In all the years I’ve been a reporter, no one has ever sent me an anonymous message wishing I was raped again. I’ve never been the subject of tweets calling me the c-word, relating to the female anatomy. No one has ever written to me that they hoped my significant other beat me.
But, then, I’m not a woman.
In a powerful public service spot that’s gone viral, two Chicago-area female sports reporters, Sarah Spain and Julie DiCaro, agreed to sit across from men who read tweets the women have received for merely doing their job in the boys’ toy factory. Unlike the funny “Mean Tweets” segment on Jimmy Kimmel Live! where celebrities read insulting but relatively mild tweets aimed at them, the messages that Spain and DiCaro get are uncomfortable, vile, and offensive beyond comprehension.
The video was the work of a friend of Spain’s for a project called “Just Not Sports.” The idea was to show the underbelly of the anonymity of the Internet and how it fuels misogyny and vitriol for women in sports journalism, the likes of which men never experience. But what it’s done is triggered a long-needed conversation about the struggles women still face in trying to gain footholds and respect in arenas traditionally dominated by men.
Whenever I get insulting messages threatening physical harm and calling me names, I’ve been able to laugh them off and share them with other guys in the business who have gotten similar nameless notes. But I don’t get messages like DiCaro, who once shared her story of being raped.
“Hopefully this skank Julie Dicaro is Bill Cosby’s next victim,” one man read to DiCaro as she sat across from him. “That would be classic.”
The men who read the tweets are not the ones who sent them; they were friends of the producer asked to come in and voice the messages. The men struggle to say the repulsive words and phrases while looking at the women across from them. They often fail, apologizing for themselves and their sex.
But, for the women, hearing the messages had a far greater impact than seeing them on their computer screen and deleting them.
“I thought I was so hardened to the abuse, after years of expecting and accepting it, that the exercise wouldn’t be too tough,” Spain wrote in an ESPN piece. “But with every new man who sat down and struggled to get through the words, I felt myself nearing tears.”
Many men, especially those in the sports world, dismissed the spot as overdone, basically telling women to toughen up.
“These are women who have entered the world of sports writing where they demand to be treated the same,” said WEEI’s Gerry Callahan as The Dennis & Callahan Morning Show discussed the video. “Don’t you read that every day? Because I do… What should we do? Call ESPN and say, can you put a melodramatic PSA together?”
Clearly, though, as you hear these tweets, the tone of messages sent to women is far different than what men get. And in an era where violence and cyberbullying against women is a troubling social issue, the tweets carry dark threats. It recalls the days of the early 1990s when Boston Herald sports reporter Lisa Olsen was forced to leave her job and move to Australia after becoming the target of threats and abuse for being the victim of testosterone-fueled sexual harassment in the New England Patriots locker room. The incident exposed the sordid attitudes of athletes and their fans toward women covering sports that men say the girls never played, dismissing the fact most men never did either beyond some junior high level.
Unfortunately, for women in journalism, the abuse is familiar in all areas of reporting. Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham regularly posts on her social media accounts emails she gets from angry readers that target her gender rather than her words.
“Females like yourself have low self-esteem and lack the tools necessary to become a woman,” wrote one alleged man. “You want whatever it is that men have. Females and Males can never be equal. It is impossible physically and mentally. The World and professions have become weaker because of the affirmative action of the sexes. We have made laws stating that Females and Males are equal. It is like saying 1 plus 1 is now three and that is the law. Standards, have become lower. Leadership has become weaker.”
He probably says that to all the girls.
