The United States is a sports-obsessed country, but millions of fans remain apathetic at best about the rampant sexism and misogyny that permeates every corner of professional athletics. We largely turn a blind eye to criminal behavior like domestic violence committed by athletes because we don't want to think about our heroes committing such terrible acts. There's also the reality that so many men seem to get angry about women participating in sports at any level, whether it's as athletes, reporters, or in other roles. While some progress has been made over the years, this country has so much further to travel before there's anything resembling true equality in sports.
Author Julie DiCaro details the breadth of the problem in her new book, Sidelined: Sports, Culture, and Being a Woman in America. (out now) DiCaro, a former attorney, has first-hand experience with these issues as a sports journalist and former Chicago sports radio talk show host. She provides the history of the female trailblazers before her and the obstacles they faced to literally get their foot in the (clubhouse) door. She also spells out in extensive detail the various kinds of discrimination and harassment she and her peers have repeatedly experienced from male colleagues, athletes, and online trolls. DiCaro explains how stressful and draining it is to constantly have to deal with this kind of toxic and inappropriate behavior, especially when management doesn't support their employees. These women are just trying to do their jobs in an industry that often seems to resent their mere existence.
There's also a look at some of the mistreatment female athletes like the Williams sisters, the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team, WNBA players, and others have faced over the years. They are constantly held to standards that fans never have for men, while also facing off the field challenges like wage discrimination. Women face this kind of unfair treatment everywhere in our society, and even these elite professionals are subjected to it.
Sidelined lays out its case in a detailed and methodical fashion, and one can see DiCaro's legal background at work. This book is a call to action for everyone. DiCaro clearly wants women to go for every job they want, and not let themselves be limited to supporting roles. She also wants them to understand how important it is to support each other in this environment where they face unfair obstacles and expectations. However, things won't substantially improve until men in sports, sports media, and in the stands also do their parts to force a more equal and respectful dynamic in every aspect of professional sports.
An important read by Julie DiCaro. (pic via penguinrandomhouse.ca)