As pundits and opinion-makers have continued to weigh in on the Clinton Portis saga, discussion has turned to what reporter Ines Sainz was wearing, and whether or not her attire was to blame for the humiliating sexual harassment she was forced to endure from members of the New York Jets. Focusing on Sainz’s clothing and appearance places the blame on Sainz instead of a problematic locker room culture, and is reflective of tired “she asked for it” patriarchal discourse.
Blaming Sainz’s attire is a curious argument, given that there is an obvious unspoken rule that in order to appear on camera and cultivate a career in televised sports, women must exude a kind of heterosexual attractiveness through their physical appearance and dress. Women are thus left in a double-bind: In order to join “the boys” they must be appealing to boys, but should they be too appealing in a certain context (see locker room, Jets) their attractiveness becomes their own fault. Until we begin to see female reporters as qualified sports reporters and not, as Hannah Storm had to remind her two male colleagues on a recent ESPN debate “there to check guys out,” women will continue to be reduced to their bodies in ways that are never on their own terms.