The website justnotsports.com posted a must-watch video today about the social media reaction to female sportswriters. Titled #MoreThanMean, the project followed the pattern of late night host Jimmy Kimmel's popular "Mean Tweets" series. Male sports fans sat down in front of female sportswriters Sarah Spain (ESPN) and Julie DiCaro (The Cauldron), reading aloud tweets that other sports fans had sent to their accounts. See for yourself:
This topic should be important to all of us. It's hard to learn about any subject when you preemptively drive out 50+% of potential voices who might want to talk about it. There's little doubt this kind of behavior drives away people who otherwise might converse.
This video also helps redefine our concept of normal. As a male sportswriter, I'm accustomed to being disagreed with and occasionally having aspersions cast my way. My norm is that anybody, anywhere can make silly accusations about stuff I hold dear and have thought about deeply. That's annoying. As the video shows, the reality for female sportswriters goes well beyond the worst permutations of my norm. Imagine hitting publish having no idea whether the post will be greeted by threats of bodily harm and vile, demeaning language. Or worse, imagine hitting publish knowing that's exactly what's going to happen...not because of the quality of your work (which would be bad enough) but simply because of your gender.
Male sportswriters get to make hundreds of mistakes and say thousands of stupid things without masculinity as a whole being called to account. When a female sportswriter says one thing someone disagrees with--even if that thing is correct--not only credentials are subject to question, but right to exist, right to speak, and personal safety. I'm not sure I could live or write if that was my norm.
I cannot say it as well as Janet Weiss did today:
@DaveDeckard This video helps men comprehend the hatred women endure, especially those making strides in male dominated fields. Shocking!— Janet Weiss (@jazzzhand) April 26, 2016
I don't like living in a world where sportswriting and "male dominated" go hand-in-hand not by inclination, but by force. I'd urge you to help us make Blazer's Edge a healthy and productive environment for ALL Blazers fans and writers. None of us can change the world, but we can change our immediate communities for the better. I want to hear what people say about sports, especially people who think differently than I. I want to learn and grow in my understanding. If you do too, that means surrounding ourselves with as many varied voices as possible, judging each by its merits without systematically rejecting any on the basis of gender or any other blanket category.
I'm not sure I could read those tweets to anyone's face without lowering my eyes and choking out the words like the men in the video did. I'd be ashamed for all of us. But I will look anybody in the eye and say this: I'm sorry.
I'm sorry this happens, I'm sorry we've accepted this as the norm in any way. I'm sorry for everything I might have said as a male sportswriter, intentionally or unintentionally, that contributed to an environment that allows or encourages this.
I do want to hear from women sportswriters. We need women in this field. Please don't give up.