RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We've all heard about the bullying that can take place online. We're now going to hear from a woman who is shining a light on the abuse she has experienced herself. Sarah Spain is a Chicago-based sports broadcaster. And she and her colleague Julie DiCaro were featured in a video that was released last week on YouTube. And in it, men read actual social media messages that were directed at these two women.
Now, we should warn you, the audio you're going to hear over the next few minutes might not be appropriate for all listeners. As the video progresses, the messages get increasingly vicious. And the men and the reporters become visibly more uncomfortable.
(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO, "MORE THAN MEAN")
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: You need to be hit in the head with a hockey puck and killed.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: I hope you get raped again.
JULIE DICARO: Oh.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: I'm having trouble looking at you when I'm saying these things.
SARAH SPAIN: Mhm.
MARTIN: The video is called "More Than Mean," and it's been viewed more than 3 million times since it came out. Here's a commentary now from Sarah Spain explaining why she made the video and the effect it has had on her.
SPAIN: I remember the first feedback I got as an ESPN employee. In fact, I still have screen grabs of the messages. It was 2010, and I was the first woman in 11 years to get a regular on-air role at the Chicago sports radio station, ESPN 1000. I'd been on the job just two days when a guy began bombarding me with messages, messages like, your voice makes me want to puke; who did you sleep with to get this job? And, you're ugly as hell in your pictures.
The sheer number of comments from this guy were enough to make me worry about my safety. So I reported them to ESPN security. Looking back now, after six years of working as a radio and TV host and SportsCenter reporter for ESPN, those messages don't even make me blink. I've seen and heard so much worse. It's sad to say, but I now consider threats of violence and comments about my appearance, my sexual activity and my femininity par for the course. Occasionally, I'll respond or defend myself. Mainly, I just block offending parties and move on.
But after seeing the response to the "More Than Mean" public service video I filmed last week, I was reminded that these kind of comments aren't normal. And they shouldn't be expected or accepted. It was a different sensation hearing the messages spoken to my face by a real person. The words felt powerful again. The video went viral, prompting some important conversations about why some people still believe sports is a male space that women shouldn't be a part of.
I received a lot of messages telling me harassment's just part of the job and should be ignored. It's a sad commentary in our society that instead of bemoaning a world in which it's OK to tell someone, get raped, instead, the suggestion is that the victims of the abuse take it in, digest it and say nothing. And here's another reality check. For those of us in the industry, simply quitting social media isn't the answer. It's where breaking news hits, where people seek out content, where important conversations and debates occur. I may be hardened to the abuse now, but just because I can take it doesn't mean I should have to.
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, that it's them I worry about.
MARTIN: Commentator Sarah Spain is a radio and TV host for ESPN. The video she made with fellow sportscaster Julie DiCaro is titled, "More Than Mean."
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