Ginella Massa broke diversity barriers in Canada by becoming the first woman to anchor a news segment while wearing a hijab. However, she is ready to shift the attention towards more progressive opportunities for women in hajibs, tweeting on Thursday that she was ready to bring the focus back to the important news stories she reports instead of what she’s wearing.
The Canadian news reporter, who filled in for an anchor on Toronto’s CityNews network on Nov. 18, was already the first video journalist to report the news while wearing her hijab. However, her latest anchoring stint drew more attention than expected.
Massa, who started working for CityNews in February 2016, told The Guardian that she hadn’t even realized that she made history by wearing her hajib on air until her assignment editor brought it to her attention.
“As much as I knew it was important, I didn’t expect the reaction that I received. My phone hasn’t stopped buzzing for the last week,” she said, noting that she still she’s still received a few unpleasant messages from opposers on social media despite receiving an overwhelmingly positive response from viewers when she first appeared wearing her hijab back in January 2015.
“I think in Canada, we are sometimes a little smug because we are such a multicultural and accepting country, we often like to act like we don’t have to worry about hatred and racism here, but it does exist,” she said during an interview with Huffington Post.
Massa hopes that her anchoring stint will help change the perception of women working in hijabs in more countries than just Canada, specifically in the United States where President-elect Donald Trump has caused a widespread fear among the Muslim community.
“I’ve talked to many women who are journalists in the U.S. who work behind the scenes and they’ve told me that they face multiple challenges trying to get on air,” Massa said. “They’ve been told because of their hijab, that’s not going to happen. That makes me really sad because they’re being held back by someone else’s idea of what the public can or cannot handle.”
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Massa said she hopes her anchoring stint helps dispel Muslim stereotypes and contributes to more opportunities for women in headdresses and changes the way people respond to hajibs in general.
"If we really want to tap into our diverse communities and tell their stories, then we need to have those people represented," she said.