In previous decades, a woman in sports journalism would have to learn to navigate the treacherous men’s locker room.
She knew the rules: Develop skin as thick as a rhinoceros callous. Never look down. Be ready with a quick comeback if a male athlete – or male colleague – tries to humiliate you. Choose your wardrobe carefully and conservatively.
For women in sports today, social media is the locker room of the 1970s and ’80s.
The tenor of criticism and the pointed comments that are made at female journalists now are certainly different. It can be disturbing to me how sexist the comments are, how personal, the value judgments that are made. There’s just a lot of ugliness.
I remember a former colleague of mine, an update anchor at the sports radio station I worked for back in Chicago, staying home from work for a week because of a threatening tweet that included disturbing personal information. She had become a magnet for misogynists on Twitter because of her tweets about the Patrick Kane sexual assault investigation.
It’s infuriating that she had to decide between work and safety.
My former colleague is not alone when it comes to facing an online culture that berates women for being women, especially women in male-dominated fields.
Don’t get me wrong. Male sports reporters also receive unacceptable insults through social media. But women are vulnerable to more malicious online attacks.
The difference is for women it can be very nasty and vile and goes into sexually derogatory insults. It goes into a place men never have to deal with. It’s not about sports. It’s not about writing. It’s about your gender.
Sure, we in the media have to be able to take criticism. But I never hear criticism about a man’s appearance. If I’m wrong, tell me I’m wrong. That’s fine. But it seems to be more about physical appearance when they want to criticize women.
When you’re fighting an uphill battle for credibility and equality, the last thing most of us want to do is then complain about something that could be interpreted as a weakness.
It’s accepted that sports fans often get carried away with their passion for their teams. But they should remember that while it’s fine to tweet your disagreement with a female reporter’s work or her opinions, leave our gender out of it. Because this just in: having an opinion on sports isn’t a job solely for men.
Megan Huston is the sports editor for The Meteor. She can be reached at (936) 348-3505 or firstname.lastname@example.org