A proposal...

Dear friends,

There have been a number of incidents recently that have crystalised concerns that we, and many others, have had for some time about the treatment of Diana Nyad on the forum. This may not be a popular move, but we are posting to explain these concerns and propose an alternative way forwards.

Fundamentally, we are uncomfortable with the ganging up of a community against an individual online, whoever that may be and whatever transgressions they may have committed. In addition to the risk of unintended consequences for both the individual and bystanders, this also creates a hostile atmosphere that is directly alienating to those who may wish to join the community, or to move in from its peripheries. This was demonstrated very clearly to us during the discussion around DN’s recent sexual assault disclosure, when Karen received many messages from women upset not only about the specific content of those discussions, but also about the sustained attack on DN more generally, which made them reluctant to visit the forum or contribute to discussions for fear of slipping into the line of fire. When we visit the forum, which we are doing less and less recently because of this same discomfort, our hearts always sink when we see another new DN post at the top of the page.

For those concerned about documenting the inconsistencies of DN’s accounts of her swimming life, this has been meticulously done and that resource has been preserved and made available. But if the aim of the project is to get her to confess to wrongdoing, this seems like a rather futile mission. Meanwhile, the most profound impact of the continued pursuit of DN is its function as a cautionary tale. The treatment of DN is a warning par excellence to newcomers and old hands alike of the price of transgression. DN is marathon swimming’s negative self-definition, and the tone of discussions about her is angry, joyless and the opposite of swimming’s possibilities.

And it is here that the community itself, it seems to us, has the opportunity to make a more positive choice. What if we actively, consciously agreed to stop talking about DN? Every discussion inflates her significance far beyond reality and her demands to be heard do not mean we have to listen and respond. One of the positive outcomes of recent discussions has been the identification of some amazing female swimming pioneers – what if we talked about them, not as a means of casting shade over DN, but in their own right? What if we agreed collectively that the more mature marathon swimming community that we currently enjoy (not least due to a lot of hard development work from Evan, Donal and numerous others) doesn’t need a demon figure against which to define itself but can stand in its own right in ways that draw people in rather than alienate or intimidate them?

We love swimming – talking about it, reading about it, writing about it, and if we can manage to stay uninjured for long enough, actually getting in the water and doing it – but we also now know that we cannot be part of a community that is so relentlessly governed by the need to attack a woman without regard for the wider consequences. We want to be part of a positive change that positions swimming, in all of its inclusive and welcoming glory, at the heart of the forum. This is our proposal.

Best wishes Karen (@KarenT) and Hadar (@heart)



  • timsroottimsroot Spring, TXCharter Member

    Thank you. This is very similar to how I feel about that thread. I understand why people get upset about her getting attention, but most of that attention seems to have faded

  • j9swimj9swim CharlestonSenior Member

    Thank you Karen and Hadar, I totally agree. I use to look forward to the MSF report in my inbox daily to see who had swam somewhere amazing, what newbie finally decided to come out of the shadows and ask questions and talk about their dreams , to read about the heartaches and the lessons learned when things didn't go as planned - all of these bring me joy. But the constant barrage of negativity whether deserved or not directed at one person does not. I would also relish a commitment to move the conversation and tone back to the positive. We are not looking to gloss over or ignore what had been done but nor do we want to keep rehashing it.

  • molly1205molly1205 Lincoln, NebraskaMember

    Thank you, Karen and Hadar.


    Molly Nance, Lincoln, Nebraska

  • JanetJanet NYCMember

    Thank you Karen and Hadar for voice those concerns so thoughtfully. Count me among those who have pulled back from participating in these forums—and who have felt less a part of the marathon swimming community—because of vitriol surrounding DN. I’m not a fan of DN and know that there have been legitimate frustrations and anger regarding her claims, but I’m not a fan of communal snarkiness either. I love swimming, I’m enthusiastic about learning about and celebrating other people’s legitimate experiences, and I look forward to us rounding the corner on this as well.

  • I am a total newbie to the marathon swimming world and hence to the DN discussion (though as a swimmer I knew her and her fame). I would also like to thank you, Karen and Hadar, for the very beautiful and thoughtful post. I was feeling a little overwhelmed by the negativity. Especially in our current political clime, I am all for fostering community and support; bringing us together around our common love for swimming instead of creating walls and divides through divisive talk. I applaud the positive move, and am very happy to see how many people are encouraging and caring! Thank you!

  • KarenTKarenT Charter Member

    Dear all, it has been brought to my attention that this proposal includes a misleading passage that I would like to clarify. In referring to a discussion on the forum of DN’s sexual abuse disclosures, I should have included that this was a brief exchange that was deleted swiftly by the moderators as breaching the forum's anti-abuse commitment. There is no longer any such discussion on the forum, and it was made clear by the moderators at the time that discussions of this nature would not be tolerated. Indeed, one of the reasons i am so eager to continue investing positively in the forum is that it is actively committed to being a safe space to exchange views, free of abuse, misogyny etc. I did not intend to imply otherwise and apologise for any offence caused.

  • Thank you, Karen and Hadar. I echo Janet's thoughts, posted above: I too pulled back from the forums and did not visit, as it seemed a byway was becoming the main road of discussion. I delight in reading about ordinary to incredible feats as people move along, one step or one very long swim at a time, in marathon swimming. The excitement as people gather for Suzie Dodds's 24-hour SF swim is palpable. New swims and new swimmers introduce unique corners of the world and turn them into real places. There is much that is buoyant and positive about the forum and the people who voluntarily gather here. I am also glad that there is an extant record of some questionable acts and claims, but will appreciate turning the page.

This discussion has been closed.