Sportswriters don’t like to be told what to do — especially from editors. They especially hate to be told what to wear.
So it’s not surprising there would be some pushback from last week’s Major League Baseball announcement that all credentialed journalists would need to follow the guidelines of a dress code, the first created by any professional sports league or entity:
“Members of the media will be prohibited from wearing flip-flops, short skirts, tank tops or anything with a team logo.”
The guidelines raised hackles not for the humiliating reminder that shower shoes are not the ideal footwear in a press box, nor for any attire bearing a team logo.
Instead, they’ve got some members of the tribe rather indignant because of another item of clothing mentioned in the above sentence.
The short skirts.
You know, worn only by women.
At espnW, Jane McManus sounded off first, insisting that the policy is all about women. She refers to this portion of the Associated Press story:
“The skimpy attire worn by some of the TV reporters covering the Marlins in Miami drew particular scrutiny.”
The skirts, according to the policy, shouldn’t be more than 3-4 inches above the knee.
McManus wrote that some media outlets hire women “based on sex appeal,” and this is an important point. But then she swings and misses:
“The policy is unenforceable, and the people who will be affected by it are the ones who actually care enough to dress professionally in the first place.”
Well, if they’re dressed professionally, they shouldn’t have a problem, right?
Her complaints were mild compared to a couple of men taking up the women’s cause. At The Big Lead, the usually-good Ty Duffy proclaimed this to be about “patriarchal control.” And then he just got simply absurd:
“Will Bud Selig post grizzly nuns with Coke cans at media entrances to enforce this?”
The loudest bloviating came from Charles Pierce at Grantland, a favorite of mine but here just in a blinding rage:
“Are they going to do what the nuns used to do and make female reporters kneel down and measure the distance between the hemline and the floor with a ruler? Are we all now supposed to ‘make room for the Holy Ghost’ when we sit together at dinner?”
I understand this is hyperbole, but what’s with the nun references? Please enlighten the lapsed Protestant in me.
Better yet, why are three usually solid writers jumping the tracks on the conspiracy bandwagon? The policy very clearly stated a set of gender-neutral guidelines that were crafted with the assistance of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
A member of the guidelines committee, in fact, is a woman, Susan Slusser, who’s also the first female president of that organization. She explained that there actually was a credentialed journalist wearing flip flops at the World Series and that the guidelines were all about common sense:
“Don’t dress like a hobo and don’t dress like a ho, those are the extremes they’re looking at.”
She was joking a little, but there’s not been much good humor about what women wear in press boxes or to practices since TV Azteca’s Ines Sainz turned the New York Jets 2010 preseason camp into a circus with her girl-at-the-bar presence.
She didn’t deserve the treatment she got, but as I wrote at the time, women cannot pretend that they can dress however they like, and go wherever they like, and not expect unwanted attention.
I wasn’t alone among women in making this point. But the reaction to the MLB guidelines are a sad reminder that some don’t want to believe that professionalism cuts both ways. If you want to be regarded as a pro, then present yourself like one.
Male or female.