Note: This video contains offensive and abusive language.
Two Chicago-area sports journalists were tired of being the target of abusive online comments from men, so they gathered up the degrading tweets that had been directed at them and asked other men to read them to their faces. The result is a video that has been viewed more than a million times.
It’s started a conversation about the perils women face online and why people feel compelled to attack strangers online. Here & Now‘s Robin Young talks with Julie DiCaro, anchor at 670 The Score and a writer for the Sports Illustrated blog, The Cauldron, about the video.
Interview Highlights: Julie DiCaro
What gave you the idea to do this?
“It actually wasn’t my idea, it actually came from the Just Not Sports guys. They reached out to me and they sort of pitched the idea, told me what their vision was, and asked if I would be interested in doing that, and I sort of jumped at the opportunity because I thought it was a great idea. I know they reached out to several other sports writers, several other women in Chicago, and a lot of women were, I think, concerned about the backlash they would get, were concerned about how it would affect their brand, so in the end, Sarah [Spain] and I were the only two that agreed to do it.”
Has there been backlash?
“There has been. I would say it’s been 90 percent positive. Immediately we had a lot of guys say, ‘well, when do we get the video of women saying mean stuff to men?’ Then people screaming at us about trying to squash the First Amendment, and all kinds of things like that but it’s been 90 percent positive. We expected to get a little something coming back our way.”
What happens when you get a message like ‘I hope you get raped again?’
“It’s very shocking to me. Actually my rape happened in college, I wrote about it in 2013, but it’s very shocking. I mean I grew up in a home where we weren’t allowed to say ‘shut up’ to our brothers and sisters. That was something that my parents would have punished us for, we just weren’t allowed to talk to each other that way. You know, I know this happens in other places, you know Gamergate is infamous for the way women have been treated, but it’s really the social component of the online component of this where it’s really taken off. I think in most other areas and walks of life you don’t sort of get this kind of language as the norm.”
On the reactions of the men reading the tweets
“Right, they thought they were going to come in and do kind of a Jimmy Kimmel-esqe mean tweets that would sort of be funny with local reporters. To these guys’ credit, they didn’t know what they were going to read. They were shocked and very emotional, which I actually found very heartening. It actually renewed my faith in humanity that they were as upset by these tweets as we were. To their credit, not a single one of them afterward said, you know, they felt tricked into it, that they didn’t want to do it, don’t use me in the video. They all were really on board and I think that speaks to the power of the way the video was set up and I think it speaks to our humanity when we see people using words like that when they talk to other people.”
What effect did it have, lifting these comments out of the anonymous and having people actually face each other when saying these things?
“I’ve heard people suggest that it’s because, you know, it could have been me and Sarah and people wouldn’t have had the same impact because we’re women and that once you get men involved, then people are willing to listen. But I don’t know if that’s realty the case. I think that it had to do with the emotion on these guys’ faces, and there is something about hearing as opposed to reading. Anyone who listens to audiobooks can tell you, it’s a very different experience from reading a book. So when you hear that, in a voice, coming from another human being instead of this sort of disembodied voice in your head when you’re reading, having to look someone in the eye and see their emotion, I think that made a huge impact.”
Have you heard from people who have written the tweets?
“I have not, though I have had a couple other people who I had blocked for saying horrible things reach out to me on other social media platforms and apologize, and I’ve had several guys, and I know Sarah’s seen this too, several guys on Twitter say, “wow, I’m really going to think about what I say to people going forward.’ So, if we made that much of a difference, then that’s something.”
On this type of online abuse happening widely to journalists, but also people in other professions, such as a firefighter who recently committed suicide
“It’s very serious. To some degree I knew I had to have thick skin when I came into this industry, and I think people telling you that they don’t like your work is normal. But one of the big differences between the way men and women are treated down the line is that when men receive abuse, it tends to be about their point. When it’s women, it’s about them. It’s genderized, it’s sexualized, it has a lot to do about rape and physical violence and those are two very different things. I really think that we need to learn to see the difference between criticism and harassment.”
- Julie DiCaro, anchor at 670 The Score and writer for Sports Illustrated blog, The Cauldron. She tweets @JulieDiCaro.