6 eye-opening quotes about the treatment of women in sports media

Two female sportswriters, Julie DiCaro and Sarah Spain, took part in an on-line video in which a group of men read some of the tweets the women have received in reaction to their work. OTL examines the impact women sports journalists continue to endure.


The annual sports blogging conference "Blogs with Balls" was held in Chicago on Wednesday, featuring a well-timed panel discussion, "Treatment of Women in Sports Media." 

The panel tackled the subject of online harassment one day after the podcast "Just Not Sports" released a four-minute PSA on the same topic. It featured espnW's Sarah Spain and fellow Chicago sports personality Julie DiCaro, who were on Wednesday's five-member panel of women sports journalists. The discussion touched on how the lack of diversity within the industry has helped perpetuate stereotypes about women in sports, and what the possible solutions might be.

Here are six eye-opening things I heard at the panel, 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?

On building community

"Women have found a good way of finding each other and then also finding male allies." -- Hendricks

Women in social media have found strength in supporting and empowering each other, including proactively blocking anyone who has harassed a peer. It's a move that exhibits solidarity and reduces their chances of becoming future targets, and it has produced a powerful sisterhood and strong community inclusive of male allies.

On the vitriol directed toward women

"The nature of the vitriol is so different for what men get compared to what women get. Men get ... you're an idiot because you feel this way about Sam Bradford. Women get, 'I'm going to rape you because you don't like Sam Bradford.' There is a big difference and it's about entitlement to our bodies. Men who disagree with us can comment about our bodies, and what they want to do with them, and how they have the right to because they're mad at us. Men don't say that to other men they disagree with on the internet." -- Andrea Hangst, Sports on Earth

When men direct sexually-charged remarks toward women online, it's a reflection of our culture, and the general over-sexualization of women that exists. The threats aim to dehumanize women, and men must be aware that online abuse and threats are not harmless. They're dangerous violations for which they must be held accountable.

On staying engaged

When women opt-out of the conversation, "What we're left with is the loudest and the meanest of the majority, and they'll be the people controlling the public narrative." -- Amy Guth, journalist and filmmaker

Women censoring themselves is not an option. Despite the exhaustion of fighting online harassment, it's so important that women remain resilient by continuing to publicly express themselves and pressuring social-media companies to protect them against the hate.

Shana Renee is the founder and editor-in-chief of All Sports Everything and a passionate New York Jets, Knicks and Yankees fan. Follow her sports talk on Twitter at @ItsShanaRenee.

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