Azteca reporter, Ines Sainz entered a male locker room and allegedly received cat-calls from New York Jets players in the locker room. Sainz ignored the remarks made by the players and proceeded to do her job. A female colleague who was present during the incident, was offended and later approached Sainz about it. Ines Sainz did not file a complaint or report the incident as sexual harassment, although she did reveal that she felt uncomfortable with the way she was treated in the locker room. After the incident, she later tweeted that she was “dying of embarrassment” as a result of the media fallout.
Both Ines Sainz and the NFL players who subjected Ines Sainz to the alleged sexual harassment are wrong. No person should be subjected to unwanted sexual advances or jokes of a sexual nature. The workplace especially, is not the place for this type of behavior. It makes the employer look bad if the situation is not promptly resolved, and it weakens the morale of the victim. Employees have a right to do their jobs, without having to function in an environment that is deliberately hostile. This hostility takes away from an employee’s ability to optimally perform job tasks.
At the same time, the way that you dress can create a first and lasting impression. Sainz was not appropriately dressed for the occasion. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with wearing form fitting jeans, provided that there are no rips in the jeans and no body parts are exposed. There is something wrong with exposing cleavage, and it is not appropriate when you are working as a journalist. Dressing provocatively in the workplace sends the wrong messages to the person being interviewed and to the public at-large. It comes across as if the person who dresses overly sexual, is looking for attention for the wrong reasons or trying to solicit a date.
I am not suggesting that it is right to judge a person’s character or abilities based on the way that person is dressed. However, humans are very visual creatures and it is our nature to form opinions and judgments about what we see. If someone wants to be respected as a professional, who excels in their career, then the impetus should be on job performance rather than steering attention to appearance. Unless your profession entails sex or requires overt displays of sexuality, why dress in a way that will detract from your overall objective?
Reporters of the opposite sex do not belong in locker rooms. Women don’t belong in the men’s locker rooms and men don’t belong in the women’s locker rooms. It just creates an environment more conducive to improprieties. Also, the athletes are undressing or dressing, going in and out of the showers. In a way, Ms. Sainz brought some of the sexual harassment on herself. It is a little unreasonable to expect for testosterone-filled, heterosexual males not to react when an attractive, and provocatively dressed woman walks into a men’s locker room. Perhaps, this could have been avoided had Ines Sainz waited outside of the locker room to conduct interviews.
In life, there is cause and effect. When one chooses to partake in certain behaviors, he or she should be prepared to face the repercussions which result from engaging in those behaviors. Both sides are responsible for their actions. If a man is thinking sexual thoughts about a woman, he should have enough restraint to not act on those thoughts, if the time is not right. Ines Sainz induced the behavior in those men, by dressing in such a way that she would be perceived as a sex object, rather than a woman journalist. With this said, it does not give anyone the right to make unwanted sexually suggestive or offensive remarks in the workplace. The law pertaining to sexual harassment in the United States is straightforward about this. However, the responsibility falls with everyone to take proper measures to prevent or reduce the occurrence of sexual harassment.
Why would Ines Sainz choose not to report the sexual harassment? Sainz has stated that she was not offended by her treatment in the locker room, but that she was a little uncomfortable. I have a different opinion about why Ines Sainz did not report this. She probably doesn’t want to get blackballed in the industry for reporting sexual harassment or risk having the stigma of “whistleblower” attached to her. Also, culture may play a role in the reason why Sainz chooses not to take any further actions in this case. Sainz is originally from Mexico, which is a society in which “machismo” persists. Mexico still has a long way to go in the way of women’s rights, and equal treatment and protection for women under the law. It could be that Sainz is used to being treated as a sex object in her native Mexico and is dismissing her maltreatment in the United States, so as not to “rock the boat”. The concept of sexual harassment is either non-exististent or is not clearly defined in many countries. Also, the U.S. legal definition and perception of sexual harassment differs from that of other countries.
So far, the NFL is responding in a very satisfactory manner. The owner of the New York Jets apologized to Ines Sainz for the alleged sexual harassment. The NFL has indicated that it takes this situation very seriously and NFL officials are currently conducting an investigation. The NFL is sending a clear message that they want female journalists to feel comfortable doing their jobs. On the CBS Early Show, Ines Sainz says that she is not going to take any legal actions in the matter and that she is leaving the final decisions about how to handle this in the NFL’s care. No matter what the NFL’s findings are, sexual harassment, and sex-based discrimination is wrong.