Thursday, September 16, 2010

The State of Women Sports Writers Just Got Really Messy

There are somethings that I can't ignore in this world: I am very, very short; I am loud; I am a woman; I am a person of color; and that somethings will never change. One of those things that will never change seems to be that the world will never be fair enough to truly accept a woman who does her job alongside men in a male-dominated field. That's just the way it is. As proof of this, this past week I have been faced with numerous people coming to me for my opinion on this matter of Ines Sainz and a few players on the NY Jets.

A recap of the incident (as many tend to just hear and never read themselves), Sainz was present at Jets practice when apparently, head coach Rex Ryan had players run drills in extremely close proximity to the sideline where Sainz was standing. Following this incident, the New York post reported that Jets players were "catcalling" Sainz and that when Sainz was confronted to see if she was okay, Jets lineman Kris Jenkins said, "This is our locker room!"

As a result of her discomfort, Sainz wrote on Twitter in Spanish about how uncomfortable she was in the locker room as she was trying to do her job, while adding that she felt that was appropriately dressed (interesting she has to add that).

A couple of days later, Redskins running back, Clinton Portis, was asked to give his thoughts on the situation (here from DC Sports Bog). His words, however, only turned this issue into an even bigger one, saying that essentially, women shouldn't be in the locker room unless they expect to get hollered at because men and women just have this undying lust for each other at all times....

Now this is a personal issue for me, and we can't get around that because, like I said, there are things I cannot ignore. Being a woman is one of them. And it is difficult for others around me to ignore that I am a woman as well. So with this knowledge, many people have asked for my opinion and wondered if I felt this was a real issue.

Having been in professional team locker rooms, specifically the Washington Capitals' locker room, I am in there to do a job. I repeat: A JOB. There has NEVER been ONE moment in my short-but-thus-far-successful sports journalism career where I spent lusting after one of the players in the locker room. When I go to cover hockey for The Hockey Writers, I don't go to the locker room with hopes of finding [insert player] putting their shirt on and that he will wink at me or something. I'm there to get some sound bites just like the rest of the writers in there so that I can complete my story efficiently.

So it hurts when someone says that I don't act professionally in a locker room because supposedly my mind is on a player's body than what my JOB is.

The other implications of what Portis said adds to this "she was asking for it" mentality. Ines Sainz is gorgeous. She is absolutely beautiful and there's not much she does to hide it; after all, why should she? Yet, according to what Portis says, because she's beautiful and walking into a locker room, if she gets disrespected, she deserved to be disrespected.

My response to that is, regardless of what she wore to Jets practice or any Jets event, the only thing she deserves is respect. When I go to Capitals games, or any sports game representing the media, I tend to dress more on the conservative side, with slacks and button downs. However, I might don the occasional business skirt, and I deserve the right to be able to walk to the locker room without fearing that some player or person is trying to find a way to look up my skirt. This code of respect toward women extends beyond sports journalism, but for now baby steps, we're just talking about at the workplace - the locker room.

Then, to add fuel to the fire, here come the media personalities (yes, Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh spoke) and the real thoughts of men (message boards and post-article comments) coming to give their opinion on Ines Sainz. I heard talk that made me feel like I needed to be put back 30 years ago - people actually have been asking "should women even BE in the locker room?"

All of a sudden, all that I have worked for, all that I have done to make it this far to become a true sports journalist, is being questioned. People don't think I should have access to the same information as my male counterparts because I'm a woman!?! Because I have different sexual organs!?!? I have never been more appalled in my life that in 2010, we are questioning whether women should be near locker rooms because there is no way that either party can act professionally. Not 1678, not 1894, not 1950... 2010 we don't think that women are capable of accomplishing what men can because we're different.

Pardon me, but then it would be pretty easy to justify that women shouldn't be in the same press box as the male writers because we lust after each other too much; then we easily have something against women becauseItalic if they don't receive the same access as the men do, they can't report as fruitfully as they potentially could have with the access. This leave ground for women not writing anything good and then passing it off as, "Well they couldn't handle writing for a sports team"... Just remember, you would have to ban men from women's locker rooms as well.

