By now, the majority of you have probably seen, or at least heard of, the viral video, “More than Mean.” The four-minute PSA produced by Just Not Sports shows real men reading real “mean” (and that’s putting it lightly) tweets from other real “men” (and I use that term loosely) to espnW’s Sarah Spain and Chicago sports media personality Julie DiCaro. The video exposes the harsh reality for the majority of women in sports media. Women are incessantly attacked by internet trolls for simply doing their jobs.
It’s widely understood that women in the business are unfairly judged for their physical appearances far more than their male counterparts. Hair, makeup, weight, wardrobe are all up for grabs. And while that’s sexist in nature and unacceptable all its own, the insults berating these women, and other women in sports media, are on a whole other level. Threats of murder, physical abuse, and sexual assault are daily occurrences, along with misogynistic and derogatory name calling.
If you haven’t watched the video. Take four-minutes of your time to enlighten yourself.
As an emerging voice in this space, I’ve had my fair share of racist and sexist comments hurled in my direction, but it’s far too infrequent for me to be affected. The first time I experienced it, I oddly embraced it as a “momma I made it” moment, but I’m self-deprecating like that. Also, I’m not at all naive about the business and went into this understanding that I’m opening myself up to criticism, hate, and apparently rape threats. I understand how women (of color) are perceived. How we’re hypersexualized and objectified. How our work is discredited for no other reason than our gender. And while I’m still a guppy in a world full of sharks, I anticipate that as my platform grows and I continue to speak out against the media’s racial bias against black athletes, I will make myself a target. And in true transparency, I’d be lying, and also revealing myself as an alien, if I pretended to be unbothered by the foreseen possibilities. I read racist and sexist comments by hate-filled cowards across the internet, and it’s all fun and games, facetiously speaking, until you’re the mark. But if that’s the burden I must bare to do what I love, I’ll soldier on.
Yesterday I attended Blogs with Balls 7, a wonderful sports blogger’s conference as a guest panelist. I contributed to a panel discussion about Cam Newton and race. However, earlier in the day, Spain, DiCaro and three additional female sports journalists participated in a panel titled, “Treatment of Women in Sports Media.” The primary topic of discussion was online harassment and the PSA. The women, who have notched way more years than me in this business, bravely discussed their personal experiences, and provided more context for the video. As you can imagine, it was an eye-opening conversation, especially considering the majority of the audience were male.
Blogs with Balls deserves credit for using its platform to facilitate this necessary discussion, but I’d be remiss and irresponsible if I didn’t mention one glaring omission — women of color. And as the panel’s moderator briefly mentioned as a footnote, women of color are victimized more than any group. Excluding the experiences of women of color* from this conversation is nothing new though, and precisely why we often feel disenfranchised from the greater feminist movement. It’s also the reason global movements such as #BlackGirlsRock and #BlackGirlMagic are vital, but I digress.
espnW asked me to share six eye-opening quotes from Wednesday’s crucial discussion and I did. Here are three quotes and my takeaways from them.
On women leading the discussion
“There are just not enough women at the table making decisions. Hire women. Hire women. Pay them well. And then hire more women is the best insight I can give.” — Maggie Hendricks, USA Today
While not knocking the progress that’s been made, Hendricks acknowledged that female representation among key decision makers is lacking. The hope is, as more women are appointed to high-profile and public-facing positions, societal perceptions of women — and the way they’re discussed — will evolve.
On changing the conversation
“Situations that disproportionately affect women shouldn’t be discussed in the media without input from women on any level.” — Julie DiCaro, 670 The Score
Too often men are dominating the conversation about women-related issues because women do not occupy the spaces where the discussions are being had. The rate at which this is the norm is alarming and quite frankly, nonsensical.
On being heard
“Instead of women reading things that have been said about them, it was a man. And when we see a man, we believe it.” — Sarah Spain
When women share stories of online harassment, they can be met with more of the same, including outright dismissal of their experience. But the #MoreThanMean PSA yielded mostly supportive and empathetic reactions from men. How much of that had to do with the fact that men were reading the messages?
*To be fair, I’m unaware if any women of color were invited to participate and declined. Also, ESPN’s Jemele Hill shared her perspective on this topic with Bob Ley on Outside the Lines. You can see what she had to say here.
photo via CBS Sports