Silence, Ines Sainz and Offensive Lines.

More outrageous than a swimsuit model-turned-TV sports reporter wearing tight jeans, or the boys-will-be-boys defense that has prevailed in recent days, or disingenuous conversations about fashion choices, are the numbers.

Or rather, the absence of the numbers.

I’m talking about estimates showing that only 5 to 15 percent of women who are sexually harassed in the workplace formally report the harassment to their employers or agencies like the EEOC. On college campuses, the number is thought to be about 10 percent. If you believe those statistics, that means an awful lot of women are suffering in silence.

It’s not hard to understand why in the wake of allegations that TV Azteca reporter Ines Sainz was harassed at the New York Jets’ practice facility Saturday. The details are in the links, for those who are interested.

But essentially: Sainz, a former Miss Spain and Miss Universe contestant* who has referred to herself as the “hottest reporter in Mexico,” was allegedly subjected to taunts, catcalls and other juvenile antics during a visit to the Jets’ facility for an interview.

What followed was not a national conversation about why that sort of behavior might have been wrong. Instead, a number of commentators – mostly men, I might add – focused the debate on Sainz’s penchant for provocative clothing (something even Keith Olbermann and Rush Limbaugh agreed upon) and why horny athletes can’t help themselves around hot women.

If they even bothered to be that high-brow. Here’s a sampling of some of the headlines that popped up in my Google Reader: “Is It Really Sexism If She Was Sorta Askin’ For It?”; “Jets Are in Trouble For Sexually Harassing Mexican Ass Sensation Ines Sainz”; “Ines Sainz’s inviting rack makes appearance on Fox News.” The analysis that followed was about a nuanced as you might expect.

And that didn’t even include a bizarre tangent from well-known Washington Redskins running back/clown Clinton Portis who mused – and later apologized – that female sports reporters would find “somebody got to spark her interest” in the locker room” and that “I don’t know what kind of woman won’t, if you get to go and look at 53 men’s packages.”

I assume that means Portis has never met a lesbian, eh? To say nothing of people who manage to put aside their peeper tendencies and manage to work in spite of all the inviting penises around them.

But more important than all of that, over and over again in the past few days, I’ve read and heard people suggest that Sainz brought the harassment upon herself by provoking the players with her outfit and, I suppose, her pulchritude.

Some of the most offensive takes on the incident came from about where you’d expect:

NFL Hall of Famer John Riggins: “It’s just the animal instinct. If you’re putting it out there, these guys are sensitive. And I’m sorry, maybe she’s so hot she can’t help it. But you know what? Then put on a cardboard box, OK?

Columnist Jason Whitlock: “You send a ‘sex symbol’ into a locker room and then act shocked that 20-somethings treat her like a sex symbol. Give me a break.” … “You cannot take the MEATHEAD out of football. Will never happen. 20-somethings playing a game we want to act like 60 yr olds. Please.”

Blogger Thomas Kinslow: Let’s be honest: Ines Sainz is a very pretty woman who does fluff pieces to get her on the camera and get ratings up. When part of your job is groping men’s arms for a story, you put yourself in a position where, unfortunately, these types of things can happen. Maybe Ines should focus on the actual games instead of the size of athletes’ muscles.”

What we’ve got here is a classic case of victim-blaming. It’s one of the most basic calls in the sexist’s playbook.

The implication is that anyone dressing in a manner that others deem unprofessional deserves whatever harassment comes their way, and it’s only natural because men – especially athletes – are incapable of controlling their sexual impulses. These men are MEATHEADS and they will act accordingly, so the women best comport themselves like ladies and dress accordingly so as to avoid harassment.

But that’s fucking stupid.

Amanda Hess digs deeper:

Whenever a woman is sexually harassed, the conversation inevitably turns to how the victim did wrong, looked wrong, dressed wrong, reported wrong, made her career wrong, and navigated a man’s world wrong. The point is moot.  Sexually harassing Ines Sainz makes sports reporting an unwelcome place for all women in the business, who must constantly navigate intense scrutiny of their looks (too hot, not hot enough), their clothes (too feminine, not feminine enough), their demeanor (too flirtatious, too humorless)—basically, their gender.

Men, especially, have a choice in this matter. It would be much easier if we held ourselves (and our friends and colleagues) accountable for treating all women – no matter how they’re dressed – as if they’re deserving of our respect.

We shouldn’t harass a woman in a strip club, let alone a night club, newsroom or a locker room. We have to get past this idea that only a certain kind of woman should be subject to harassment.

And on the flipside, we know that it doesn’t make much difference what women are wearing when it comes to harassment. Jezebel recently conducted a poll of their readers to see what they were wearing when they “asked for it”: they heard from pregnant women, a woman wearing a hijab, someone decked out in their Arby’s uniform, etc.

