Harassment of female reporter brings 3 problems to mind

Many, many people have written about how difficult it is for female reporters in the sports world — and the recent harassment of a female reporter during a Jets practice has reignited the discussion. Jets players were cat-calling, oogling, and harassing reporter Inez Sainz in other ways, too:

Well, from what I can gather, and I spoke with various people who were at the practice, at the beginning of practice, reporters are allowed to watch from the sidelines. And one of the assistant coaches decided – as his players who are defensive backs were running these receiving routes that he would throw the ball deliberately in Inez’s direction – thus setting up this potential collision with the players and her.

Three things (aside from the harassment itself) bother me about this incident: (1) Sainz, who originally Tweeted that she was embarrassed about the incident, is now being ambiguous about whether the comments bothered her or made her feel uncomfortable; (2) whether Sainz being a former Miss Universe contestant will be used as a qualification of the harassment; and (3) some people are forgetting that though these guys play a sport for a living, it’s still their job and deserves professionalism.

The first speaks to how desensitized women can become to harassment — Sainz said that harassment in general, though never as strong as what she experienced at the Jets practice, was something she had experienced in the past. So despite her initial admission on Twitter that the event was embarrassing, it seems she might’ve succombed to the social pressure to shrug it off — especially in the sports arena that breeds the “boys will be boys” mentality.

But she also needed to fight off the behavior for her work’s sake. Though Sainz told ABC, “I am not the one who made the charge and who says I feel uncomfortable,” she admitted she was trying to block out the harassment for professional reasons too, as “it’s not easy to be in a locker room and hear and notice that everybody is speaking about you and probably making some jokes.” Sainz was forced to make a choice: ignore the harassment and get the interview, or possibly ruin her chances at the interview by protesting the harassment — an unfair predicament considering a male reporter likely wouldn’t have to make such a career choice.

Second, I hope her stint as a Miss Universe contestant isn’t used as ammunition against her — obviously it isn’t warranted, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear people qualifying the harassment because of her past. It’s a common theme — woman does XYZ behavior in the past that showcases her body and is meant to attract male attention, and that one choice then becomes an invitation for oogling for the rest of that woman’s life.

Oh, she was a stripper/prostitute/pagaent queen/model/insert job where you take your clothes off/wear revealing clothing/do something sexual — so that must mean you (1) love and always seek attention and (2) invite/deserve harassment. This path of “logic” is used way too frequently, and it’s ridiculous to say that what someone did at one point in time characterizes them and what they want for the rest of their lives.

Some have questioned her outfit for the practice (because they’ve got to find at least ONE reason to blame her), but sports columnist Tara Sullivan says:

I mean, even if people have an issue with what this woman was wearing, it does not condone that reaction.

The reaction is to go to your PR person and say, hey, listen: Why did you let this woman come into the locker room? She shouldn’t be credentialed. That’s the professional way to handle that, not to start hooting and hollering at her in the locker room.

Which brings up the final point — professionalism. Not only was Sainz trying to do her job, but these football players are also at work when they are cat-calling and shouting verbal harassment. Redskins’ running back Clinton Portis justifies the harassment by saying it’s OK because female reporters obviously are going to be attracted to someone in the locker room (that makes sense how?).

Sorry Portis, but you and all those other football players are at work — the locker room is different than the water cooler, but you’re still getting a ridiculously gigantic paycheck and should act professionally in return. (Also, check out the link above because writer Dan Wetzel makes a good point about peers in the locker room needing to decry the harassment to really get it to stop.)

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3 Responses to “Harassment of female reporter brings 3 problems to mind”

  1. dude Says:

    what? seriously? you seriously don’t think that being a former miss universe is indicative of a female who craves attention? i think you are projecting your feminist views on to other women. being “embarrassed” is not the same as being a victim of sexual harassment. especially later if you claim you “never felt attacked”. why is it so bad when a bunch of guys find you attractive and try to get your attention by throwing a football in your direction? why is it so bad for a guy to look at an attractive women? this isn’t Iran. i saw the outfit that the reporter was wearing. if you don’t want a bunch of guys to find you attractive and act thusly then the last thing you would do is dress in those clothes and go to a professional football teams locker room. crap like this shouldn’t even be in the news. the headlines shouldn’t read something like “football players find reporter attractive. reporter barely noticed” How is this even worth blogging about? (but your a good writer)

    • cathyjwilson Says:

      But even if her intention for Miss Universe was for attention, why does that mean everything she does after that in life must mean she is doing it for the attention, too? She said she felt uncomfortable, not just embarrassed, and that the behavior of the guys in the locker room was distracting. I’m thinking it’s possible someone is telling her to stop complaining about it, because her story about how she felt about the harassment has been changing and now she is evasive when questioned.

      And yes, guys can find a woman attractive — but that woman is also a member of the media, so she is at that game in a professional setting. If you work in an office and an associate comes in to do a presentation or something, do you cat-call her in the middle of the meeting because you just want to get her attention and let her know you think she is attractive? Of course not — you’d (hopefully) lose your job or get severely reprimanded because it’s inappropriate. It’s not high school flirtation, it’s professional football and professional media interacting.

      And victim-blaming is totally unacceptable here, and everywhere — the whole “if you wore THAT, you deserve what you got” logic is ridiculous. Under that logic, wearing anything that shows skin or arouses a man makes it OK for that man to sexually assault you … I mean, if women are asking for it by the clothes they wear. I blog about it because it IS a problem that the instant reaction is to blame the woman instead of holding the players to any kind of professional standard or decency standard.

  2. dronicadevyn Says:

    It just goes to show that men still have a problem with respecting women. This woman was trying to do her job. She was not some groupie at the bar. She was acting professionally. What she had on is irrelevant, what they had on a towel, nothing, a stupid grin, whatever, that’s just the locker room culture.

    There is nothing wrong with finding a woman attractive, but there is something wrong with the way this was handled. It was inappropriate, unprofessional and immature.

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