Fortifying yourself, and other impossible lessons

farewell column

I don’t really have a word for what happened to me last spring. As a writer, I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of finding the perfect word for a situation, but I don’t think one exists in this case. All the best options are fraught with the worst implications of things that didn’t happen, so instead, I ask you, the reader, to trust that I had an encounter with a male colleague that triggered one of the worst weeks of my life. 

In passing, “accosted” is generally the word I use to describe what he did to me, but that doesn’t feel like it does justice to the panic and fear I felt in the moment. I was the only woman on Vol. 117 sports masthead and sometimes it seemed like he didn’t respect me, but it had never escalated to requiring action on my part. During that excruciating minute, though, all I could think was, “How might this escalate? How do I make this stop?” 

That’s all I’ll say of the moment that permanently altered my Chronicle experience. In the original draft of this column, I dedicated a graf to describing exactly what happened. I realized upon reflection, though, that I wrote that out of a desire to force people to understand the “anonymous female staffer” who spoke up all those months ago, because the aftermath of the incident brought so many people who didn’t. But this column isn’t about him and what he did. It’s about me, how I felt and how I persevered, and I’ve moved on from needing those people to understand.

Instead, I remember the good. I owe so many others a thank you for what they did for me that week as we addressed the incident. To Leah, thank you for sitting with me after and helping me process my emotions. I don’t know if I would have been able to advocate for myself without that conversation. To Jake, thank you for your grace as I recounted that day and your unwavering support in the difficult days that followed. And to everyone who gave me a sense of normalcy that week as I was in and out of meetings, clinging with what little I had to my composure and trying to make sure no one ever experienced what I did, thank you. 

Still, no matter how grateful I am for how people in The Chronicle supported me after the incident, that doesn’t make up for my nightly calls crying to my mom. The despair I felt as one of my greatest sources of joy turned into the source of my worst anxiety. The complete shutdown I experienced academically. My first true confrontation with an unfortunate truth: being a woman in leadership, especially in a male-dominated industry, is often a gunfight you were given a knife for. Or worst of all, the relief I felt that it happened to me, a future member of the department’s upper masthead, and not one of our freshman women. I barely had the courage to speak up; would they have said anything? 

A few weeks after all of this, I officially became sports managing editor of Vol. 118. The year has been overwhelmingly positive in so many ways, not the least of which has been the chance to see so many young women join the department and take on responsibility in a way I never dreamed of. My first weekly meeting as Blue Zone editor, I was the only woman in the room, let alone on mast, and terrified. Now, I pass the baton to Rachael, Mackenzie and Sophie. 

But too often this year I’ve carried my womanhood as a burden. I’ve been reminded that I started from behind and I may never catch up. I have been tasked with emotional labor and caretaking responsibility as a default. I’ve been talked down to and questioned in a way my male colleagues have not. Each time, I’ve had to dig deep and unearth the assuredness I have in myself. In my time at The Chronicle, it was buried the deepest immediately after the incident, but since then it’s gotten easier and easier to find each time I’ve needed to find it. I know I’ll need to find it many more times throughout my life. I think I’m ready for that.

The light at the end of this tunnel is that I see the same assuredness in the women coming up in the department, but I don’t want to be an example for them of how to fortify yourself against adversity. I hope instead that I have removed the need to. But I know that’s unrealistic and that I have to be that example, so I hope I’ve done a good job. And I hope that, because of me, they don’t have to learn to fortify themselves how I did. 

I still cry when I think of that week, but I’m proud of what has come since. I’m proud of myself for what I’ve overcome, I’m proud of the progress the department has made with regards to gender equality and I’m so immensely proud of the women who will continue to influence The Chronicle’s sports department long after I’m gone. 

The road to when women in sports don’t have to fortify themselves, don’t have to ever think of their womanhood as a burden is arduous and stretches far beyond what we can see right now. At the very least, though, we’re on it, and I’m glad I’ve had a hand in that. 

Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior who served as sports managing editor of The Chronicle’s 118th volume, and she has a tremendous amount of people she would like to thank, but in brief: Jake and Evan, for taking a chance on her; Em and Ramona, for setting an example for women in sports; Leah and Milla, for more than she can write. 

She would especially like to thank Levitan, for being a good road-trip/coverage buddy, and Micah, for the spreadsheets that kept The Chronicle from bankruptcy. She thinks they all make a great team.

She would also like to thank Andrew for being her best friend, biggest supporter and mirror image, as well as Rachael, Mackenzie, Sophie and every other woman in The Chronicle for inspiring her. She can’t wait to see what y’all accomplish in Volume 119 and beyond. 

Finally, she would like to thank all her past selves for the decisions both good and not so good that led her here. She is quite happy. 

Sasha Richie profile
Sasha Richie | Sports Managing Editor

Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


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