The Schnable Scoop

COLUMN: ‘As a Female Sports Journalist Entering the Field in a Year, the Post Story is so Scary’

Nick Schultz | The PhoenixPhoenix assistant sports editor Abby Schnable covered the 2017-18 Missouri Valley Conference men's basketball tournament March 7-10.

The Washington Post published an article on July 16 detailing allegations by former Washington Redskins employee Emily Applegate’s experience of sexual harassment and verbal abuse from people within the organization. 

Applegate is one of 15 former female Redskins employees who told The Post they were sexually harassed during their time at the club, according to the article. 

There was also mention of some female sports reporters allegedly being sexually assaulted at the organization. 

Coming across the story I felt a number of emotions — sadness, outrage — but the worst was, I wasn’t surprised. Sexual harassment in sports isn’t new. 

“As a female sports journalist entering the field in a year, the Post story is so scary,” Emily Adams, the sports editor for the Ithaca college’s student newspaper said in a tweet. “For women in sports, it’s not just your workplace you have to worry about. It’s every locker room, every interview, every press box. This happens everywhere — Washington just got caught.” 

Going to Loyola and covering the sports I do, I’m lucky that I haven’t faced much discrimination because of my sex. The fans respect me, my editors support me and I’m held in the same regard as my co-editor — who’s male. 

That being said, I’ve faced some discrimination and I know I’m not alone. Whether it was outright from a Campus Safety officer or on a smaller scale such as a Twitter troll telling me I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ve lived through discrimination. 

But this story isn’t about me. It’s about the numerous people I’ve seen speak up about women’s rights in sports and some counterarguments to the people who say it’s our fault. 

“And we all tolerated it because we knew if we complained — and they reminded us of this — there were 1,000 people out there who would take our job in a heartbeat,” Applegate said in the article. 

Job security is a hard thing to find. Job security in the sports industry is even harder. Females are often so afraid of losing their job that they put up with harassment and abuse, just to keep their credit and their paycheck. 

We’re constantly thinking about what we’re wearing — is my skirt too short? Is my blouse too low cut? — even when we know our outfits are professional to a T. We think about how we interact with players — if I laugh at his joke is he going to think I’m flirting? — when our male counterparts don’t have these same worries. 

My Twitter has blown up since this story was published. I’m a part of a pretty widespread community of female sports journalists on Twitter and reading their reactions has made me realize how not alone we are in this fight. 

There are a number of males who support our fight against sexist oppression in the industry, but there’s also a good chunk who still don’t believe we belong in sports. 

“I’m not trying to be dramatic — it sucks that I even have to say that — but I have felt more discouraged by the men in the industry than encouraged,” Melanie Rau, one of the assistant sports editors of the Columbian Missourian, said. “I know I’m not the only one. That is a big problem.”

I’ve seen replies to some of my female counterparts tweets in response to The Post story saying things along the lines of, “if it was really a problem she should’ve spoken up sooner.” Or “that’s just the way it is.” 

My response: Women should not have to tolerate sexual harassment just so they can have a career in sports. 

It’s not Applegate’s fault. She should not be blamed for the actions of her male co-workers and supervisors. Just as I shouldn’t have to fear walking back home alone after a Loyola men’s basketball game. 

But this is the system that was created — and it needs to change. 

“It doesn’t always get to the level of the post story,” Aria Gerson, the football beat writer and senior sports editor for University of Michigan’s student newspaper, said. “It’s not always sexual, either. But women in this industry are constantly treated as less than, and we all need to be better about both the egregious cases and the not-so-egregious ones.” 

And to the people who think it’s just because of the numbers, that if there was an equal number of male to female workers in sports it would go away — you are wrong. I leave you with this sentiment by Editor-in-Chief of Inside Northwestern Lia Assimakopoulos. 

“It’s not just about hiring more women in sports,” Assimakopoulos said. “We don’t just want a job. We don’t just want to be your “token female” to meet your company’s requirements. That’s not good enough. We want some respect, and it’s about time we get it.”

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