By JACQUELINE LAUREAN YATES, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — One Canadian journalist is speaking up against a viewer who tried to body-shame her.
On Twitter, Kori Sidaway of CHEK News in Victoria, British Columbia, posted a screenshot of an anonymous message sent to her attempting to “shame and police” her body.
The screenshot of the email was positioned as “breaking news,” and the top line reads “too much cleavage can break a news story.” The sender, who signed their name “Vancouver Island Cleavage Patrol,” went on to advise Sidaway to dress appropriately.
As a response to the email, Sidaway said, “To the nameless computer warrior(s) who try to reduce women into an outfit or a body part — this generation of women, doesn’t stand for harassment.”
This screenshot was sent to me and my colleagues in an attempt to shame and police my body. Well, I’m taking my power back.
To the nameless computer warrior(s) who try to reduce women into an outfit or a body part — this generation of women, doesn’t stand for harassment👩🏼🤝👩🏻✌🏻 pic.twitter.com/fgGySbVTYy
— Kori Sidaway (@korisidaway) September 7, 2020
“My first reaction was total shock,” Sidaway told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “I just couldn’t believe someone put so much time and energy into policing my body.”
What made matters worse is that Sidaway quickly found out that the email was not only sent to her, but to everyone from CHEK News’ IT and advertising team as well as her boss and many others in the newsroom.
After the initial shock came feelings of shame. Sidaway worried that her colleagues would now be assessing her outfit and body.
“I felt as if someone had taken the power over my own body away,” she said. “I felt completely defeated.”
“Then came the anger,” Sidaway added. “I didn’t want to let this nameless keyboard warrior take my power away. I didn’t want to give them the result they wanted.”
Sidaway’s boss responded to the email advising the sender that the company would be looking into anything criminal in the harassing message. The person on the nameless email responded, in short, “sounds good.”
She responded as well, saying “to the nameless, anonymous computer warrior who decided to reduce the work I do into an outfit, or a body part. You consciously took time out of your day to police a woman’s body, and you seem proud of that. I genuinely feel sorry for you. Next time, I hope you choose respect, and kindness.”
Sidaway says she has received negative comments in the past from viewers about her clothing or body, but this message hit differently.
“The implication being, not only am I responsible for my own work, my own appearance, but now I’m responsible for the imagination of others,” she said. “Let’s be clear, I am not. No one is responsible for the actions or thoughts of others.”
She continued, “And the extension of that line of thinking is even more frightening. At its root, saying that someone else is responsible for your imagination, is victim-blaming. No woman is responsible for the thoughts or actions of others, and I wanted that heard, not hidden. I wanted to shine a light on this terrifying thought process.”
Sidaway was motivated to share her experience on social media because she didn’t want to sit in shame. She also didn’t want to internalize the harassment.
“The person who sent the email wanted to shrink me, instead I stood tall,” she said. “I looked at the photo of myself they had sent. I look beautiful. I look powerful. So, I decided to flip the script this person wrote me into repurposing the photo into something powerful.”
Struck by Sidaway’s initial post, a flood of other messages came in from other women sharing similar experiences.
Journalist and TV host Camila Gonzalez also chimed in, saying, “I got an anonymous handwritten letter delivered to my network two weeks ago saying ‘decent men don’t want to see your ‘low cut tops.’ It shows poor taste in character. Hope you come to your senses and stick to doing your job.’ I hate to hear it’s happening across Canada.”
Sidaway said that the reactions to her post have mostly been positive and have included commentary from mothers telling her she is a hero for their daughters. Others thanked her for standing up for women everywhere.
She hopes that other women learn this kind of harassment doesn’t come with the territory.
“Yes, we put ourselves out there and yes we are in the public eye,” Sidaway said. “But our bodies are not for consumption. Any harassment and shame is not yours to bear. We’ve been policing women’s bodies for eons. Let’s change that.”
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