This morning, I was reminded yet again of the ongoing, very serious issue of misogyny directed at women through online and social media platforms. One of my tweeps (and I won’t single her out here) had derogatory comments sent her way by some guy hiding behind an icon supporting He Who Must Not Be Named Because He’s Our Thin-Skinned Leader. All my Twitter friend did was post a couple of witty criticisms directed at men who like… well, let’s just say men who like to post pictures of themselves snagging that big trophy trout on a fishing excursion. The troll in question replied to her tweet with critiques (to use a less saltier term) directed at her Twitter icon, her physique (she only has a picture of herself from the shoulders up), and suggestions of… uh, inbreeding within her family.
Needless to say, I was disgusted with the flame directed her way, and I encouraged her not to take it anymore. Personally, I took it a step further and reported this guy’s actions to the powers-that-be at Twitter. I’m not sure if they’ve deleted his account yet (and he deserves it if they do), but at least my reporting him on my friend’s behalf also meant he was blocked from seeing my account. (Yay! Take that, Mr. Troll!)
Of course, said troll is but one of a multitude of creeps dirtying up social media with their bile and hatred. Oftentimes, they turn it into a truly disgusting art form, paying no mind to the women they may harm with their words. At least others take that bile and turn it around in a way (Jimmy Kimmel’s “Mean Tweets” segments are a case of this). And there are those who take those all-so-harmful words and make serious statements out of it. Case in point: A video that came out one year ago this week called #MoreThanMean. The video has a simple setup: A small room with two chairs; in one of them, Chicago area sportscasters Sarah Spain and Julie DiCaro alternate occupancy; right across from them in the other chair, a handful of macho male sports fans (you know, the kind you’d find talking up the local teams at the sports bar down the street) take turns reading critical tweets directed at DiCaro and Spain. As you’ll see in the video embedded below, the interaction doesn’t start out too bad. But around the :50 mark, however…
Yeah, things do take a dark turn there, don’t they? That’s when scroll down and begin to read the really dangerous — and real (and real disgusting) — tweets DiCaro and Spain received. Tweets that range from “I get sick just hearing your voice” to “You look ugly” to “You need to be hit in the head with a hockey puck and killed.”
Disgusted by those words yet? So were DiCaro and Spain. Right after the “#MoreThanMean” video came out, Sarah Spain offered a commentary on NPR about her experiences filming the video and originally receiving the hateful messages. She recalls beginning to receive the hateful tweets right after she started work at ESPN’s Chicago operations and reporting them to company security. After that, she noted that those hateful tweets were only “par for the course,” choosing to mostly block the offending commenters and moving on.
But look at the reactions in the video. And I don’t just mean the reactions of the men reading the tweets (real shock on their faces), but also those of DiCaro and Spain. You can just sense that they’re reliving those deflating feelings they first felt when reading those mean tweets. Those words are demonstrating their disgusting power once again. Spain, in her NPR commentary, talks about learning to take the dirt and move on. Still, however, that doesn’t mean that she and her female sports media brethren should have to take it. Take her closing thoughts:
“There are a lot of sad, unfulfilled, misogynistic, jealous people in this world. How unsatisfying their lives must be that the very notion of a woman succeeding in sports media angers them and angers them so much that they can shed their humanity and wish harm upon another. But instead of getting angry, I pity them. I feel sad for them. I want to hug them and tell them it’s fine… that I’ll be fine… [and] that it’s them I worry about.”
The creators of the “#MoreThanMean” video certainly had their share of laudatory words directed at them when it first came out, what with it literally putting real faces to the hateful words and sad reactions. And a year later, those platitudes came again with the news this week that the video earned a George Foster Peabody Award. Presented annually since the early 1940s, the Peabodys honors work in electronic media (radio, television, internet) that teaches, expand horizons, defends the public interest, or helps foster empathy. In other words, the Peabodys honor programs, news content, and even viral videos that really, really matter.
“#MoreThanMean” is one of those videos that really do matter. And when the formal Peabody ceremony takes place on May 20, “#MoreThanMean” and its creators will take their place alongside groundbreaking producers, important documentaries and news reports, and provocative dramatic series that really made a difference in 2016. Amazing how a video that lasts only 4 minutes and cost just $300 to produce brought to the forefront the sad and horrific fact that women in sports media face brutal words for just doing their jobs… that women in general are still subject to misogyny, sexism, violence, and worse just for being who they are… that the “troll culture” has a real effect on real victims… that there’s still a need to put a disinfecting sunshine on said culture… and that putting real faces on the issue can make a big difference.