Just Not Sports Puts Online Harassment on Blast

Do you kiss your mother with those fingers?

I’m updating the adage about cursing for the keyboard age. People these days are typing stuff no one should have to read. And often, it’s female journalists who pay an ugly price for doing their job.

A Woman Writer in a Man’s Sports World

Online harassment is a real phenomenon, and today’s #MoreThanMean Twitter thread seeks to heighten awareness of the particular vitriol aimed at female sports journalists.

Just Not Sports, a podcast focused on all the other fun stuff around athletes, released a video and podcast today addressing this online harassment. Certain people who disagree strongly with female journalists take their written criticisms and rebuttals to extremes, a malevolent scourge their male counterparts seldom experience.

These cretins usually suggest that beatings, rapes, and additionally degrading acts will improve the writer’s outlook or punish her for uppity/unworthy opinions. Slurs against the writer’s intellect, experience, physical appearance, and sexuality are made. These posted attacks are horrifically personal.

While most of the offenders are male, women pull their weight. None of these bozos, however, is looking for legitimate discussion on a disagreement. They’re spoiling for a fight. The goal is harm, and that makes it harassment.

Podcast, Video, or Both?

Julie DiCaro, a Chicago-based writer and sports radio personality, participated in both the video and podcast. If you listen to the podcast (and I highly recommend you do), her interview comes first (minutes 11 through 39), followed by the Just Not Sports hosts’ chat with journalist Andrea Hangst, who covers the NFL. In the video, DiCaro and radio host and sports writer Sarah Spain (ESPN) listen while several men read aloud – verbatim – a sampling of the nasty tweets these professionals have received.

The recital takes an uncomfortably awful four minutes. The men, to their credit, become so disgusted they do not want to continue. They apologize for someone else’s misogynistic bullshit. Repeatedly.

Perhaps I’m taking a controversial position here, but listen to the podcast rather than watch the video. If you have already watched the video, then please listen to the podcast.

The podcast is the meat of matter; while it does revisit some of the vile language and threats received, that happens within the context of a thoughtful conversation. The focus is on personal interaction with professionals who are experiencing harassment.

In the video, DiCaro and Spain stoically take abuse — AGAIN, because, of course, they’ve already been exposed to every one of these comments — so that the male readers (and, by extension, anyone viewing) can hear how hurtful those typed slurs and threats are.

Yes, I get the purpose: to shake things up by transposing hate mail from its written format into actual verbiage. As cohost Brad Burke pointed out,

“Most decent human beings would never say this stuff…so why do we see it and allow it to happen?”

That a man’s discomfort was deemed necessary to verify the horror, however, galled me. AS IF THE WOMEN WHO’D ABSORBED IT FIRSTHAND COULDN’T DO THAT THEMSELVES. Why does a man’s reaction provide confirmation that this shit is AWFUL and no one should be subjected to such abuse?

And then there was the litany of abuse itself. It irks me that sad, sick, sniveling folk who attack from behind social media accounts have their “work” live on through reportage. Isn’t every published hateful screen grab perpetuating the misogyny? Watching DiCaro and Spain get assaulted all over again felt…sensationalist. It was like viewing the replay of Ray Rice knocking out Janay Palmer – at what point did that elevator footage of abuse move beyond news and into twisted titillation?

That’s why I’m not including any of those horrific tweets now. If you need to read them, you’ll go find them. I’d rather you hear DiCaro and Hangst discuss how online harassment has affected them. Their voices provide life and humanity, introducing these writers beyond flat print and into relatable reality.

That was the goal behind the video, wasn’t it?

Handling Online Harassment

When asked, neither DiCaro nor Hangst was sure of how best to deal with online harassment, and I understand how difficult finding the right path must be. Stand up for yourself and deal with an ever higher and deeper pile, or ignore and let the filth go unchallenged?

What a choice. And as DiCaro pointed out, one never knows when that “fan” will move from words to deeds.

Online harassment is verbal terrorism. The terrorist’s goal is to stifle, create fear, and disrupt the flow of daily life to promote his viewpoint. We don’t stand for this when the context is religion or politics. Why do we allow it in social media?

I applaud Just Not Sports for blasting the trolls and promoting the conversation. They mean to have their sisters’ backs, because no journalist should have to live with this abuse – no person should be subjected to that cruelty without recourse.

Let’s take social media back from the terrorists with the following practices:

  • Listen to Just Not Sports’ podcast.
  • Join the discussion.
  • Call out trolls for what they are.
  • Use #MoreThanMean to tag inappropriate tweets.
  • Talk to your kids about respectful language.
  • Model how to argue without resorting to a personal attack.
  • And ask yourself,

Would you talk to your mother that way?

Published by Leah Nyfeler

I'm a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I've come to learn it. In addition to my blog "Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life" at www.leahruns100.com, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.

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