Women in sports are tired. Frankly, we’re exhausted.
Wait, let me guess. You’re tired of reading about this stuff, right? Well then, imagine how tired we are of writing about it.
Yesterday was a bad day. I wrote in my book about sexism in sports that no one should have as many bad days as women working in sports do. But yesterday was a doozy.
It’s no coincidence that the same day sports reporters Jessica Kleinschmidt and Rhinannon Walker went on Real Sports to talk about the treatment of women in sports was the same day some mouth-breathing columnist took after the Las Vegas Aces’ Liz Cambage for defending herself against a sexist comment from Connecticut Sun head coach Curt Miller about her weight. It was also the same day a much younger man in the industry made a horrifically crude and sexist comment right in front of me, in an online chat group in which I’m the only woman. Most of the guys in the chat, whom I considered friends as well as colleagues, laughed and a few congratulated him on his turn of phrase. I called him out and left the chat. I felt small and humiliated.
I can hear the eye rolls already.
This wasn’t the first time that group has posted sexist content for laughs — it was just the first time I said anything. Now I’m THAT woman. The difficult one. The one who ruined all the innocent fun; boys being boys and all that. As Katha Pollitt writes in her piece on the disgraced misogynist biographer Blake Bailey, “Sometimes I am tired of always being That Woman.” And wow, do we aaaalllll feel that.
I don’t know what it says about an industry that this kind of thing happens so regularly and blatantly. I do know there are a lot of men working in sports media, who have never worked in any other industry, and think, for some reason, that behaving like they work in a frat house is normal, even in front of women who are their colleagues (and sometimes their superiors).
It’s not normal. It’s not okay. And we’re sick of it.
We don’t want to hear “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” We stand it all right. We stand it damn near everyday. And there’s not an industry in this country where withstanding the sexist ramblings of one’s co-workers is a job requirement. Nor is it legal. There are laws and HR departments in place to keep this kind of thing from happening in our workplaces. And yet, here we are.
“Go find another career if you hate this one so much.” If we hated this career, we’d have been out the door a long time ago. The fact that we stay, amidst all the garbage that comes our way, is a testament to how dedicated we are to our jobs. But no one should have to fight through depression and demoralization and feelings of marginalization just to stay in a career they love, just because those around them can’t play by the rules. And anyway, have you heard how hard jobs in media are to come by these days?
Sports has never really gotten it’s #MeToo moment. There are likely multiple reasons for this, but I think the biggest one is that there just aren’t enough women working in sports to make one happen. It’s certainly not for a lack of qualifying incidents. It’s a lot easier to go to HR and make a complaint about a co-worker’s sexist conduct when you’re not the only woman in your workplace. But too many of us are.
And if you don’t think having to deal with this bullshit on the regular affects our mental health, think again.
Melissa Ludtke sued MLB for her right to go into the locker room in 1976. That’s 45 years ago. Since then, we’ve endured, we’ve pleaded, we’ve tried to be “one of the guys.” We’ve screamed, we’ve gone to HR, we’ve cried, we’ve vented to each other, we’ve started group chats, we’ve gone to therapy.
So consider this less a request and more of a primal scream, which looks somewhat subdued because of the medium.
STOP TREATING US THIS WAY.
And to our male colleagues: If you can’t exist in your job without emotionally harming those around you, you need to find something else to do. Maybe something where you don’t have to, you know, interact with people. After all, if you can’t stand the heat of a civilized workplace ...