Sexism in sports journalism, I thought I could escape

When I entered sports journalism as a plucky, young intern I got the usual comments about how being a girl might be tough in a man’s world. I expected that I would have to prove myself a little in the field. But, as my main focus was rugby and I am a qualified referee, I thought this would be relatively easy. And yet there are a couple of incidences I must share with you, which have shocked me over the past year and have made me think that maybe I have more to prove than just that I know the sport.

Upon one of my first visits to a rugby match as press at Twickenham Stadium I was, as expected, very excited to be sitting in the press box among writers from The Times, Guardian and other such reputable establishments. Food was on offer and, as I had turned up early, I tucked in to the sausage and mash readily. However, just as I was finishing off my plate, a man who I had never met before came up to me. Without an introduction or so much as a ‘hello’ he blurted out, “I’m surprised to see you eat, you look anorexic.” As you can imagine I was rather taken aback. I am of a very petite frame, only measuring up to a towering five foot tall, but I can assure you I do not have an eating disorder. It struck me that if a skinny boy had been standing in my shoes, this apparently well-weathered journalist would not have mentioned weight.

I put this situation down to a one off and just decided to avoid the rather rude man when in the same room. I let the whole incident slip to the back of my mind and I began my journey into a journalism masters course. Again I was happy with the way things were going, I was doing well in class, I liked my coursemates and was learning a lot. However, one day I was booked to have a one-on-one tutorial with a tutor, who is also a professional journalist. I sat down and began to talk about trying to find a job and how tough it is.

The response of my tutor was not what I expected. He simply stated “Well the other girls of on the course (of which there are two) have much stronger looks than you. You need to learn to work your femininity more as some people might find you intimidating at times. You should smile more.” He then went on to detail how the other girls are far prettier than me and suggested that dumbing myself down a little might pay off. I was aghast. I have striven my whole life to become as intelligent as possible and certainly did not think that I would be told that this was an intimidating, unfeminine thing to do!

It seems that, although I can prove that I have a more than sound knowledge of my sport, at the end of the day some people would prefer that I giggle and flutter my eyelashes more. It’s a shame that this is still the case, but I am afraid that I have never been girly and, to be honest, I quite like that. I have accepted I will never be one of the boys but I can only hope that, with time, those who do not respect me as a person someday will.

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