Mean tweets can be funny. When Gwyneth Paltrow or Jon Krasinski read the silly, often nonsensical stuff said about them on national television, it's meant to amuse — and in a way, to empower them. Usually it's the people who wrote the tweets who end up looking dumb.
When it comes to sports, criticism of players, coaches, referees, mascots and even sports reporters is part of the game. Fans feel passionate about when their team or favorite player is misrepresented, and they lash out, sometimes rudely. Dislike of players or people on an opposing team is de rigueur and part of the "fun" of sports for many fans. For example, check out this funny (but not quite safe for work) segment on the "Jimmy Kimmel Live" show to get an idea of some of the mean tweets NBA players and announcers get.
And that's how this video of sports reporters Sarah Spain and Julie DiCara starts: kinda silly, kinda mean tweets about their reporting skills or their writing ability read by real sports fans — but keep in mind, these men are not the ones who wrote the tweets. "Sarah Spain is just a scrubmuffin," is one example that's both lighthearted, mean, funny — and a bit of a head scratcher. Julie DiCara's writing is written off as low-quality. Not nice, but you have to imagine that most writers are familiar with less-than-kind feedback.
But then it gets really harsh. (And the language is definitely not safe for all audiences.)
Check out the video above if you haven't already. Not only is the harshest language used, but the tweets aren't just mean, or critical; they're cruel and meant as harassment. These tweets are qualitatively not the same as general dislike of someone or their world — it's raw hate. Hence the hashtag #MoreThanMean, which the website that produced the video, JustNotSports, attached to the story.
Examples — and these are some of the lighter fare we can print here:
"I hope your boyfriend beats you."
"You need to be hit in a head with a hockey puck and killed."
Honestly, I had trouble watching the whole video, I was so uncomfortable. It seems to go on for a long, long time, but it only lasts four minutes. Clearly, the guys reading are horrified and embarrassed. A few are unable to speak certain tweets aloud. It's ugly and disturbing. But there are other reasons why this video has hit home with so many people.
I found it powerful to hear men reading the tweets aloud, so you can hear the words in a man's voice. While the men reading and speaking in the video didn't write the horrible words, and they are still made uncomfortable by the situation. But I'd say that most men have heard another guy talk about women in this way — or so say the men I know. It's hard to call out a friend, but that needs to happen more. Perhaps men who see this video will be inspired to speak up.
Sure, everyone gets mean tweet, but ...
Twitter isn't remotely a safe space. Everyone who states an opinion from an elevated platform gets mean tweets. #womenandmenblackandwhite— Jason Whitlock (@WhitlockJason) April 26, 2016
As the tweet above suggests, some people in the sports world insist that everyone gets mean tweets — but this isn't just about a few insults. You can see how the first few (even the really insulting ones) are easily shaken off by the women. But not long after that, they can't. That's real. We can all stand sticks and stones being thrown our way, but when the volume becomes deafening, it gets to a point where normal defenses are not enough.
Violent tweets towards women aren't just "mean" in the same way they are for men. Why? The statistics tell the story: Most women who are murdered are killed by men, and most women who are physically assaulted are hurt by men, and most women who are raped are raped by men. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, "Females were most likely to be victims of domestic homicides (63.7%) and sex-related homicides (81.7%). Males were most likely to be victims of drug- (90.5%) and gang-related homicides (94.6%)." So a threat from a man to a woman about violence are fundamentally different than the same threat made man-to-man.
This level of vitriol is not aimed at "everyone" as commenters galore have suggested, nor is it limited to women in sports: A mega-analysis by the Guardian of more than 70 million comments left on its site since 2006 found that "of the 10 most abused writers, eight are women, and the two men are black." Even the sexual harassment of women in science and technology has finally come to light, as the story from the Daily Beast spells out.
Women get harassed more violently, and more often. This is not something that can be chalked up to women being "oversensitive" — it's real. And harassment on the street or out at a bar is one thing. (Creepy, but sadly expected.) But everyone deserves to be able to do their job and not be verbally attacked.
Ending harassment at one's place of work is a pretty basic ask, and women are finally insisting on it.