Friday, September 17, 2010

Another story I didn't want to talk about

Not sure why I am so averse to discussing the more hyped stories. I guess I like discovering the little ones and sharing them.
But some are just unavoidable and it seems the harassment of a female reporter by some Jets players last weekend is going to be one of those stories. In this case, I think I resent that we are still having these conversations; that people think things are fine and dandy because "progress" has been made and then shock and outrage occurs when such an incident is revealed. I, myself, was called out a few months ago for noting that female sports reporters are still subject to harassment. I could do the I-told-you-so dance, but I have no desire to dance over such a situation.
In case you have no idea what I am talking about, sports reporter Ines Sainz has said that she was subjected to offensive comments in the Jets locker room while covering the team's practice last Saturday. The response from the Jets and NFL was swift, investigating and apologizing for the conduct of the Jets. [I'm just going to let it go that the Jets owner is Woody Johnson.]
But wow has this story exploded far beyond the actual alleged incidents. The two paths taken: women in the locker room and how Sainz presents herself.
First, more than one NFL player has come out and said that women should not be in their locker rooms. Lance Briggs of the Chicago Bears said in an interview that female reporters should not be in locker rooms--apparently despite the fact that they have the legal right to be there and the NFL reiterated that it grants equal access to male and female journalists. OK, kind of a retro attitude that we should take issue with--but not nearly as bad as statements by Clinton Portis of that team in Washington whose name I refuse to write. Portis thinks that these women just want to get into the locker rooms so they can scan the 53 packages to see what might "spark [their] interest."
Why do men think their packages are all that attractive anyway? Power of the phallus and all that stuff but aesthetically speaking...I mean we all have different aesthetics, but if I'm looking at an elite professional athlete it's not the genitalia I find most attractive.
There have been other stories in this vein.
The second angle this story has taken is the "she was asking for it" response. Again, a discourse with which we are quite familiar. Pictures abound showing Sainz in various tight-fitting clothes. There have been the comparisons with Erin Andrews--also a victim of harassment. Anderson has been painted as pure and innocent and Sainz as--well, not. Commentators claim that Sainz's outfit was not appropriate, that she knew what she was going to get wearing clothes like that, that she has a history of using her sex appeal.
So society tells women to be sexy and attractive; billion dollar industries thrive on making women feel they could/should be sexier, but if you do anything more than stand your sexy self still you're accused of being manipulative. I am sure it doesn't hurt that Sainz fits the heteronormative standards of female attractiveness. Andrews does too--most women on television do. They are playing the game. I wish the game rules were different. I haven't stopped trying to change them in my own little ways--but you can only put so much blame on people trying to succeed by living up to standards they did not create who are subsequently punished for adhering too well.
And when someone like Jenn Sterger comes out and criticizes Ines Sainz for essentially crying wolf, I start to think apocalyptic thoughts.
So the missing angle in this story is race. Not surprising. One of the differences between Andrews and Sainz is that Andrews is Caucasian and Sainz is a Latina. The age-old virgin/whore dichotomy is affected by the race of the respective women. The sexy Latina must be asking for it. The white woman who dresses conservatively according to commentators did nothing but be pretty. I don't expect a whole lot of discourse to emerge on this aspect of the story. But it should not be ignored.

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