Let’s get the silly stuff out of the way first: USA Today’s Christine Brennan thinks the New York Jets should be penalized for the Ines Sainz flap.
This is the same Christine Brennan who not long ago teed off on Erin Andrews for “playing to the frat house” but now writes this:
“Some want to make this a story about how a woman looks and/or what she chooses to wear to do her job. That’s certainly been a popular topic of conversation the past few days, and I, as you, have read and heard many of those comments.
“But to focus on that distracts us from the fundamental question that remains for the NFL:
“Was a credentialed reporter harassed in the workplace by the team that gave her that credential?
“Everything else about this story is extraneous.”
And I understand the last part being where the Association for Women in Sports Media draws the line, underscored by the organization’s statement issued today. I can respect that, to a point. But it’s not as simple as they want it to sound.
And that’s a hell of a quick conversion for Brennan, an AWSM founder. Is it not? Sounds like she might have undergone some “re-education” from The Sisterhood for that crime against her gender.
A rare woman sports journalist who’s not been afraid to veer from the female pack is, sadly, on the AWSM bandwagon on this one. Sally Jenkins’ perspective in the Washington Post is generally well-thought out and nuanced, but here’s where she ruins it:
“It’s her prerogative to wear what she wants, and the only people entitled to judge its professional appropriateness are her bosses at TV Azteca, who apparently are fine with it. And if she dresses for attention, what of it? Women have been using dress as a form of communication since Queen Elizabeth I of England first put on pearls.”
This is quite silly too, and maddening. Professionals in any field have no such “prerogative” to dress how they choose. If companies don’t have dress codes — and many do — than anyone who conducts their business outside an office should employ professional comon sense about what to wear on the job.
I respect both of these women immensely as pioneers in my profession who have dealt with much more grief from the male sports culture than I have.
But I also sense a fear from the long-timers that this could lead to an erosion in their hard-won gains for women sports reporters. Another pioneer, Barbara Barker, chimes in accordingly. They’re tired of the double standards.
I understand perfectly where they’re coming from, but respectfully disagree. We’re not in a perfect world, but workaday women reporters and columnists have been generally unharassed since the Lisa Olson incident 20 years ago. And that’s a fine testament to the work of Brennan, Jenkins, AWSM and other women, the pro leagues and teams — and even the occasional athlete — to enforce policies of equal access and fair treatment.
I particularly admire this strong dissent from Ashley Fox of the Philadelphia Inquirer:
“You also don’t walk into an NFL locker room wearing jeans that leave little to the imagination and a blouse that reveals your substantial cleavage. You don’t have to dress ultra-conservatively, but you have to be smart. If you want to be treated like a girl at a bar, dress like a girl at a bar. If you want to be treated professionally and without incident, cover up.
“To be a real, professional female sports journalist in this country, you must know: Athletes can be pigs. They say things. You have to have a thick skin and be prepared to fire back at them.
“Second of all, if you want to be treated like a professional, you have to dress like a professional. That means no super-short skirts like the one Sainz wore on the Today show on Tuesday. No cleavage-revealing blouses. No short-shorts.”
Also in the Washington Post, Leonard Shapiro argues that professionalism cuts both ways. I’m quoted at the very end, not by name, and am humbled by the inclusion.
I’m glad I’m not the only fly in the soup.
And that’s really all I have to say on this. I suspect I may have said too much.