Dear Ines Sainz: Please Stop Dressing Like That.

Via on Sep 23, 2010

Dear Ms. Sainz:

You are, without a doubt, a professional. Your credentials and record of accomplishment as a sports reporter are beyond questioning. You have arrived, and you deserve to be where you are. And it’s none of my business, of course. But let me tell you anyway why I wish you wouldn’t dress the way you do.

Consciousness is funny. As a male animal, I am programmed to respond to visual input from women. Those tight jeans, low-cut tops, and heels that make your feet flex like other female mammals in estrus were sold to you by people who knew the effect you would have on men when you wore them. As animals, we men can’t help that.

But as humans, believe it or not, many of us men would rather exercise more control over our responses to people than our animal natures demand. I, for one, struggle to keep my “Y” Chromosome-Driven Hubba Hubba Filter–that perceptual triage system that allows the “babe” into my awareness whilst keeping the human being in the waiting room–disabled.  I do this because, as a Christian and a Yogi, I aspire to view everyone as complete in themselves, and not in relation to my own desires.

Yes, we men are responsible for our behavior towards women; booty is not kryptonite. But this goes deeper than the behavioral level. Jesus’ whole Sermon on the Mount was about moving from outward conformity to rules of behavior to inward conversion of the heart­; as our Buddhist brothers and sisters might say, “right action” must spring from “right intention.” Otherwise, we become “like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.” (Matthew 23:27) So for all the Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Yogi and none-of-the-above men who are trying to really respect women like our mamas would want us to, and not merely behave as though we do–help us out, OK?

Of course, it would have been better if the New York Jets had behaved more respectfully toward you in their locker room. And I will not say that a more professional self-presentation might result in more professional treatment, because I’m not allowed to say that. But others have. “It does not seem unreasonable to me,” writes one female sports reporter, “to expect women reporters to dress for the job and not for the nightclub.” Lara Logan is a beautiful woman, too, but she saves the low-cut tops for social occasions.

Finally, Ms. Sainz, where people in the public eye lead, others will follow. My five- and seven-year-old daughters have already pinky-sworn with a neighbor girl that they will “never be fat.” Do you really want to be a part of the media culture that relentlessly bombards girls with the message that there is only one kind of beautiful, and it is imperative that they conform to it? I know you have not created that media culture, and I understand that the cultural gatekeepers are almost entirely men. I know that they, not you, set the standards by which women are judged. But I am not talking to them right now, Ms. Sainz–I am talking to you.  And I submit that you have become an accomplice to your own exploitation, and an accessory to the warping of the self-image of little girls everywhere. You are, presumably,  above that. Please stop.

About Scott Robinson

Scott Robinson taught college music at a Christian university for ten years before leaving to pursue creative work and fatherhood.  He has written for Sojourners Magazine, PRISM, Cross Currents, Minnesota Parent, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the St. Paul Pioneer Press.  He currently composes, records and performs original kirtan with his band Mandala mandalaband.net. Scott is a professed member of the Third Order of St. Francis,  and lives in Philadelphia with his wife, two children, and two incessantly shedding dogs. 

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49 Responses to “Dear Ines Sainz: Please Stop Dressing Like That.”

  1. Jennifer says:

    I confess that I had to Google this woman…I really assumed from the photos that she was a cheerleader, but that didn't jibe with your quote from the female sports reporter.

    I'm sure you're going to get slammed for some of this, and I have to admit that you walk very close to the line that everyone from Jerry Falwell to the Taliban has crossed: the assertion that women who dress provocatively (which can be defined as anything from "topless" to "showing one's face") are guilty of tempting men into sin. The idea that women are in any way responsible for the bad behavior of men driven by lust does not sit well with me.

    That said, I think that the point you are making is that women like this diminish themselves, and everyone who interacts with them, in subtle but essential ways. There is a school of feminism that will assert that Ines is confident in her body, and is merely expressing herself as a proud, beautiful woman. I counter that true self-assurance doesn't translate to a constant need to display oneself. We've all met someone at a party who felt the need to tell us in the first five minutes of conversation that he or she is brilliant…by mentioning IQ score, or academic credentials, or simply by saying, "I'm very intelligent, you know." (Yes, I've had men say this to me more than once. Alcohol seems to speed up the process.) In my experience, those who are most prone to point out their own cleverness are the least secure in it. If you're really that smart, I'll figure it out. I may not be a genius like you are, but I'm at least able to recognize one when he's chatting me up.

