Monday, September 13, 2010

O How She Dresses

Media Matters reports:

The NFL is investigating the treatment of a television reporter at a New York Jets practice:

New York Jets owner Woody Johnson told USA TODAY Monday he offered his "apology" to a female TV reporter whose treatment Saturday at Jets practice is being investigated by the NFL.

NFL and team officials said Sunday they were looking into a complaint made by the Association of Women in Sports Media that the Jets made suggestive comments to Ines Sainz of Mexico's TV Azteca during and after a weekend practice at their Florham Park, NJ, facility.

Naturally, Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller sees a news story about a bunch of guys allegedly harassing a working reporter as an excuse to post a slideshow of photos of the woman under the headline "Baby got back: Meet Ines Sainz [SLIDESHOW]."

The slideshow can be found here. The pictures have snide little comments that translate into explaining how sexually harassing someone like this reporter is really quite understandable.

What I want to address in this post are those comments in the slide show which argue that Ms Sainz dresses inappropriately for the work she does. The hidden implication is that anyone dressing in that manner should expect to be sexually harassed, that it's only natural. Or as a comment to a newspaper story about another sexual harassment case some time ago stated: "If you advertise, don't be surprised if people ask to buy."

This is the traditional theme of women's clothing speaking about their sexual availability, and it is still very much alive, as shown by the Daily Caller slide show. It is also very much alive among those Muslims who regard Western women as sexually available or slutty because of the way they dress.

Feminists worked hard and long to remove the but-see-what-she-wore excuse for rape. They also worked hard and long to let women themselves determine what they want to wear. The former goal has been partially achieved, the latter not so much, especially on a global level.

The reasons for that failure are complicated ones, ranging from history of dress via advertising and popular culture to religion, and they deserve a separate series of posts. But they ultimately boil down to the fact that the way women dress is still seen as offering cues to their sexual availability, that it is the culture or sub-culture on the whole which judges what a particular way of dressing means, and that dress codes have almost always a more sexual interpretation for women than for men. Sometimes sexuality is demanded from women's dress, sometimes it is banned. But it is seldom ignored.
Added later: Tara Sullivan on this particular incident is worth listening to.