'I hope your boyfriend beats you.' The PSA every man you know should see

Here's what happened when real guys read the cruel and frightening tweets female journalists received.

Journalists Sarah Spain and Julie DiCaro work under siege. They aren’t war correspondents, but their beat can seem almost as risky: it’s sports. Spain is a columnist for espnW and a host on ESPN Radio and DiCaro is an anchor on Chicago’s 670 The Score and a writer for Sports Illustrated’s The Cauldron. By simply being women with opinions in a field that remains an old bros’ club, they are routinely threatened, degraded and insulted on social media — often quite violently so.

Men have told them they ought to be raped and beaten. They’ve been called “cunts” and “whores.” Both journalists have covered sexual violence and harassment in professional sports, which particularly enrages the trolls. Last year, when DiCaro reported on allegations that Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks had assaulted a woman, she was assailed with hate. (The case against Kane was ultimately dropped.)

You can hear some of the more cruel and frightening tweets these women have received in a powerful new PSA called #MoreThanMean that DiCaro and Spain created with the podcast Just Not Sports (watch it above). In it, the two journalists sit across from random men who read the nasty tweets to them. The men are not the ones who wrote them — they’ve been told that it’s a fun game, like Jimmy Kimmel’s Celebrities Read Mean Tweets bit.

And it starts out that way, with tweets that are dumb and insulting, but mostly mild. Then they get uglier and scary. An example: DiCaro, who is a rape survivor, is told by one troll that he hopes she is “Bill Cosby’s next victim.” As the tweets they read become more vulgar and violent, the men get increasingly uncomfortable and upset. They stammer, rub their foreheads, tear up. One asks if he has to keep going. Several apologize.

DiCaro and Spain, who’ve already read the tweets, also seem shaken. They offer brief comments but mostly just sit and witness the men’s reactions. It’s deeply moving to watch the two women who have been so horribly objectified now be seen in their full humanity by the men across from them. And it’s equally moving to see those men have their consciousness raised right before our eyes. What’s made clear is that men need to be among those standing up against online harassment and sexual violence.

Watching the video, I was reminded of Lindy West, a feminist, fat activist and author of the new book Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman. Last year, she interviewed one of her nastiest trolls, a man who made up a Twitter account in the name of her recently deceased father in order to harass her. It’s an illuminating conversation. West tells him the pain he’s caused her and the man owns up to his feelings of self-loathing, his rage and jealousy about West’s happiness. Then he apologizes, quite sincerely, for what he had done.

West forgives him, and goes on to say that as much as she wishes men would “stop traumatizing women on the Internet” that she also hopes that she herself will never “lose sight of their humanity, the way that they lost sight of mine. Humans can be reached. I have proof.”

I don’t know if any of DiCaro and Spain’s trolls will learn anything from the PSA — sadly, within hours of its release, the two journalists were already being called crybabies. But I do hope the men in the video reading those awful words will take what they learned and use it to reach other men and help them to do better.

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