I grew up in in Bingham Canyon, one of the manliest of man places around. It really was. Nearly all of the men worked hard at dangerous jobs in the Kennecott copper mine. Nearly all of the men who worked in the mine smoked cigarettes, shot pool and drank beer after work—and some before, or so it seemed. Nearly all of the men had scars and stories as proof of wartime heroics, high school athleticism and near-death experiences in the mine itself. Nearly all of their wives had no outside jobs but rather worked at home tending to their homes and raising their kids. Nearly all of those wives wanted to be free of that work and to find jobs in the workplace.
So, it was with a certain fanfare when my dad, a Kennecott general foreman, came home from work one day and announced the end of the world was near. He said, "I don't know what the Christ they're thinking, but they hired a goddamned woman geologist." I'm not sure what bothered him more—that she was female or that she had the college degree nearly all miners did not. He was certain she wouldn't last. To top it off, he drew the high card of being among her mentors and guides in the world of mining.
But, my dad came to like her; in fact, she proved to be as iron made and tough as the rest of them. He even said he'd take her over the most guys any day. She had to be tough. Mining is for real a rough job filled with rough-and-tumble people. Jerks, too. That's how she got to meet too many of her co-workers via snotty remarks, sexist comments, silent whispers, cheap come-ons and, of course, because men will be boys, by virtue of unwelcome peeks at the pissers of those workers so inclined to take a leak in front of a woman.
My dad said she put up with piles of BS all the time. I only saw her once. I believe it. You could just tell because she'd been sized up so many times, it became instinct for her to size up others, and albeit, I was a runt—me, too. Her radar was on, and I knew it. I quickly knew I didn't like that—not how she sized me up, but how she came to need to do so. It was plain as day. She'd been affected by the men who behaved as ignorant, sexist pigs. To be sure, it was the minority of those men who acted out, but many others turned a blind eye and laughed about it later over a missed pool shot, sip of cold beer and a long puff on a cigarette.
But it's not a laughing matter. At all. Especially now, decades later. This week, a nice Twitter storm erupted that reminded me of all of that. Amy Donaldson, a Utah treasure of a courts and sports reporter, revealed why she recently left the Deseret News. She said via a podcasted interview that the last straw for her was an interaction in which University of Utah Athletics Director Mark Harlan fully dismissed her after a University of Utah woman's basketball game, while kissing butt to a male reporter in the same room who seldom covered that sport. She had covered the team through thick and thin, had even written a welcoming piece about Harlan when he arrived at Utah, but he shined her. However, he knew her. "He left without saying anything to me, without even acknowledging I was in the room and that was it for me," she said.
"I think I realized that I wasn't valuable. I am a woman. I'm never going to be a part of the fraternity," Donaldson said. "I'm just done being an outsider. I need to go and do something that feels better to my soul. And that's why I left." You can easily find her podcast and quickly understand why Harlan became the straw that broke her back.
This is a real shame. A shame that a veteran reporter is gone from our diminishing pool of good reporters, but also that Harlan himself—with half a century of lessons to learn from—would behave as an ass, especially as it exposed more than just what happened to Donaldson.
I made a Twitter comment about it and quickly received messages in support of Donaldson. But there was also commentary indicating an exodus of a who's who of legendary Utah sports talent, both male and female, from the university's athletics programs that may be due to Harlan's management style, which was not described politely.
On the bright side, those impolite words simply reflect how nice Utahns basically are. After all, a 2011 story on bruinsnation.com (Harlan was previously at UCLA) described him as a "lying scumbag" who "systematically engaged in a dishonest pattern of putting out misinformation to mislead students, alums and fans."
So, one could say that Utah was warned. One could also say to Donaldson: Be wary if Harlan takes you up on your offer to interview him on your podcast regarding his poor behavior. (It appears Harlan has agreed to be interviewed by Donaldson.)
Has the tiger new stripes? Or is he living in the 1970s? Either way, it's foul behavior to treat a female professional with such disrespect. What he did is the suited man's way of pissing in front of the mine geologist.
These guys are cavemen. They know how to wiggle out of crap, and who they must please, men and women both. We can't expect the Amy Donaldsons to just get over it. That's a BS cop out. We can't keep losing Amy Donaldsons.
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