I was very excited to see that the Sports Writing Festival was happening again in Melbourne this year. I contemplated heading down for it, but as it starts exactly two weeks before I am due to give birth, I thought that probably wasn’t the best idea. But despite my general good feelings about the event, there was something I couldn’t help but notice when looking at the program:
There are some great women on the program, but all but one have been pigeonholed into the “Women’s sport” event. Everything else was dominated by men.
Of course, it could be an oversight, so I was hesitant to be overly critical. Instead, I said I was disappointed. These were my tweets:
I also retweeted one of @Nichmelbourne’s tweets, that she’s since deleted, so I can’t link it.
So imagine my surprise when I opened my account to receive this direct message from the founder of the Festival, Francis Leach:
I’m not going to lie: I was pretty angry about this. I was angry that such a mild criticism — which I specifically framed positively — received such an indignant response. And angry that it came to me directly, rather than publicly.
And I get it. I get that it hurts when someone criticises something you’re doing for free.
But you don’t get a pass on addressing the problem of women’s representation in sport because you’re already working really hard. There are plenty of us who would be delighted to recommend people who are able to speak about it. And maybe just take the criticism on the chin, say “fair point, we’ll try better next time.”
I was not a kind as I could have been in my response: I admit to that. I was fuming. Here it is:
No response. Not surprising. But I did notice a couple of other people making similar criticisms and receiving (public) defences similar to the one I received. I briefly tweeted about it here.
Anyway, I thought that was that, until someone this morning pointed out that Francis Leach had been tweeting today about the difficulty of being a woman in sport and how that issue would be addressed at the Festival:
Though I had to get my partner to send me that screenshot, because:
I have many thoughts but, really, I think this whole story speaks for itself.