Hello! If you’re reading this, you no doubt know about yesterday’s Washington Post piece detailing the horriffic sexual harassment and misconduct women working within the Washington NFL organization have endured to keep their jobs. If you’re a knowledgeable sports fan, you probably also know about the way NFL cheerleaders are treated by various teams, the alleged culture of sexual harassment at ESPN and the NFL Network, and the ridiculous amout of online abuse women in sports deal with on the daily.
If you work in sports or sports media, you should know that the women-in-sports phone and group text lines were humming yesterday. We are fed up. We demand more from our male colleagues. And here is what we ask — nay, DEMAND — you guys stop doing:
- Stop allowing other men to sexualize or demonize us in your presence. Whether the comments are supposedly “complimentary” or derogatory, you are contributing to our status as outsiders. We already know we’re not part of the club, we’re reminded of that every single day on the job. It’s not OK to remain silent in a conversation where someone speculates about our bodies. Call that behavior out. The same goes for calling us “difficult,” “drama queens,” “hysterical,” or any other adjectives that come loaded with historically sexist baggage. You don’t get to remain neutral in these situations and still consider yourself a good guy. Speak up.
- Don’t leave us to talk about abuse of women in sports while you talk Xs and Os. As a former sports talk radio host, I get it. Male listeners, who make up the majority of that audience, don’t want to talk about women being sexually assaulted or beaten by their favorite athletes. Guess what? Neither do we. But it’s important that we do talk about it, so stop putting it on us to have those difficult conversations with the audience while you talk about someone’s contract status, or fantasy league projections. It’s not fair and it puts us in a position of being the “whiners” and “SJWs” instead of someone fully qualified to talk about sports.
- Stop acting like online abuse doesn’t matter. Especially don’t tell us things like “just ignore it,” or “it’s not the real world.” It is the real world. It’s our world, and it’s one that we have to wade through every day to do our jobs in a way men don’t. And don’t insist men get it just as bad, because there’s plenty of evidence that the online abuse hurled at women is more violent, more sexualized, and more threatening than what men are exposed to. Has anyone ever told you they want to rape your dead corpse? I didn’t think so. And for the love of God, stop interacting with Barstool.
- Don’t act like our mistreatment doesn’t affect you. If a woman at work opens up to you about being harassed or abused, it’s because she desperately needs an ally. Too often, we’re met with the standard response, “I’m so sorry that happened to you,” and nothing more. We presume the rest of that sentiment is “but it really has nothing to do with me.” What we need are men who will take it upon themselves to report the things they see, to encourage us to report bad behavior, to commit to holding men responsible for behaving badly. Some women working in sports don’t even have another woman at work to talk to. Cultures of racism, sexism, and other forms of intolerance affect us all. If you truly want things to change, you have to do your part. Afraid to rock the boat? I guarantee that the woman sitting in front of you is far more worried than you are.
- Don’t contribute to the status quo. Yes, you may really, really want your pal Smitty from college to get the open producer spot. But does your office have any women producers? Any Black producers? Sports media is overrun with white men, and, outside of some lip service from a few outlets that have been publicly shamed, there’s no real commitment to diversity by anyone. Despite after-the-fact word salads from guys like Dan Snyder, nothing in this industry is going to change until we have true diversity at all levels of sports and sports media. Point out blindspots in your company’s hiring. Say, “we’ve got a lot of guys here, maybe we should get a woman in here.” Be the change you want to see in the world.
And if you don’t particularly want to see a change, maybe you should think about that for a while.