Every now and again, I'll scroll through who I follow on twitter to drop some people and add new ones. I always am looking for women to follow, because I believe they're just as important to the overall discussion on twitter and in general about sports as men are. But, during that scroll I always say the same thing: "I don't follow enough women on here". I manage to find a few each time, but I still end up following mainly men because I don't have much of a choice. There are many female sports fans and writers out there; sometimes they outnumber men, and yet they are vastly outnumbered on twitter by men, and I've always wondered why. Sometimes I think it's because I'm not looking hard enough, but there's been another reason why women aren't on twitter in numbers:
If you're a keen follower of hockey, and hockey on twitter, you'll know the stories of Harrison Mooney and Steve Lepore. If you don't, look up their stories since I'm not in the business of repeating them, but let's say they said some... unappealing things to women on the internet; things that would probably get the police called on you in public. I've wanted to believe that these incidents are isolated, but being on twitter for more than 4 years now has proven me dead wrong. It's not just that women in sports twitter are harassed like that, it's that it's almost constant. None of these women can hold a conversation with some men it seems without it devolving to either a comment about how they need to get back in the kitchen or something about how they look. God forbid it gets into a private conversation, where the situation could devolve even further. It's a big problem, and my eyes have only just been opened up to how widespread it is.
That is the problem, and there is no use to continue talking about it in those terms, because I couldn't effectively speak about it. As a white male, there is next to zero chance that I'll be harassed on twitter like that once, let alone as many times as some women have dealt with in the past week. And, many of them feel too scared to tell anyone that they've been harassed, and if they do summon the courage to tell their story, someone is going to say that they're lying. It's truly disturbing. Honestly though, I think many women and sensible men have used enough air talking about the problem, and truly want to help find a solution. I do too.
So I ask the many women of twitter: What can I do to help make your experience twitter easier? Do you want me to call out those who are caught in their act? Do you want me to promote your work as much if not more than your male counterparts? I want to become a part of the solution, and even if I haven't done anything to make the situation worse (thankfully) on twitter, I feel like I haven't done enough to make the environment on twitter a more friendly one. It feels like men need to be more educated as to how to act with women on the internet (can't believe so many don't know how to), but how can that be done effectively? I can't name the solutions since I'm not the one directly affected by the problem.
I've always thought in idealistic terms about the internet, especially that the good it does will wash over the bad that inevitably rears its ugly head every now and again. Recently, that's been changing. And that's a terrible thing.
I want to be part of helping women feel more accepted and welcomed in sports discussions on twitter and everywhere else. They have every right to be. Tell me what to do, and I'll try to help.
Doing nothing and saying nothing it seems has only made the situation worse. It's on all men to help make the situation better.