After Brett Favre admitted to leaving voicemails with her, what exactly is it that Jenn Sterger wants from him? Does she run the risk of trivializing what sexual harassment is all about?
This story is now nearly three months old. Sterger allegedly received a series of suggestive voicemails and explicit text messages from Favre back in 2008 while he was the quarterback for the New York Jets and she was some sort of sideline reporter for the team. Favre allegedly wanted Sterger to visit him at his hotel and to get his, well, point across, he is said to have sent her pictures of his penis.
To date, Sterger has made no public comments. Somehow, though, the pictures, texts, Myspace messages and voicemails came into Deadspin’s possession. Favre so far has admitted to leaving voicemails, which leave little to the imagination his intent, for Sterger, though has denied sending her explicit pictures.
Favre’s admission seems to have come as a result of his meeting with the NFL, which is investigating the matter.
about whether or not Favre’s alleged conduct would constitute workplace sexual harassment. Obviously, as a legendary quarterback, Favre would have much greater power and influence within the organization than Sterger would have had. That said, nobody actually reported to Favre; this is not a case of boss to subordinate harassment in the strictest sense.
Favre, who is married and a grandfather, has clearly been embarrassed. If not, he should be; first, for attempting to cheat on his wife, secondly for leaving repeated voicemails from somebody who is said to have not been interested. Finally, if the explicit ‘penis pictures’ sent turn out to be his, then he really has humiliated himself and his family even more than what is currently confirmed.
This all said, there is a point at which Sterger herself will need to answer some questions. There is no question that every woman (and man for that matter) deserves the right to not be harassed. If they are harassed, they have every right, and some would say every responsibility, to report the conduct to the appropriate authorities.
But Jenn Sterger apparently decided to not report Favre’s conduct to anybody for about two years. And then, she elected to apparently share it with on online sports gossip site. First of all, why wait two years? Secondly, if her objective is to punish Favre, why not go directly to the Jets, the league, and/or the Jets themselves and report the behavior?
Her motives, at least so far, for going to Deadspin first and not even speak on the record seem less than clear.
There is also the matter of Sterger’s background. As politically incorrect as this may be to say, this is a woman who posed nude in Playboy, partially nude in Maxim and posed for multiple pictures with tight, low cut Jets shirts and extremely tight jeans. Anybody with any degree of common sense could see that sex appeal, blatant sex appeal, was part of the Jenn Sterger package. While this does not give anybody the right to harass her, and does not in any way lessen the protection she deserves, it is naïve to think that there isn’t a really good chance that this didn’t factor in Favre’s, uh, thinking.
So Brett Favre makes a play for her…despicably so, according to most people’s standards, given that he’s a married man and nearly old enough to be her father. But did Sterger tell him to stop? Was she emotionally affected? Or did she file away Favre’s actions as potential leverage? Now, it is not the responsibility of a woman to tell a man to stop sending her pictures of his penis…that should be understood at the outset. But in listening to the voicemails, was there really anything that he said that was harassment? How did he get her number to begin with?
Perhaps we will hear more in the upcoming days and weeks. Perhaps Jenn Sterger was deeply upset and intimidated. Perhaps the last couple of years have been very difficult on her. If so, however, at the very least, going to Deadspin with the story was not the best idea if she wants legal action against Favre.
If she doesn’t want legal action against Favre, and doesn’t want money from him, what is it that Jenn Sterger wants, exactly?
If she wants to simply embarrass him for his actions, fair enough. If she wants to use the case as a means to further his career, that’s fair enough as well.
But the Jenn Sterger and Brett Favre case, unfortunately, runs the risk of trivializing, even if in a small way, true harassment cases in which women feel trapped or threatened at the work place as a result of harassment from their bosses.
If Sterger simply collected the voicemails and ‘sext’ pictures, didn’t ask him to stop, laughed and stored them for future use, then she really shouldn’t play the victim. It’s intellectually dishonest to claim that this is a the latest example of the all too common problem of sexual harassment that impact women every day; women who don’t have the platform to run to Deadspin, who haven’t posed nude in Playboy, who don’t walk around on football sidelines with revealing clothing…women who genuinely need protection in order to do their jobs and provide for their families.