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The Massachusetts Senate approves a ban on under-21 tobacco sales. (Associated Press)
State Sen. Jennifer Flanagan says it’s time for the state Lottery to turn to online sales to keep up with changing times and draw younger players. (CommonWealth)
Adrian Walker offers a tale of the sort of union strong-arming in Boston that is now the focus of a federal investigation, this one involving efforts to expand a Dorchester neighborhood health center and differing accounts of the role played in the skirmish by the community’s then-state rep, Marty Walsh. (Boston Globe) In which Howie Carr plays the part of a sympathetic friend offering sage advice to the mayor. (Boston Herald)
Joan Vennochi writes that Boston poohbah Jack Connors is standing by Walsh. (Boston Globe)
The Walsh administration says it will have an outside group review the operation of the city’s tourism office. An official from the office was mentioned — but not charged — in an indictment of Teamsters who are charged with harassing a crew filming the show Top Chef. (Boston Globe)
More than 2,400 trees are coming to Haverhill under a program called Greening the Gateway Cities. (Eagle-Tribune)
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Fall River City Council President Shawn Cadime is facing foreclosure on an income property he owns, the second city councilor in a month to be the subject of foreclosure proceedings. (Herald News)
New Bedford city councilors are looking at a variety of ways to try to stem panhandling, including public access television messages and signs at busy intersections urging residents not to give money to beggars “and enable their existence.” (Standard-Times)
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Charlton’s highway superintendent pays a $7,500 fine for hiring family members, although he says the problem was just a paperwork mixup. (Telegram & Gazette)
A cautious Massachusetts Gaming Commission rejects a casino for Brockton on a 4-1 vote. (CommonWealth)
In closing arguments at the Wynn Resorts land trial in federal court, the question is whether convicted felon Charles Lightbody was an owner or not an owner of the property at the time officials said he wasn’t. (CommonWealth)
John Boehner will not be a Ted Cruz delegate, apparently, after the former House speaker labeled the presidential contender “Lucifer in the flesh.” (New York Times) It was a big score for The Stanford Daily, the student newspaper at Stanford University, which reported the blunt words from the man famous for saying he grew up in the Ohio barroom his dad operated.
A Berkshire Eagle editorial says a vice presidential nomination would be a step backward for Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
When Lily Tomlin said, “No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up,” she might have been imagining Paul Manafort, the subject of this devastating profile by Franklin Foer in Slate, who has richly lined his pockets as a strategist for global despots and is now part of Donald Trump’s braintrust.
Trump’s Lowell-born campaign manager says there will be no Etch-A-Sketch remake, dismissing talk that his candidate needs to act more “presidential” if he becomes the GOP nominee. (Boston Herald)
The recent special election primary for state Senate in Boston and surrounding communities is creating a fundraising pickle for the winner, Joseph Boncore, whose donors cannot give to the reelection race he’ll have to run this fall if they maxed out to his special election run. (Boston Globe)
Comcast will purchase DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 billion and add it to its NBCUniversal division as it looks to compete with Disney. (New York Times)
Gov. Charlie Baker has announced a new program to reduce the wait time for certification for veterans to start their own businesses. (MetroWest Daily News)
UMass Boston and the Corcoran family, which owns lots of property adjacent to the university’s Dorchester campus, are in a tiff over the development rights surrounding the prominent Bayside Expo Center sign that looms overhead where their properties meet. (Boston Globe)
Gordon College in Wenham and one of its professors engage in legal battle over the school’s LGBT stance. (Salem News)
Kathy Egmont’s resignation as head of school at Lowell Community Charter Public School stirs outcry among staff, parents, and students. (The Sun)
The drug overdose epidemic nationally has spawned a somber silver lining as organ donations have nearly tripled in the last decade from overdose victims. (U.S. News & World Report)
A Globe editorial applauds the Baker administration’s plans to remake MassHealth based on the accountable care organization model gaining favor throughout health care.
The Somerset Board of Health has voted to ban flavored cigars and mandated a minimum price of $2.50 for other stogies as well as increase fines for tobacco sales to minors in an effort to control teen smoking. (Herald News)
The state Department of Transportation has dropped a plan to renumber exit signs along Route 6 on Cape Cod to reflect mileage rather than numerical sequence. (Cape Cod Times)
A former deputy director at the MBTA retired after last winter’s winter collapse of the system at age 50 with a pension of nearly $98,000 a year and now works for a contractor that provides engineering services to the T. (Boston Herald)
The Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline project may not be totally dead. (Lowell Sun)
Gov. Charlie Baker is planning to file legislation allowing the state to take over enforcement of portions of the Clean Water Act from the federal government. (Cape Cod Times)
How do you track leaks of confidential information by law enforcement officials. As the Supreme Judicial Court is discovering, it’s not easy. (CommonWealth)
Boston police will soon roll out a body camera pilot program even as policy questions remain. (WBUR)
Catherine Greig, girlfriend to federal prison lifer James “Whitey” Bulger, had another 21 months tacked on to the eight-year sentence she’s already serving because she refused to testify about any help she and Bulger got during their 16 years on the run. (Boston Globe)
A Suffolk Superior Court judge has ordered the state’s Civil Service Commission to reconsider its decision in upholding the termination of a West Bridgewater police officer who was fired for allegedly committing perjury in a domestic abuse case. (The Enterprise)
A potential conflict emerges as Arianna Huffington joins the Uber board. (Washington Post)