The woman who created the new “Said to Lady Journos” Tumblr was taken aback when a male labor union representative recently told her: “You’re pretty smart for a young lady.”
“It knocked me sideways,” said the creator, a West Coast newspaper reporter who wishes to remain anonymous so as not to jeopardize her job. “I was shocked that someone would say something like that to me.”
She posted the comment online and heard from several female journalists who had experienced similar situations.
“I was surprised that so many people had quotes and anecdotes to share,” she said in a phone interview. “I wanted to create some place where people could feel comfortable talking about some of these issues and what happened to them.”
That same night, she created the “Said to Lady Journos” Tumblr and posted the comment there.
The Tumblr’s audience more than doubled after BuzzFeed wrote about the site last week. On Wednesday, after Poynter.org and The Huffington Post published stories about the Tumblr, its audience grew from 500 to 1,100 followers.
The “Said to Lady Journos” creator has heard a few different sexist remarks from men while working — specifically “I don’t talk to assertive women,” and “Can I be your Clark Kent?”
“I thought I would have to use more of my own examples because I was worried I wouldn’t get as many from other people,” she said. “But that really hasn’t been necessary.”
She received more than 60 comments Wednesday morning. 85 to 90 percent of the comments, she said, came from women. The rest have come from men who want to share things they’ve overheard other men say.
“I haven’t gotten many complimentary submissions because I think the tone makes it clear what we’re going for,” she said. “The point of it is to make people feel a little uncomfortable when they’re reading it.”
She said that while some men who make offensive remarks are “blatantly sexist,” she doesn’t think they’re all ill-intentioned: “What I’ve mostly noticed is that men tend to think they’re being charming or funny — or it’s banter or it’s flirting, or whatever they think it is. But that’s really not OK for the workplace when you’re dealing with two professionals.”
She posts most of the comments she receives. Because the commenters are anonymous, she can’t fact-check their statements.
“I suppose there’s always a possibility that people are making these up, but since the quotes are anonymous for all parties, they really have no reason to,” she said. “If I named names, I’d feel ethically obligated to reach out to them and verify.”
Inspiration for the name “Said to Lady Journos” came from Ann Friedman’s “Lady Journos” Tumblr, which highlights female journalists’ work. The “Said to Lady Journos” creator admires Friedman’s work, and is drawn to the word “lady,” she told me.
“Sometimes it’s almost tongue-in-cheek. But it doesn’t have that same kind of dusty meaning that it used to,” she said. “It’s not ‘woman,’ which feels very heavy, ‘female,’ which feels clinical, or ‘girl,’ which can seem childish. It’s kind of a nice in-between.”
Friedman made similar points last month in a New Republic story about the word’s evolution. “With its slippery meaning — associations range from grandma’s lavender-scented powder to the raunchiest of rap lyrics — it encapsulates the fundamental mutability of modern feminism,” she wrote.
Friedman likes that “Said to Lady Journos” provides women with an outlet (and an audience) for sharing discriminatory comments.
“It’s nice to have documentation of the sort of things women talk about over drinks, or amongst themselves in a safe space, held up to light,” she said by phone. “I do think these are things women complain about to male colleagues who are not creepy, but I don’t think it’s something men have to think about when they go out to do their jobs.”
Friedman once considered creating a “Dirty Journos” Tumblr that female journalists could use to share information about sexual harassers in newsrooms. She said she ultimately decided against it, partly because of the legal issues that could arise from naming the accused.
Many of the responses to the “Said to Lady Journos” Tumblr have repeated a similar refrain: The comments are “depressingly familiar.”
“I think every female journalist has a story like this,” the site’s creator said. “There’s been a great response to it because people are realizing they’re not alone in having had these experiences. It’s a common ground.”