More Than “Mean Tweets”: Female Sportswriters Stare Down Vicious Online Harassment

There are “mean tweets,” and then there’s what women face on a daily basis.

WHAT: A four-minute video in which ESPN radio host and columnist Sarah Spain and broadcaster/columnist Julie DiCaro sit face to face with some ordinary guys who volunteer to read the tweets they get sent to them–a standard “mean tweets” set-up, except that the sort of thing that female sportswriters get sent would make Jimmy Kimmel hide under his bed for a month.


WHO: Sarah Spain and Julie DiCaro, in a video created by the podcast Just Not Sports, along with some nice dudes who didn’t realize what they signed up for.

WHY WE CARE: It’s easy to see the usual “mean tweets” drill and think that Twitter is equally harsh on everybody, or that the sort of harassment women face online is the same kind that their male peers experience–but after about 45 seconds of this video, the tone takes a sharp turn into the real horror of being a woman who writes about sports (or other male-dominated fields, or pretty much anything else) on the Internet. The rape and death threats start fast and furious, and they don’t really stop–they just get framed through references to Bill Cosby, or to the various ways hockey implements could be used to beat one of the women to death, or peppered liberally with the C-word. The fact that the men in the video are so obviously uncomfortable isn’t the point, but it does highlight the fact that the things people are comfortable typing on Twitter is so far beyond what most human beings would dare say to another person’s face–while DiCaro and Spain just sit there wincing, presumably the same way they do when those threats come online from someone who they can’t be certain don’t actually mean to do them harm. As a way to inform an audience who might not know what the sort of harassment that women like Spain and DiCaro receive regularly for having the temerity to be women who talk and write about sports, the video is painful, harsh, and absolutely necessary.

About the author

Dan Solomon lives in Austin with his wife and his dog. He's written about music for MTV and Spin, sports for Sports Illustrated, and pop culture for Vulture and the AV Club.