Sarah Spain and Julie DiCaro are both women who make their living as sportswriters. For that, of course, they must be punished, which is why hordes of Twitter douches regularly deluge them with vile harassment and threats. In a new video, Spain and DiCaro had normal, non-sociopathic men read some of those tweets aloud; many of the participating men nearly broke down in tears.
DiCaro is an anchor on 670 The Score, a Chicago sports radio station, and writes for The Cauldron and other sports sites; she faced a particularly heavy deluge of threats after covering the messy rape allegations against hockey player Patrick Kane. Spain is a columnist for espnW and appears on ESPN radio and SportsCenter. She’s written bluntly about the sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations against Peyton Manning. (Our colleagues at Deadspin have also covered those reports in detail.)
At any moment, the Twitter mentions of both women are filled with clever bon mots like, “I hope a hockey player beats you to death” and, in the case of DiCaro, a rape survivor, “I hope you get raped again.” The women teamed up with the podcast Just Not Sports to showcase the full force of the outrageous shit they’re sent. The men in the video, DiCaro tells Jezebel in an email, weren’t briefed in advance. It shows.
“The guys in the video are just random guys who thought they were being recruited to do a Kimmel-esque ‘Mean Tweets’ reading with local reporters,” she writes. “They had no idea what they were about to read. These are random tweets Sarah and I pulled from our mentions.”
It’s striking how hard it is for the men to actually read what they’re instructed to.
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“This is why we don’t hire any females unless we need, uh...” one of them reads, hesitantly. He rubs his forehead and laughs uncomfortably. “Unless we need our dicks sucked or our food cooked.”
“Hopefully this skank Julie DiCaro is Bill Cosby’s next victim,” another reads, haltingly. “That would be classic.”
“I hope your boyfriend beats you,” one reads to Spain. He looks actually stricken, adding, in his own voice: “Sorry.”
“I have to read all of them, right?” another asks, squirming in his seat. He does so, reluctantly: “I hope you get raped again.”
“Oh,” DiCaro responds evenly.
None of these guys are, obviously, the people who actually wrote the tweets, which is a real shame.
“I would have LOVED to have tracked down the guy who ACTUALLY wrote them, so I could look them in the eye while they said that stuff,”DiCaro tells us. “But alas, most of them use fake names or exist only in egg form.”
It’s also too bad the video doesn’t include the actual Twitter handles of these enthusiastic Internet users. But Twitter trolls are pretty much interchangeable; ban one and 20 more pop up in their place. DiCaro tells us the larger goal is to prompt Twitter to take abuse seriously in a consistent way, and to show people who aren’t on the receiving end of the hatred firehose what it feels like:
I get told all the time that “Twitter isn’t real life.” But it IS real life. It’s MY life, specifically. And when people fire this shit off without thinking about it for more than a second, they affect MY LIFE. I’ve legit got a joke with my friends that I need one of those ‘X days since I’ve received an online rape threat” calendars.
While the guys who send this stuff are probably beyond help, maybe the video will make a difference to those who are constantly telling women online to get a thicker skin, ignore the trolls, blah blah blah. Because this stuff does affect our lives. You can only ignore so much of it for so long. It’s not just mean, it’s harassment. If it happened in real life people would be in jail for harassment and stalking.
Hopefully, the video will prompt Twitter to do more.
DiCaro and Spain are talking about the harassment under the hashtag #MoreThanMean; they’re also due to discuss it on a panel at Blogs With Balls this Wednesday.