The latest film (the third) in the series Nine for IX is a historical look at the women who broke the barriers for women to cover sports. It is directed by Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern and gives us what I would call an important chapter of feminist history.
The women in the piece were juxtaposed in two male dominated fields, sports and media. We know that women have always been sports fans and women have always written about sports, they just didn't get the big gigs. Part of that was because there was a rule that women couldn't go in the locker rooms. As the women's movement progressed and women went for bigger jobs that lack of access became a big problem and the women fought to change the rules. There were many men who did not want women in the locker rooms for a myriad of reasons including the fact that they liked having something of their own -- a boy's club.
Why the locker room became a place to conduct interviews I will never fully understand, but it has. And when you are a professional writer hired by a media outlet you have to be able to do your job. That's exactly what these women were doing. Their jobs. Yet they did not have equal access and were at times berated and harassed for wanting to do their jobs.
Every young woman especially the ones who are part of sports writing staffs and don't think for a minute that there was a struggle for them to get equal access needs to thank the pioneers women in this piece: Melissa Ludtke, Claire Smith, Lesley Visser, Lisa Olson and Christine Brennan for all they did so now that young women can do what they do.
What this movie shows is that nothing came without a fight and this is another fight that has never really been visible. This is the unearthing of history. It is the telling of women's stories.
But while this film may be documenting settled history, there are still limited opportunities for women to be sports reporters. Less than 10% of all sports departments are staffed by women and those jobs are in jeopardy in the post recession media landscape. That's why it is important to know the history, to prevent ever going back to the same place again.
The film premieres on ESPN tonight at 8pm.
Barriers: New ESPN documentary shows how bad it was for early women sportswriters (The Sherman Report)