    If Ines believes in her own physical beauty, she should trust that we'll see it regardless of her attire. I say this as a woman who has been known to dress like a ho on occasion. Perhaps I'm just too lazy to do the requisite sit-ups to make this sort of outfit daylight-worthy, but I'm also unwilling to start every social encounter with an attempt to be taken seriously in spite of the fact that my conversation partner can see my navel. Plus, women don't really like other women who dress like this. It's the fabric equivalent of a sign around her neck saying, "I would like your husband to think about f*cking me." Not the best way to make friends with fellow moms.

  2. Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

    Interesting, Peter, that you equate Jesus' call to conversion of the heart with "political correctness."

  3. Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

    "Dress for the job you want."

  4. *K* says:

    "There is a school of feminism that will assert that Ines is confident in her body, and is merely expressing herself as a proud, beautiful woman. I counter that true self-assurance doesn't translate to a constant need to display oneself."

    Thank you, I couldn't have said it better.

    I constantly wrestle with this, being what I like to consider a relatively attractive woman in a very competitive and male-dominated professional field. On one hand, I think we should be allowed to dress however we want, after all, wasn't that (one) of the points of feminism, to stop the idea in the collective culture that women should be held to some arbitrary, male-defined standard of "appropriate" dress or action in order to prevent men from being "overcome by their animal passions" or whatever?! On the other hand, the guys in my (all male but me, btw) office aren't showing their legs. Or even shoulders. Or stomachs, god forbid, or chest hair, in the workplace.

    And that leads me to the question of…why are women "fighting for the right" to dress in a provocative and ultimately inappropriate (at least professionally) way? If we want to be held to the same standards as men, well, those are actually more restrictive – no legs in the office. No sleeveless tops, no matter how professional their tank top may be LOL. IMO, if we want to be taken as seriously as our male counterparts, we should follow similar rules regarding attire and behavior in the workplace. Which means no flirting with clients (or I guess interviewees in Ines' case), no using our sexuality to get ahead at work, no provocative outfits, no sexual innuendo in the office. Seems to me that dressing innapropriately and/or using one's sexual attractiveness to progress in one's career is just another way of telling "the men" that they are still winning – that we can't get by in these types of high-powered jobs on our brains/talents alone, but have to throw in a healthy dose of leg or cleavage to sweeten the deal and bring us up to the same professional level as the men in our fields.

    I'm aware that there are guys who don't always act professionally, and that there are many women who do. I'm not trying to gender stereotype here, I'm just saying in my experience it's the women saying "I should be able to dress as slutty as I want to" while the men uncomfortably wonder whether to set a workplace boundary and risk being labeled anti-feminist, or allow the women in the workplace to dress however they want and simply avert their eyes from those cleavage-baring tops.

    That being said, I'm all for wearing a shorter skirt or a halter top and heels or whatever I want when I go out to bars or other evening events. When I don't MIND receiving potentially-crass male attention, and don't think (or care whether) it will detract from my brilliant mind and sparkling personality :) I just think it's unreasonable to dress in a way that you know is provocative, and then expect people to treat you like a professional. Like if my boss showed up to the office in a tank top and swimming trunks, it would be really hard to take him seriously. Likewise, when I show up, I want my coworkers to be focused on the amazing work I do, not my boobs. I have confidence that my work and intelligence are enough to bring me success in my career (and that has been true, so far) – I don't feel the need to show off my (pretty nice if I say so myself) body in order to assure myself of that success. THAT, in my opinion, is true confidence in oneself, male or female.

  5. Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

    Thanks for writing, Jennifer; I inserted an identifying clause into the first paragraph to spare future readers the need to google her.

    Thank you for the benefit of the doubt–I knew I was walking that line, but decided that abusus non tollit usus–that a legitimate message should not be deligitimized by the misuse others have made of it. As the father of girls, I, too, am not interested in implying that women "ask" to be abused, harassed, or anything else.

  6. Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

    Thanks, K–I hope my daughters turn out like you!

  7. pauloone says:

    I am with you Peter. Our culture is so afraid of sexuality that the mere glimpse of a woman's curve is enough to demand censure. She's a beautiful lady and good for her to feel free to dress as she feels comfortable.

