Montreal·Point of View

FHRITP: CBC Montreal journalists speak out about vulgar 'joke'

WARNING: Story contains explicit language: An online hoax, which has transformed into a disturbing real-life prank, has been singling out journalists, and two reporters at CBC Montreal have decided to share why FHRITP isn’t funny.

WARNING: Story contains explicit language: ' I felt shocked and violated,' says CBC's Tanya Birkbeck

FHRITP: CBC reporter Tanya Birkbeck's experience

9 years ago
Duration 0:49
CBC Montreal reporter Tanya Birkbeck had the phrase yelled at her twice in the same day.

A worrying online phenomenon known as FHRITP — or f--k her right in the p---y — has been targeting journalists, and two women at CBC Montreal have decided to share why FHRITP isn’t “funny” at all.

I did not know it would blow up this big- John Cain

The meme can be traced back to January 2014, when American internet prankster John Cain uploaded several real-looking clips to YouTube. They featured live news reports, interrupted with the phrase: “f--k her right in the p---y.”

In the first video, purportedly showing a Fox News reporter who didn’t know he was live, the words come from the “journalist” himself.

But ​ debunked the hoax, pointing out that it’s actually Cain's voice, spliced together with real television footage to make it appear legitimate.

  • (WARNING: Explicit audio) Watch the original FHRITP videos here and here 

In subsequent videos, the phrase is shouted into a microphone by a man (who appears to be a passerby) who surprises a female reporter during her live report.

Cain confirmed to CBC Montreal’s Morgan Dunlop that “I am the guy who started the FHRITP trend.”

In this screen capture from a video posted on YouTube, a man identified as 'Fred' appears to interrupt a journalist and yell 'f--k her right in the p---y.' The video was later revealed to be a hoax. (YouTube)

He said he made the videos to be “funny but shocking at the same time.”

Officially entered into the annals of internet memes as “FHRITP,” the videos received millions of hits and looked genuine enough.

And maybe that’s why this appears to be catching on outside of the realm of internet meme-dom.

In an email, Cain said he “did not know it would blow up this big.”

“Male and female reporters have both encountered being interrupted during a live broadcast so it’s not just women. It is not an attack on women in any way.

“In fact, I love women and I would FHRITP all of them if they wanted.”

Here are the stories of two CBC Montreal journalists, and their FHRITP experiences.

Morgan Dunlop: 'I was embarrassed. Then I was angry'

Sadly, as a woman, getting cat calls is not unique. But now female television reporters are the target of a new form of unwelcome attention.

This may have started as a silly prank, but this is sexist.- Morgan Dunlop, CBC journalist

When I first saw the YouTube compilation of the prank, I laughed.

Television news is serious. The tone is, at times, severe. The juxtaposition in the videos is striking and I thought it was hilarious.

Maybe I never should have found this funny. But I didn’t see it as an attack on female journalists until it started happening to reporters I know – talented, bright, hard-working women who deal with pervasive sexism every day, and that’s without a stranger yelling obscenities at them while they work.

And then it happened to me.

CBC's Morgan Dunlop was surprised when a man shouted FHRITP during this live report in Montreal. (CBC News)

I was speaking to an anchor in Toronto about an anti-austerity demonstration in downtown Montreal, when I heard the sentence shouted by a protester behind me. I smiled and continued to explain why the group was demonstrating, hoping the microphone hadn’t picked up the phrase.

But I was embarrassed.

Then I was angry.

Somewhere along the line this prank has morphed into something that’s not funny at all.

Here are three reasons why:

1. You are attacking women

The phrase is abusive. Maybe it has been shouted at men as well, but the wording clearly targets and objectifies women.

The newsroom, like our society, is not equal and there are plenty of examples to draw from. One female journalist I know recounted one incident involving a male co-worker who said, “Wow, I didn't know you were smart. I thought you got this job because you were pretty.” Another was recently attacked online for wearing a particular shade of lipstick.

This may have started as a silly prank, but this is sexist and if you participate, you are fuelling sexism.

2. You are killing our careers

If women complain about this or continue to make mistakes in their live hits because someone yells obscenities behind them, management may go so far as to order security personnel to escort them.

Female reporters have and continue to fight for equality in the workplace, and FHRITP is yet another hurdle, putting us at a disadvantage compared to our male peers.

3. You look like an idiot

You are not advancing an organic movement. You are copying what one guy set up as a spoof. We can see your face and hear your voice and so can your girlfriend, your sister, your mother, your daughter.

It's not funny. It makes women feel uncomfortable. You make women feel uncomfortable.

At the risk of this story encouraging pranks on reporters, can we think of something new to yell?

Tanya Birkbeck: 'I felt totally exposed'

It's not funny.

I was unaware of the internet meme when I had this phrase yelled into my microphone, not once, but three times in the same day.

I was VJing (operating my camera and doing my TV report solo) for the first time ever, so I was already feeling a little vulnerable.  I was also assigned to cover a sports event, which can be intimidating for general assignment reporters.

Just being in public with a TV camera means you have to be comfortable with all kinds of attention. I just wasn't expecting this.

I was outside of Montreal's football stadium when a young man approached me while I was doing an interview and yelled it right into my microphone. I was too taken aback to respond. I thought it was just one particularly crude fan — an unfortunate but isolated incident.

Would you want someone to yell “f--- her right in the p---- in public to your mother? To your sister? To your daughter?- Tanya Birkbeck, CBC journalist

But when it happened the second time in the same day, I started to wonder if there was something about my appearance that made me a target. I also felt bad that the father and son I was interviewing had to hear that. 

For people who are aware of the internet phenomenon, it might have seemed like a rude joke. But I hadn't seen the videos online, so I felt shocked and violated by the words.

It felt personal. Not just a catchphrase, but more of a taunt suggesting that the men around me, instead of talking to me, should be, you know, raping me.

My reaction was visceral. People around me stopped and stared. I felt totally exposed.

It's violent and offensive. It suggests that a woman who is doing what can be a pretty serious and intellectually rigorous job can be reduced to simply a sexual object which can be taken at will.

Now I realize that this could come across as overly earnest, a sour woman who just can't take a joke.

But if we've learned anything in recent weeks, following the global  #BeenRapedNeverReported campaign, it's that women will put up with a lot without saying anything.

Sometimes we just have to speak out and say something is really not acceptable.

Would you want someone to yell “f--- her right in the p----' in public to your mother? To your sister? To your daughter?

Probably not.

So don't say it to me.