Kicking Goals for Girls

When people ask me what my dream job is, I say with ease that I want to be a sports journalist. This is often met with one of two standard responses:

  1. “SPORT?! But you don’t even play sport!”
  2. “But, you write for a fashion magazine?”

And yes, while both responses are, to an extent, true it doesn’t change the career aspirations that I have. I crave to be amongst those moments of glory that you remember for the rest of your life, those moments that make the country stop. I want to be there reporting on them with the same passions of an infatuated six year old watching on the television in complete and utter awe. However, in recent weeks, a number female sports journalists worldwide have published their experiences from inside the ‘media pack’ and it has exposed a darker side to me that I had never thoroughly considered. It’s a sense of naivety that I have carried that filtered the very real backlash female journos would be subjected to from simply doing their jobs.

In a recent publication to SBS’ All-Women sports website Zela, female journalist Lucy Zelic highlighted that ‘it’s not all grass and glamour’ to be a woman on the sidelines. Zelic highlighted the tirade of abuse she was put through on social media during her coverage of the Womens Football World Cup in Brazil. “At about 12am one morning right before I was due to make my way into the studio, I lay on the bathroom floor in the foetal position crying for hours because I just couldn’t take it anymore” she says, painting an image of the ferocity of sports fans. 

Take Rebecca Maddern, a key female sports journalist in Australia who this year stepped up into what many would assume is ‘a man’s world’ or ‘a man’s job’. Maddern was announced as the new host for The Footy Show on the Nine Network and what followed was a country divided by the presence of a female talking footy. What confused many, myself included, was the anger felt by passionate football fans that a woman would be on their show. Maddern, the Number 1 ticket holder at the Geelong Cats who covered the 2015 AFL Grand Final on the Seven Network and the Brownlow Medal, is one of the most qualified, acclaimed and equipped journalists for the job and since taking the position has flourished and the initial reluctance faced by many would have been voided after her first weeks in the job.

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Female journalists have never shied away from standing up for themselves and while many have become accustomed to the everyday sexisms they may be exposed to, it is evident that sometimes those remarks hit home. There are those examples that the whole world are exposed to, like Mel McLaughlin and Chris Gale’s encounter at the Big Bash in Summer, which forces everyone to stop and reassess how female journos are treated but, more often than not, it appears that incidents are swept under the rug.

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Maddern and McLachlan covering the Brownlow Red Carpet in 2015. (Image via AFL.com.au)

Of course, the unnecessary and often vulgar abuse is not limited towards women in sport and I believe that this needs to be made clearer to ensure that this piece is not made exclusively feminist and taken to exclude males that may face the same issue. Yes, the problem is seen to be bigger for women, but men are not exempt from the same treatment. Hamish McLachlan, host of Friday Night Football and Sunday morning’s Game Day is often subjected to the same barrage of remarks highlighting that it’s not always the women.

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When you ask a 17-year-old girl who their heroes are the response you may expect to hear will often include Laura Geitz, Anna Meares, Gabby Douglas or Hope Solo. Ask me, and you’ll receive a different response all together. You’ll hear Sophie Smith, Orla Chennaoui, Neroli Meadows, Samantha Lane, Kelli Underwood, Roz Kelly and many more. These women cover the biggest events in their respective sports and have earned a deal of respect that could not have been without the hard work and dedication that each are perceived to have endured.

Living in Australia, one of the greatest qualities of our nation is the passion we have for sport and how we allow it to consume us at every opportunity. Yet often, this same passion doubles into a fierce force against journalists, more often female. I don’t have a degree, I don’t have any media qualifications but, I have a dream. Please let me, one day, live it out.

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