On Monday, sports anchor/Chicago Cubs blogger Julie DiCaro shared a story about her experiences with sports fans who made horrific, misogynistic comments to her recently, when she covered a story on Patrick Kane, the Chicago Blackhawks player accused of rape (she also shared a past incident from a sports message board in which she was called the big 'C' word).
DiCaro was greeted by a huge wave of support from men and women, colleagues and fans. After taking a momentary break, she returned to work and kept doing her job.
But what can we do other than tweet support and say how terrible that kind of thing is? We have to go further and these are just some ideas that could have an impact.
Male Sports Fans Need to Speak Up - I rarely venture to the comments section of any story, particularly my own. But when certain stories about women in sports have gotten attention, I've taken a look at reaction and sometimes chimed in. What struck me was that they're were guys who refused to engage in female-bashing language, and made their disgust clear. That's a powerful thing. For every guy that makes the typical gross, frightening comments to female sports reporters, there's five more that will come forward and denounce those types of guys. We need to see more of that. Going further, moderators need to shut that kind of abusive language down immediately, something I don't see them doing enough. But keep up the good fight, gentlemen. And thank you.
Teams Stance on Violence Against Women Trickles Down to Female Fans, Reporters - If you observe the way sports fans talk about female reporters, it's often that traditionally sexist mindset about looks and sex and, with some, it gets violent in tone, as it did for DiCaro, and on a personal note, with one reader years ago, that talked about how I needed to be murdered for what I wrote in a baseball story. Sports teams including women in 'Women's clinics' isn't enough in connecting to a large part of their fan base, that is also consistently growing. By implementing a comprehensive Domestic Violence Policy, MLB showed that their respect for women extends to their safety. And that extends to women in sports media. Young fans who see women being treated respectfully are receiving a message that is healthy, positive and doesn't allow for abuse of female fans or female sports professionals.
Women in Sports Media Have To Keep Speaking Up - Silence isn't going to make us stronger and it's not going to solve anything. By sharing her story, as many women in sports media have over the past few years, she took away a lot of the power that people like that have. We can change things with focused action. Calling out those fans, and appealing to fans that are equally offended by that kind of abuse, is shining a light on a problem that can't be ignored. Women are being threatened, harassed, and demeaned in a public forum, for doing their job. We have a responsibility to ourselves and to girls coming up behind us that need to know they don't have to suffer silently. Call it out as much as you can.
Hi Ladies. Looking at you. - Stop demeaning each other, competing with one another, tearing each other down. We have to call ourselves out for joining in the kind of sexist bashing men are doing. When reporter Erin Andrews was sexually violated, via a peeping tom in her hotel room who recorded her with a hidden camera, hearing and reading men's reaction wasn't as disappointing as what women wrote and said. Some of those women are in the sports industry. It was disheartening and frustrating, but also shed light on the societal issues we're still facing, which turn up in sports fandom and media. I can't tell you how many times I've read female fans bashing other female fans with catty comments about who looks more like a sports fan (you can't wear pink!) and who knows more. And just as many women as men jumped all over Andrews making an error during a college football game a few years ago. I read tons of women tweeting the old 'Erin doesn't know anything because she's attractive' bit, because she'd made ONE mistake. Stop doing this to each other. If you're a female fan, invite debate from other women like you. Talk to each other at games. Stick up for one another. And if you're a woman in sports media, stand up for one another on Twitter and Facebook. Reach out and connect when you see one another in the often male-dominated press box or locker room. Don't join the boys who are jerks. It'll get you nowhere.
These are just a few suggestions to combat the kind of blatant violently abusive language women in sports media are exposed to. Sometimes it feels like we're going numb to this kind of discourse. It can't be tolerated. Don't just shake your head. Speak up, shut comments like that down on Twitter, report and block those users, and block that kind of language against women from your website and blog comments section. Don't dance around it if you own the site or manage the debates. Stand the hell up and shut it out. Give them less space to express that kind of 'vitriol'. Every little bit adds up to something substantial.