How To Be a Woman on a Woman-Hating Beat?

What Women Really Think
July 30 2009 1:15 PM

How To Be a Woman on a Woman-Hating Beat?

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Adam Reilly of the Boston Phoenix makes an interesting connection between ESPN’s prompt response to the creepy nude tape of sportscaster Erin Andrews and its extended silence on the rape allegations against Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger . If ESPN truly understood from the Andrews case the abusive relationship between women and the world of pro sports, Reilly argues, it should have known the importance of covering the rape charges. He writes:

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The diminishment of women is part of pro sports' DNA. Think of the NFL's cheerleaders and the NBA's "dancers," for example, or Playboy's "Sexiest Sportscaster" contest, or the prolific promiscuity of pro athletes as a group. (As Kevin Elster of the New York Mets once told Sports Illustrated: "You can get sex every night. On the road. At home. It doesn't matter.")

That doesn’t mean Roethlisberger is guilty of rape, he goes on. It just means ESPN has a responsibility to report on the news that he’s been accused of it.

There was a lot of talk following the Erin Andrews incident of how hard it is to be a woman sportscaster, to function and gain respect in a world that so degrades women. These same issues come up for women covering hip-hop, another world frequently accused of "hating women." In a roundtable discussion years ago about hip-hop journalism , Dream Hampton, who co-wrote Jay-Z’s autobiography, The Black Book , told an upsetting tale of the sort of threats she encountered covering the genre. While she was working on a profile of Dr. Dre, Hampton learned of accusations that he had hit another female reporter. Soon after, the owner of Dr. Dre’s record label told Hampton during an interview that "she shouldn’t say anything stupid in print that might cause her to 'get her face all fucked up.’"

What is it going to take for sports and hip-hop to be safe beats for women? Will these problems dissipate as more women reporters flood the scene, or does there need to be some more profound shift at the core of these often misogynistic institutions?

Photograph of Erin Andrews by Kevork Djansezian and photograph of Ben Roethlisberger by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

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