Thursday, September 23, 2010

No room for harrassment "in those jeans"

"Could they get any tighter, those jeans?"
It’s no secret that our society values the good-looking, which may be why our nation is also home to a viscous beauty industry that preys on and profits from people’s insecurities.  But perfecting imperfections is an obnoxiously lucrative business.   In 2007, Sirens magazine reported  American women average about $12,000 a year on personal adjustments.  “Looking good,” isn’t so much a compliment, as it is positive reinforcement that one’s money has been well spent. 
With so many women budgeting for beauty, it must be a triumph to be found aesthetically pleasing.  Right?  Wrong.  America still loves to hate beautiful women.  Take, for instance, Ines Sainz.  The notorious reporter for Mexico’s TV Azteca was covering the New York Jets when the team began to “pester” her.
She tweeted that she was “dying of embarrassment” but later said that “in no moment did I even feel offended, much less at risk or in danger while there.”
When approached with an apology, she immediately caved.  In an interview with Fox News, she insisted she never used the words sexual harassment and the situation was blown out of proportion by other media personnel who observed the locker room antics.  Is that how she really feels?  Probably not.  But who wants to lose a job in this economy?
As the Fox slyly cut to pictures of her outfit, upholding their pledge to fair and balanced news coverage, John Scott asked so eloquently-- “Could they get any tighter, those jeans?”
He, and the entire station, had already condemned her.  Her interview was a joke.  She must have known it.  But she still calmly retorted, “They fit.  I don’t think they’re bad.”
To be clear, Sainz didn’t have to answer the question.  Sexual harassment is kind of like rape, and in a court of law, rape will never be justified because of the clothes a victim was wearing.  And unwanted advances, even cat-calling, will never be justified because of the clothes a victim was wearing.  Nothing will ever be justified because of the clothes a victim was wearing.
Seriously, flip the script and see how much sense it makes.  If someone was to yell, “Hey ugly!  You’re ugly!” and then explain that their unfortunate target was “asking for it” because they chose to occupy public space looking like a hot-shitty-mess, that would not be okay.  Fox News would not invite this ugly individual down to the station to insinuate personal responsibility for what happened and berate them on their show.  That would be wrong.
You would think women familiar with being “outsiders” would be supportive.  Surprisingly, they have been critical too.  Even veteran sports reporter Gail Shister, who began breaking sexist barriers in sports reporting 35 years ago, said Sainz should “stop dressing like a Hooters waitress.”  Apparently she hasn’t been to a Hooters in 35 years, because they wear those orange shorts now.   But her willingness to condemn another woman sports reporter, for whatever reason, is only helping to maintain the status quo.  She should have just told Sainz to go make a sandwich. 
So why would someone struggling to find an ally subject themselves to more criticism?  Sainz had an obvious strategy throughout the interview.  Her humiliating television appearance was a subservient bow to the boys club she offended. When asked about the future, she explained the matter is “in the hands of the NFL.”  But more importantly, “I’m only a witness.  I’m not the man, saying things.”  Until now, Scott had been using the language barrier to his advantage, but here, Sainz is positively brilliant in broken English.  She filed a complaint.  Her part is over.  Any repercussions will fall on the team, not her.  
But Scott continued to frame the story as a temptress seeking revenge.  “What do you want to happen?”
Sainz said, yet again, she never thought this private issue would become a national controversy.
And all the while, provocative photos of Sainz have been rolling through a slide show at her side.  Sensing that the end was near, Scott dropped the bomb and asked the victim if she was asking for it-- Look at your Myspace page.  Are you sure you didn’t do this for attention?
Okay.  You want to question her journalistic professionalism because you want to be “in her jeans” like Ginuwine, yet your fact-finding mission resorts to creeping on her Myspace?  And your “gotcha” moment is revealing that Sainz, an established television personality, also had aspirations to be a model?  That’s about as shocking as finding out that Pumpkin had done other reality TV and might not have been on Flavor of Love for Flav. 
This just in from John Scott—we have breaking news!  Beautiful women may attempt modeling, acting, news reporting, and other careers where their primary responsibilities are… to be looked at!  And Fox News shouldn’t be pointing fingers when 99% of their women reporters are blonde, bubbly, and under the age of 35.
Scott clarified that Sainz had “never posed nude” and was “never Miss Spain,” two other allegations that would supposedly rationalize sexual harassment at her job, before a woman co-anchor teasingly referred to him as the fashion police.  Unfortunately, feminism spends a lot of time in the closet, debating the politics of clothing.  And it will continue to do so, as long as women continue to be condemned for their appearances before we’ve even heard them speak.
But this issue is about more than jeans and Myspace; it’s yet another instance of gender policing.  The underlying opinion is that women don’t belong in the locker room and any discomfort once inside is deserved.  There’s no WNFL.  Women have no business talking about football, unless it’s a cheer accompanied by spirit fingers.  And patriarchy will see to that.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user movethelife @ Creative Commons 3.0

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