On December 13th, 2014 I sat in a bar I was all too familiar with surrounded by former coworkers and friends celebrating the fact that I thought I was making a huge mistake. They didn't know at the time, but I guess all but one will find out now.
Two weeks prior I had walked into work for the last time. The place I thought I might stick for the rest of my life, the place I pictured myself collecting credentials and climbing the ladder I dreamed of was gone. That place changed, and so did I. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life, but it scared me so I knew it was the right one.
I turned to a trusted friend as we talked about my plans to move to Vancouver and enter a completely different field. When he said he was proud of me I took a deep breath and said, "Really? Because I feel like I might be making the biggest mistake of my life." His response calmed me and reassured me I was doing the right thing, not for my career or anyone else, but for myself. I had no fears about what I decided after that.
The work that goes into making a living by stringing hundreds and thousands of words together to create a story often leaves you questioning if you can even make it work. Could I do this for the rest of my life? Would I have to plan a wedding, a child, around the seasons of the sports I cover? Would my life always have to be in line with what professional sports leagues were doing? The answer to all of those is yes, and that's something I couldn't commit to, especially when my adult life is just beginning.
A woman in professional sport does not face the same obstacles as men do. While the men jump hurdles, women are asked to race steeplechase. While men are expected to be into sports, women are expected to know nothing. Professional sport is defined by many as a masculine hobby, while watching reality television and shopping are socially constructed as feminine activities.
It's hard to continue working or being a part of an environment that constantly keeps tabs on you. Are you watching the game? Have you missed a game? Can you dissect this injury and what it means? Can you name the prospects, the coaches, the injury history of player X?
It's all too much to prove yourself constantly. It's not as if that one time you got something right and all questions were dropped. It's a constant nagging, a perpetual gnawing at your ankles that you are inferior and should not be writing about or consuming a sport you've loved your whole life. Labels are a dangerous thing.
When I left the job I dreamed about landing, the job I worked tirelessly for in the hopes of getting for six years, I never imagined 18 months would take the shine completely off the apple. Working nights: tough. Working long hours in front of a computer: tough. Proving yourself hour after hour: really tough.
"I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a bitch. You've got to go out and kick ass." Maya Angelou
I had a hunger when I was 17. I had a drive like no other to be a sports reporter, to travel with a team, to be an insider, to be that woman to take over the industry and make a huge mark on the NHL community. I wanted a lot of things back then, I worked really hard and soon realized I was being very ambitious for the time we live in.
Sure, I can get a job at a newspaper or website or television station and work my way up to the glass ceiling. I can work my fingers to the bone and deserve what I dreamed of at 17, but that doesn't mean for a second I would get it. I could deserve - after all the fighting, blood, sweat, and tears - to land the job I wanted, but in life there are no guarantees. I worked hard, real hard, and I didn't achieve what I thought I so desperately deserved. It was then, that I realized my dreams needed to change.
I was constantly comparing myself to those I worked with who were given promotions. I was in a state of warranted jealousy and bewilderment. What I wanted and deserved, I wasn't getting, and it was August 2014 that changed the way I thought about writing.
That month sparked a fire that was long ago extinguished by silence. I wanted to write something more than news stories, I wanted to do something more than injury updates, I wanted to write about what I see in the industry and why it isn't working. I found a place to write, and I found an audience that was craving honesty.
"Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it." Maya Angelou
When I began writing for Pension Plan Puppets I knew I would have the freedom to write about what I thought was most important. I was given a voice for the first time to write honestly and creatively. Through years of ignoring the stereotypical "man's world" I was working in, I found myself unhappy and unable to stay in an industry so hostile to the women who rightfully belonged.
I had a new purpose to write about my experiences and share injustices I told myself didn't exist when I began my career in sports media. Putting my head down and ignoring the environment I immersed myself in for years gave me the confidence I needed to stand up and not only quit my job but fight for women's rights and enjoy my life at the same time.
When incidents like FHRITP happen and producers agree it was Shauna Hunt's right to confront the offenders on live television instead of "being professional" and ignoring it, it shows progress. Even though those men who harassed her are the same ones women like myself and others are always proving ourselves to, higher ups saw fit that they were humiliated on air. They supported Hunt's decision to search for an answer because sexual harassment and abuse cannot be tolerated in any circles. Events like these are minor successes when you look at the big picture.
A historic Olympian, now Caitlyn Jenner, completed her physical transition and appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair to introduce herself to the world. A tremendous athlete, the parent of many children, and smart businesswoman chose to showcase herself with a photo shoot. The media, for the most part, covered this topic with support and admiration as they should.
What they didn't do was refrain from treating Jenner as a sex object instead of a person as Jon Stewart of The Daily Show referenced on June 2nd. "Caitlyn, when you were a man we could talk about your athleticism, your business acumen, but, now you're a woman. Your looks are really the only thing we care about... We want to give a woman a complement here, we just want to make sure another woman gets taken down a peg in the process."
The culture we live in still operates as though women are lesser than men. Women are still paid less than men to do the same job in some instances. Women are still dismissed in terms of athleticism if they aren't on scholarship or playing a sport professionally. I had a lot more to offer the industry I had to leave than what I was allowed to show. I'm happier for it, though I wish circumstances were different in the 21st century.
Professional sport is not my life, it's just a large part of it. The same should apply to any sports fan regardless of gender or lifestyle choices. Looking and acting the part shouldn't dictate your worthiness, your knowledge should do that for you no matter how extensive it may be.
Maybe, just maybe, if I write enough about the treatment of women in the industry it'll be a little easier for the next generation and a little harder for the men who have a stranglehold on it.