Additionally, I’m a member of the PostBourgie running challenge, which includes an e-mail listserve that covers all sorts of topics, including where to find good running shoes, diet tips, and general encouragement for pushing through the grind. But the thread that resonated most deeply to me was the one where many – if not most – of the women in the group shared their personal stories about literally running into harassment. Their workout gear had little to do with the behavior they’ve faced on the streets, jogging trails and high school tracks all around the country. Friend and blog-cousin Sara Libby even blogged about it earlier this year. They’ve all dealt with dudes who’ve stopped them while running to ask them for their phone number. Guys who want them to know that they’re leering at them. Men who scream all sorts of vile things while passing by in cars.

Shani sort of distilled it all for us: “I think part of it is that when a bunch of immature dudes are together, they just fuel each other. It has nothing to do with you, it’s a performance they put on for each other. And they have no clue what its like to be on the receiving end.”

Further, I don’t want to create this slippery slope where it’s up to each individual man to determine whether or not a woman is dressed inappropriately enough to harass. Where and when will each person set that bar? A bikini at the beach? A sports bra at the gym? A short skirt at the grocery store?

A little closer to home, some of you know that I got married six months ago. What worries me about this backlash is that apparently there are some assholes out there who have a very low bar for respect and might feel emboldened to harass my wife for merely offending his sexist sensibilities.

Most importantly, I would want her to feel comfortable enough to report that sort of behavior. But would she?

I don’t know. She tells me that she would but the numbers suggest that she probably wouldn’t.

Silence is the rule when it comes to sexual harassment. And Ines Sainz reminded us all why.

* Sainz has never been a “former Miss Spain and Miss Universe contestant.” A woman with the same name was Miss Spain in 1997, but she is not the same woman. Sorry for the mix-up.

28 comments to Silence, Ines Sainz and Offensive Lines.

  • Blackink12, we’ve been over this via the twitter. I can’t believe people are defending what amounts to a total lack of maturity. If you wouldn’t say or do it in an office environment, don’t do it in the locker room.

    • Darth Paul

      I’m not defending anyone here, but that just sounds daft. Expecting men who’ve been treated like gold and absolved of responsibility since middle school or so to adopt corporate office standards in the LOCKER ROOM beggars belief.

      I’d like to add that it’s predictable and sad that a group that happens to have a LOT of MoC is savaged for acting like 14yos, but far greater abuses at the exec level of most brokerage firms and securities companies go undiscussed much less punished. Where’s the outrage there?

      • you should be embarrassed by that strawman. wtf, fam?

      • Darth, I gotta push back a little here. Not being raised with any sense is no excuse for not acquiring some later.

      • Darth,

        If Woody Johnson’s daughter had been in that locker room, instead of a Latina immigrant reporter, you can bet that every player would damn well have practiced “corporate office standards” – that is, obeyed the law and not harassed her.

        Those men made a choice.

        They choose to sexually harass a woman.

        They didn’t have to make that choice – they could have left her alone, but they didn’t.

        Their head coach, Rex Ryan (a much older man who should know better – you can’t blame “male hormones” in his case, cause he’s male menopausal age!) led the pack – he choose to harass her, his players choose to follow his pathetic behavior.

        That was a wrong choice – by Coach Ryan and the players – and I refuse to be an apologist for them.

  • Darth Paul

    “I think part of it is that when a bunch of immature dudes are together, they just fuel each other. It has nothing to do with you, it’s a performance they put on for each other. And they have no clue what its like to be on the receiving end.”

    That’s actually a huge part of it- trying to see who can get a response from the female first. It doesn’t matter what her response is or, really, what she’s wearing.

    Aside from that, I don’t blame Sainz, but I’m not feeling much sympathy for her either. Did the self-declared hottest reporter in Mexico expect crispy, button-down corporate professionalism in a mens’ locker room?

    Disclosure- My father is middle eastern, and my surname is clearly of Arabic origin. THAT’S WHO I AM. However, I wouldn’t consider visiting some of the customers whose accounts my company handles because of the negative reaction my name and probably my appearance would elicit (like fundie Christian churches). And I wouldn’t even be wearing a dishdasha and on such a trip.

    • blackink12

      “Expecting men who’ve been treated like gold and absolved of responsibility since middle school or so to adopt corporate office standards in the LOCKER ROOM beggars belief.”

      That’s terrible, man. I feel sad that you feel that way.

      Part of it, for me, are the racial undertones to the argument here. In a league where 65 percent of the players are black, and in an incident where most of the principals were black, I find it deeply problematic that people are actually arguing that these guys couldn’t be expected to control themselves when confronted by “the self-declared hottest reporter in Mexico.”

      Have we already forgotten the myth of the uncontrollable black sexual savage?

      Is that what we’re arguing here? That these rooms, mostly full of black men, can’t be expected to behave themselves because they’ve “been treated like gold since middle school” and they’re helplessly horny around women? Really?

      Do better than that, Darth. For real. We can talk about corporate abuses if you want. But that’s not this post.

    • Darth,

      First of all, TV Azteca, like many Spanish-language networks, REQUIRES their female reporters to wear attractive sexy clothes on air as a condition of employment.

