I watched the Women, Ethics and Sports Journalism panel at Kent State University. I watched it via their website a few days after the panel. The moderator was Ellyn Angelotti. The panelists were Melissa Ludtke, Marla Ridenour, Andy Baskin, Joel Nielsen, and Julie Engebrecht.
My thoughts on the panel are a mixed bag of feelings. I will focus on what I was critical of, not because I am angry, but because we need to describe our differences so we can come to agreements about how to move forward.
We were introduced to the panelists and heard a little about each of them. Then Melissa Ludtke set the scene of what it was like in the 70′s to be a woman sports journalist. Woman had to essentially walk a line between being feminine but not sensitive. They couldn’t be men, but they had to almost pass as men.
An example of this was when Marla Ridenour explained what happened to her when she had to cover the browns. Ridenour had developed a tool she used for being in men’s locker rooms, in which she would only look at people from the eyes up, never below. So when the Browns decided to start dropping their towels as soon as she walked in Ridenour didn’t notice. They stopped after three tries and a former Brown’s athlete informed her of the event much later.
It was striking to me that in describing this situation, Ridenour seemed unmoved by the fact that she was sexually harassed. The story, appeared to me, to be discussing the tools she crafted to survive. I don’t want to force anyone to feel something they don’t, I also don’t understand the reasoning behind avoiding to call it what it was. This raised may questions for me. Did she not feel safe in that space calling it that? Does she not view it as such? Is their a strategic reason she doesn’t chooses to call it sexual harassment?
The feel of the panel overall was that their isn’t enough access for female sports journalists. This is where I start to feel really muddled about the panel. I thought the issues raised were important and useful. I also thought that a huge issue was missing. Race.
All of the panelists appeared white to me. None of them talked about what it means for women of color sports journalists. I am going to assume that the panelists agree that oppression exists, otherwise this panel wouldn’t be necessary. So how do we talk about one oppression and not the other. How is one more useful then the other.
If we are going to say women need to have space and a voice in sports journalism we cannot ignore women of color. The panelists should have been more carefully chosen. As was clear in the fact that we not only lacked any information of the experiences of women of color but one of the panelists made an extremely racist comment and it went unchecked.
Andy Baskin said that one of the few times he has headlined a woman athlete was when Serena Williams had a ‘tantrum’. Framed in a different light that ‘tantrum’ was a response to the intense, continued, racism Williams and her sister where feeling from the sports league and the journalists reporting her story.
I don’t want to deny that talking about oppression is hard. I also don’t want to ignore the huge portion of this panel that was missing. Where were the women of color in the Kent State Women, Ethics and Sports Journalism Panel?