Leigh Sales is an experienced journalist who I have no doubt has had to manage many difficult situations during her career. As such she doesn’t need me to back her up in wake of the pathetic online sexual harassment she received in the lead up to the election. But I am talking about it anyway, because it makes me angry.
I knew I was asking to be disappointed by reading the comments section of story, but the fact that the public response was not unanimous in its outrage was still hard to understand. Some comments suggested that journalists should expect that type of response in the same way as other public figures such as celebrities and politicians. Let’s be clear. This type of harassment would be unacceptable towards any public figure. I usually object to any version of the argument that the victim needs to toughen up and learn to take a joke, but even that argument cannot even be made here, as these posts were not made in jest. They were intended to denigrate and cause offence, using Sales’ gender as a vehicle for their harassment.
Several other comments linked the posts to Sales performance’ through the campaign and a perception of bias. They may as well have just said, “She was asking for it,” as if it were a courtroom from last century. Unacceptable behaviour is always unacceptable. I have made this point previously in relation to the sporting arena, but it is even more pertinent in relation to the online community. There is just no defence and these attacks on Sales are far more damning of the perpetrators than of Sales herself.