Sunday, September 19, 2010

Professional Reporter Harrassed by Professional Football Players, Blamed Because of Her Outfit

Last week, Mexican sports reporter Ines Sainz came forward with the claim that she had been sexually harassed by the Jets football team when she went into the locker room to conduct some interviews. The main debate in the media, of course, surrounds this woman’s attire and her appearance, with headlines like "Jets Flagged Making Passes at Hot Reporter" that turn sexual harassment into flirting.

The story of what happened is often noted in subsequent reports as “unclear”, but what is clearly understood is that there were inappropriate things said to and about Sainz made by Jets team members that made both she and other members of the media in the locker room at the time very uncomfortable. Sainz, in an effort to be professional, says she tried to ignore the harassment of other players and move forward with her interview.

It should be noted that English is not Sainz’s first language, and her choice of words in interviews in the English speaking press, imply subtly that their difficulty in understanding each other might contribute to the reliability of her story. The reporter’s nationality might also have contributed to the behavior of the players in the first place, but this question has not been addressed in any media prominent media reports. Meanwhile, many remarks have been made by media members about the prevalence of sexual assault in Mexican culture and how she must be used to these kinds of catcalls, because that’s the Mexican “mating call” (that’s a quote by Joy Thomas, actor and radio personality, on a panel at the Joy Behar Show on Friday).

The exclusive interview Sainz gave with Joy Behar is also interesting in that Behar, a female comedian and star of the View, spends a lot of time talking about her outfit at the time and her title as “hottest reporter in Mexico,” a question with Sainz avoids answering. She instead makes it clear that her dress is not the point, that she did nothing to provoke this harassment, and that she’s just trying to do her job. Sainz also implies that she has encountered sexual harassment for her entire career, and that she really is bringing this forward at this time at the behest of other members of the media, a point ignored by Behar.

It should be noted that there has been a varied response in the media, mostly within the frame of a “debate” over whether or not sexual harassment actually happened, but the response from the football community has been quite different. While Jets PR representatives present in the locker room at the time of the harassment refused to stop it, Woody Johnson, the Jets owner, apologized to Sainz directly, and on the same day as the incident, with the message that all team members are expected to act respectfully towards members of the press. The Association of Women in Sports and Media has pursued a series of conversations and investigations within the NFL and has said that they expect all offending participants in the incident to be punished by the NFL and the Jets. In fact, the whole incident seems to be a lot less “controversial” and instead be quite clear within the procedures of the NFL, and is framed as much more of an unclear issue within the news media like in this interview from ABC.

The debate does seem to make a jump from 'Are these outfits professional?' to 'Should anyone this attractive wearing clothing such as this expect to be sexually harassed in the presence of male athletes?' There does also seem to be a bit of a more nuanced controversy in whether or not sexually harassment needs the clear accusation of the survivor in order for behavior such as this to be punished. Sainz has said that she isn't sure if sexual harassment happened, and that it really is up to the NFL and their investigation (at the end of the ABC interview).

For commentary from the blogosphere, the Bitch Magazine blog has issued a “Douchebag Decree” to the media for their coverage of the story, with particular attention to a slideshow by The Daily Caller called "Baby Got Back".

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