Finally, a point that exists, but isn't as emphasized here is the exotification of Ines Sainz. The woman is Mexican and reports for a Mexican outlet, TV Azteca. Let's be honest; in America, there is a culture where men have their fantasies about women from other countries and ethnicities. If you've been to college and taken a few sociology/gender studies courses, there's proof of it there. Having parents from South America, when I tell people this, all of a sudden there becomes this aura and out come the words: Ooooh, that's exotic... I'm not a plant or an animal, I am a human being; thus, I'm not exotic. Of course Sainz being a beautiful woman, she is objectified from the start. But the further objectification allows things like this to become acceptable, like she's a real novelty (sociology minor at American - had to note this).

I haven't even gotten into all of the problems female reporters face covering sports. But this issue between Sainz and the Jets brings out a lot of elephants in the room (it's like a herd I tell you!). I shake my head furiously at those who want to come at me for sounding like a feminist. You're absolutely right - I am a feminist in the most broadest of terms: someone who simply just wants equal rights for men and women. I will say that I certainly do not want sameness. I want my prerogative to get pretty for a night out, wear makeup and dresses, and I like getting in places for free on weekends.

But when it comes to my JOB, I take that very seriously, and as with every other job, there needs to be a sense of respect and equal treatment toward every person in that environment, man or woman. And I hope that this is not just the way it is, and that instead of blaming Sainz because of how she looks or her sexual organs, we can acknowledge that we need to focus on treating women with that respect while in the workplace. After all, We're only respecting you men by not staring at all of your "packages."


  1. Good article. My beef with Ines Sainz is that she skews more towards sports entertainment than sports journalism. While there's nothing wrong with that in the wider sense, it doesn't do good for female sports journalists to who take their work seriously.

  2. I won't say that the Jets players weren't out of line. But seriously, I think Sainz should have at least mentally prepared herself for the possibility that something "unprofessional" might happen.

  3. Eric: You're missing the point. The problem is that she has to face that unprofessional behavior from the Jets players. She shouldn't even have to deal with that. When I go into the locker room after Caps games, I don't expect to be hollered and whistled at. I expect to just do my job, get out to the press lounge and type up my stuff. I don't believe in this "mental preparation". I don't go to my job at the Washington Post either expecting to be cat called either. It's just something she shouldn't have to deal with because she knows she's fine.

    Leon: that is a point, but she still is covering athletes and deserves the right to receive the same treatment I do in the locker room despite what kind of information she is trying to give. She still takes her work seriously and while I wouldn't pick her as the spokesperson for female journalists out there, she still should be respected.

  4. the woman is afool just like the uneducated feminists that go around shouting FOUL the answer is clear GET OUT AND STAY OUT OR SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES

  5. You should not be in the locker room. And this issue is not about you. Remember when sexual harassment was introduced to Americans as a crime? The example often given was the guy who put a pin-up of a naked woman in his area of the workplace where women also worked. If even one woman objected to that picture, it had to come down. Otherwise both the guy and company were sexually harassing the woman. Then we were just talking about a picture. Now we are talking about your “right” to enter a room where the players will be naked. Your personal attributes don’t matter except for the fact that you are female. By you being in there, if even only one player objects, you are guilty of sexual harassment. I don’t imagine you care about that but it doesn’t change the facts. In slave days, the owner could rape a woman slave and not be prosecuted. He could rightfully his act was lawful, and he would be right. Now he was still a monster, because rape is rape, but he could get away with it. Same with you.
    You can get away with sexual harassment because the law says you can. But it doesn’t make it right. Or make you a decent person. In my experience, I have not run across a more selfish, non-empathetic group of people than women sportswriters. Everything is always about them, how they feel. Because of this, I am against women being in the profession. That likely would change if they would leave the locker room. But that will never happen because it is the decent, right thing to do, and that is not who they are. So as it stands, these women will continue to humiliate the men naked in the locker room who are embarrassed by their presence. Because of this, they deserve everyone’s contempt, not respect.