September 22, 2010

Do Women Deserve To Be Objectified?

The NY Jet’s harassment of a female reporter have some people saying that women invite harassment through their attire... others disagree

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A very interesting turn of events occurred in the world of sports recently that actually has me thinking about consent and victim blaming. Ines Sainz, a female reporter from a Mexican television network, was harassed recently in the New York Jet’s locker room while trying to conduct an interview on Mark Sanchez [for those who do not know, it is routine for reporters to conduct interviews with athletes post-game in the locker room]. According to numerous reports from news media sources including the Washington Post, while Sainz was in the locker room there were rude and objectifying comments made toward her, vulgar statements said about her, catcalls, and other inappropriate actions. Sainz said that her colleagues tried to apologize for the treatment and usher her out of the locker room. She did not press any formal charges of harassment against the NFL or the Jets, however the NFL is apparently investigating this issue.

Sainz told The Early Show (CBS News) that she said she believes other members of the media were most upset by “the vocabulary they [Jets players] used to refer to me.” She said, however, that she is used to harassing language being used in her presence and inappropriate comments being made about her, but this situation was more than she was accustomed to.

Did she ask for it?

The most interesting thing to me about the whole turn of events is that people are questioning whether Sainz deserved or asked for this treatment mainly based on how she was dressed. Cindy Boren, from The Early Lead, commented that “women reporters should respect players by dressing appropriately.” Sainz has been criticized for dressing too provocatively (i.e. tight jeans, fitted shirts) when conducting interviews and reporting. Her critics say that based on how she dresses, she pretty much asks to be treated badly and invites objectification. Some people have said that if Sainz dresses like an object, she deserves to be objectified. Such comments imply that by dressing a certain way, women have consented to certain treatment. This way of thinking makes me wonder – did Sainz really ask to be degraded based on her attire? And in a broader sense, do women ask to be treated badly based on how they dress or maybe based on other behaviors like going out to a party or bar and having a few drinks?

How did people weigh in?

I reviewed some comments made in response to online reports of this incident and I have to say, I was quite surprised. Some responses questioned Sainz’s accusations of the experience, implying that perhaps she made it up (although she never even brought up formal accusations, the story broke from other reporters who were in ear shot of the comments) while others said that based on her attire and the fact that she was in the men’s locker room, she should have expected what was coming to her. Other people said that reporters in general, whether male or female, really should not be in the locker room getting interviews, instead athletes can be interviewed elsewhere in order to be equitable to men and women.

A voice of dissent

After reading some of these comments, I have to admit, I was saddened and disappointed that so many people thought that Sainz deserved to be harassed simply because she wears fitted jeans and tops. The general attitude expressed intense victim blaming (i.e.-blaming the victim of harassment for causing the harassment rather than blaming the person who committed the harassment). On the other hand, there were some voices of dissent within the sports world. I have to commend Dan Patrick from The Dan Patrick Sports Radio Show for his comments of support for Sainz. Patrick’s radio show mainly focuses on the highlights from different sporting games and events, but last week he featured nearly two hours of discussion surrounding issues of gender inequity and sexual harassment. During that show he allowed people to call in and express their opinions regarding the situation involving Sainz. Again to my surprise callers implied that Sainz asked for and deserved the treatment she received, which to me is an example of implicit endorsement of sexual harassment in our culture. Patrick, who makes his career in the world of sports—an industry most agree is patriarchal, spoke up for Sainz and women’s rights in general. He emphasized that women do not deserve harassing treatment and that at no point should a woman receive abuse or negative treatment for how they dress. Instead, Patrick stated that his own daughter should be able to wear whatever she wants without fear of being harassed. In fact, the other men on his show also weighed in and expressed support for women by saying they do not deserve to be harassed, regardless of their attire. I think this is a tough stance to take, particularly in a culture (sports) where such liberated views of women have not routinely been enforced. I say–way to go Dan Patrick!!