Wilson109917
Putnam9897
Bradley8894
Robertson88213
Sevier8633
Unassigned8372
Lake6970
Tipton6746
Montgomery6587
Bledsoe6251
Bedford5959
Macon5466
Hamblen4224
Maury4203
Hardeman3814
Fayette3463
Madison3402
Loudon3081
Rhea2940
Blount2803
Dyer2743
McMinn25718
Cheatham2522
Dickson2430
Washington2120
Lawrence2026
Cumberland1964
Anderson1782
Sullivan1782
Lauderdale1723
Gibson1581
Jefferson1571
Monroe1466
Smith1392
Coffee1340
Cocke1260
Greene1232
Hardin1207
Obion1182
Haywood1112
Warren1060
Franklin1043
Marshall1042
Wayne990
Hickman980
McNairy911
Marion904
Giles801
Lincoln800
White803
Hawkins792
Carter771
DeKalb760
Roane750
Weakley691
Overton681
Campbell651
Grundy652
Henderson620
Claiborne610
Unicoi560
Chester530
Carroll511
Polk510
Grainger500
Crockett483
Henry480
Cannon450
Johnson440
Sequatchie430
Jackson410
Humphreys382
Meigs350
Perry350
Morgan291
Decatur280
Stewart260
Fentress250
Scott220
Union200
Houston190
Clay180
Moore170
Benton151
Hancock100
Lewis100
Pickett70
Van Buren70

 

 

Community Events