Last Saturday, Ines Sainz, a female reporter for Azteca television in Mexico, became the fresh meat of the Jets locker room. As she tried to do her job as a reporter, she was continually interrupted by lewd sexual comments from some of the players. While most of the reports about this story have kept an eye on how the Jets' management plans to remedy the situation, there has also been an unnecessary amount of attention paid to Ms. Sainz's attire.
Out of curiosity, I checked the responses to a Huffington Post article on this story and I pulled a few comments that reflected the common sentiment of the over 700 responses:
- "If you're asking if male reporters can dress in paint-on pants in the women's locker room, I highly doubt it."
The message is clear: men treat women according to how they are dressed. It's one of the oldest clichés for women. If she didn't wear that outfit, the guys would have treated her like a lady.
I have deliberately chosen to avoid describing Ms. Sainz's attire because it is irrelevant to how sexism and harassment should be handled. Since the Jets can determine and mandate proper dress codes for any reporter in their facility, the argument that Ms. Sainz brought the unsolicited attention to herself is a red herring. If Ms. Sainz was dressed inappropriately or did not exercise decorum, the Jet's management should have asked her to change her clothes or to leave. However, this did not happen.
Blaming a woman for a man's sexual misconduct is so 1900s. Why are we still having this "chicken and the egg" conversation? Why are we stuck on this hackneyed cliché of making a woman's attire a mitigating factor in how men treat her?
Until both men and women -- my heart sank when I heard my favorite MSNBC woman correspondent join the finger pointing at Ms. Sainz -- understand that men are 100% accountable for their actions too, men will continue to treat women however they want.
Sometimes a blatantly crude act of inhumanity can become the catalyst that changes hearts and minds. Sexism against female sports reporters reached its proper pinnacle after a jock strap was infamously hurled by a player in the St. Louis Cardinals' locker room in 1985 at Paola Boivin. Sports lovers could no longer ignore the unfair abuses against women. The world of professional sports was shamed into creating an environment where reporters like Erin Andrews could, well, be sports reporters.
Hopefully, the Ines Sainz disgrace may have exposed a trapdoor that has historically allowed men to behave badly. It's time to put a lock on that door and throw away the key.