      Second, just like it is those who would harass you because of your ethnicity, it is always 100% wrong when men choose to sexually harass a woman.

      Football player or not, right is right and wrong is wrong.

      Period.

    • haiba

      “Aside from that, I don’t blame Sainz, but I’m not feeling much sympathy for her either. Did the self-declared hottest reporter in Mexico expect crispy, button-down corporate professionalism in a mens’ locker room?”

      There are so many issues with statement, I don’t even know where to begin. What does her self declaration of hotness have to do with ANYTHING? Why should the context be an excuse for their actions? Like, should women only expect respect when we’re in a corporate environment (where, as blackink rightly pointed out, we’re STILL the victims of harassment and even less likely to report it)? To justify the circumstances under which this type of denigrating behavior is acceptable, or at the very least, should be expected, is appalling to me.

  • cocolamala

    mostly its just a penalty for being a woman in a public space and, in this case, being a woman in a previously all male space. some nerve of her! catalls remind her of her place.

    i’ve been asked “where’s your man at” while walking through downtown going to work. as though, i need to register a male escort with him for permission to be outside. one time i was walking my bike home with a scraped bloody knee and torn jeans, when a man backed his car out of traffic to inquire about my number – no actual offer of help or assistance though.

    since getting engaged, street harassment has dropped off sharply, it’s really scathing that men respect the ring more than they respect me. they get that some dude will threaten bodily harm if they mess with an engaged woman, but don’t care if i’m uncomfortable with folk yelling at me from passing trucks, or slowing down to drive beside me walking home at night… f tha patriarchy

    • thewayoftheid

      I wish mofos respected my ring. Just last week I ran into a dude I went to high school with, who, upon discovering I was married with a child, asked if my “husband allowed me to have friends” and suggested that I invite him over when he wasn’t around. A few weeks before that, a dude stops me while I’m pushing my son in a stroller to holla, and when I tell him I’m married? Continues to press on. As I’ve commented before about a similar topic, I’ve never left the house alone without headphones in 20 years. Street harassment plays a part in that.

      • cocolamala

        dag, just pitiful. i was hoping there might be some type of boundary respect. guess i just haven’t had this thing on long enough yet. my fiance is just waiting…#iwishaniggawould.

  • I heart this post. Thank you for writing it.

  • Thank you for this post. It is seriously beautiful to read a man writing like this.

    & congratulations on your marriage.

  • Naima

    Thanks fam for writing this, especially as a man. As for your wife and other women out there it is far easier to say that if we were subjected to sexual harassment we’d report it but the truth is it happens so often, daily–even to the point where instead of being told by my educated civil rights activist mother to report it, often she has advised me to take it in stride,because it is to be expected. I have never hesitated once to report racist, ethnic slurs but sexist remarks–inappropriate comments about my body or dress– are another issue and its exactly moments like the Inez incident that make women feel unable to report unwanted sexual advances/comments. I’m compelled to make a change. Thanks.

  • I really appreciate this post Black. As husband and father to two beautiful Latinas I love everything you’ve said. Latina fetish is especially dangerous because the so called “hot” Latina is one of the most common sexual stereotypes. I fear for my daughter. She is a great kid, a top student, respectful, hardworking, and ambitious. And she’s also a gorgeous Latina. I refuse to teach her that she must learn to hide her beauty so no one will ever tell her she asked for it. What infuriates me about this story most is that Ms. Sainz will likely never see the inside of an NFL locker room again but the players involved and commenting on the story will get an atta boy pat on the back and back to business as usual they’ll go. The victim is punished for being “exotic”. Will my daughter be derailed and reduced like Sainz because of some jerk off with no self-control or home training?

  • Thanks. Took the words right out of my head and typed them up. I couldn’t get past the WTF-ness of what people have been saying about Sainz online. We know it’s way bigger than her though, and as a female that has had to put up with unwanted male attention in a number of situations whether dressed to party or dressed to run to the bodega right quick, it’s even more disturbing that to some it’s my fault no matter what.
    On one blog, a commenter went as far to say that if his own daughter was dressed provocatively and got raped, she’d have gotten what she deserved, just to bring home his argument about Sainz. That’s scary.

  • thewayoftheid

    Add me to the chorus. This was love, man. Appreciate it.

  • cdg

    No excuses for the things folks have been saying about the reporter or whether or not she “invited” the behavior of the Jets players. Rude is rude no matter how you slice it. Even if you’re legimately trying to holla at a chick, rude won’t get you very far.

    My personal believe is that these pro sports leagues invite this behavior by allowing reporters into a locker room where these players are often naked or changing clothes. I’m sorry, but we’re not talking about harassment at the office copy machine here. This is a totally different environment. How is this remotely a good idea? Does Bud Collins get to interview Maria Sharapova when she’s naked right out of the shower?

  • Thanks for this post bro. A lot of this is up to us as men to stand up & say it’s not ok. Not just to not participate in that kind of deplorable behavior, but to to stand up & call it out. Too many guys, as we found out on twitter, just don’t get it.

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