Because I write about women’s issues, I often get blowback on Twitter, in my email inbox, and other online forums. And by blowback I mean I’ve been called some horrible things that are too awful to repeat. I’ve been told I should kill myself and that I’m “horse-faced” and “ugly”. I’d be lying if I said these comments didn’t affect me. But I don’t let them stop me from believing I have the right to voice my opinion.
It is mind-blowing that in 2016 women are still fighting to be respected in public arenas. There is a frightening number of men who feel that women should not be entitled to speak freely or even choose their own paths in life. American men. In this day and age, how could this be?
Don’t worry. This is not about to turn into an “I hate men” rant. There are amazing men in this world. I know because I’m happily married to the bravest, strongest, most supportive man on the planet. I’m biased, probably—but the point is I don’t hate men. In fact, many men have come to my defense online when misogynists have gone on the attack, and I find this reassuring. But there is still a lot of work to be done.
Last week, a good friend and writer, Scott Garner, posted a link to viral video “More Than Mean” on his Facebook wall. And it got my attention. It got millions of people’s attention. If you haven’t seen it yet, you need to.
The video features Sarah Spain, an ESPN radio host and Sports Center reporter, and Julie DiCaro, Sport Illustrated writer and anchor for "Chicago Sports Radio". Both of these women have been lauded as top-notch sports journalists—without the condescending “for a girl/woman” tag slapped at the end of the compliment. They are outstanding at what they do as journalists. Period. No quantifying necessary. But that doesn’t stop the onslaught of hate speech regularly hurled at them online, especially via Twitter.
The problem with the internet is that it gives us a simultaneous feeling of empowerment and anonymity. This is a dangerous combination. We need to be mindful that the people we write about are real human beings with lives, families, and emotions. Spain and DiCaro planned this video to bring about such mindfulness. Male participants sat in a studio and read aloud some of the most hateful Tweets the women journalists received just for being women who have “the nerve” to write about sports. The men in the video weren’t the ones who wrote the Tweets. They were just willing to be a part of the experiment.
The Tweets are horrible. The men’s reactions to having to say them aloud directly to these women is difficult to watch, but this experiment is important. It puts a human face on what we sometimes think are anonymous comments that simply float in cyberspace without impact. This type of online harassment happens every day. And it needs to stop. You can disagree with someone. You can call them out when they’re wrong. You can be angry. But base it on substance. Fight fair. Use substantive language and have a point. To hurl disgusting insults at someone just because she’s a woman who dares to speak her mind, even in a male-dominated arena? That’s morally inexcusable.
What's your reaction to the video? Comment below.
For more on this story, click here for On Point's excellent coverage from last week's radio program with Spain and DiCaro.