    • Joshua Lore says:

      "Our culture is so afraid of sexuality that the mere glimpse of a woman's curve is enough to demand censure."

      This comment leads me to wonder what culture you are living in pauloone…

  8. pauloone says:

    Puritanism seems to live on. If she offends the poor innocent eyes of your daughters, change the channel!

  9. CaseyCapshaw says:

    I celebrate the feminine goddess that her physical form radiates and think men can learn to deal with it…AND i think she could learn to take responsibility for this radiance and deal with what might come her way in reaction to this extreme power.

  10. Diane Marie says:

    You are one step away from saying women deserve to get raped because of what they wear. Well, guess what–women get raped wearing turtleneck sweaters and baggy jeans, bib overalls, and old-lady housecoats (with old ladies in them.) What you're talking about is out-of-control sexual lust bordering on aggression, a lot of which, in my opinion, is fueled by religion–Christianity in particular. Get some counseling, and get a grip. You wouldn't last five seconds in Palm Springs at Spring break.
    What you are suggesting is just the opposite of what is true–the more you see on a regular basis, the more you become desensitized. Maybe you need to spend some time looking at porn and get a grip, literally, and GET OVER IT. You sound like a perv. There are women dressed just like this and FAR WORSE on any day of the week, in any state in the country.
    In the middle east, women wear burqas–a head to toe dark colored heavy sheet like gown which displays only the eyes, and yet men pant over seeing an eyebrow or an ankle. So being "more modest" is not the problem, it's YOU MEN and your testosterone!
    I'm an artist–and I think both the male AND the female body are beautiful and even arousing, but I have never had the problem you describe!!!

    • Jennifer says:

      YesuDas is not in any way endorsing or justifying aggression against women. He is simply saying that as part of his own personal rule of life he endeavors to view women as complete people and not sexual objects, and her manor of dress is a distraction from that.

      I don't see that desensitization to sexuality is necessarily a good thing. If my husband and I meet up in the bedroom at the end of the day and he says, "Oh, no, not boobs again…if I see one more…"–well, I don't consider that an improvement in male-female relationships.

      When I see a woman dressed this way, whether in life or through media, I am distracted, as well…not by sexual attraction, but by assumptions that I make about her. It's hard for me to like someone who chooses clothes that ALWAYS favor seductiveness over professionalism or comfort. Perhaps it is a shortcoming, but we all draw conclusions about people based on the way they dress. This style of dress indicates that the wearer wants people to view her first and foremost as a sexual being, and only secondarily as a reporter, mother, friend, wife, etc. She has every right to project herself that way…I don't believe in censorship, and I don't believe that a woman deserves to be raped even if she walks stark naked into a bar full of sailors on shore leave and recently released prisoners. But she shouldn't be surprised when people are too distracted by the tits and ass to get to know her as a person.

    • Bill says:

      The more you see something the more you are desensitized to it? Seriously? The way crack addicts get desensitized the more they use? Have you seen the staggering percentages of men who are addicted to pornography? Your comments show you have no understanding of the power of the visual. You have never had the problem described because you are female. Yes, men are responsible for their own responses. But living in an overly sexualized culture makes it very difficult. All the writer is asking for here, is for women to meet men (who are resisting the urge to objectify them) halfway.

  11. Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

    When did I say her outfit was an excuse for harassment, thil?

    • thil says:

      well the timeline goes like this: football team harrass Inez Sainz, she complains, you write article telling her to dress more modestly.
      If the two are completely unconnected all I can say is I think you timed your article badly.

      • Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

        Back in college we would have called that a case of the "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" fallacy–but to the extent that I may have made it appear that way, I apologize.

  12. Sean says:

    I think it is an important distinction that this is written in the form of a request for personal change, not for policy change. Also, is seems to be restricted to an appeal for change of venue, not necessarily behavior.' What distinguishes it from the misogynist examples cited above is that YesuDas isn't looking to force anyone to do anything, but is rather asking a favor in a very polite and deferential way.

    As a high school teacher, I would prefer that girls start wearing pants and not just leggings where the pants should go. It's not that I don't like looking at pretty girls. It's not that I expect pretty girls to be fully clothed all of the time. The problem is one of time and place. The aesthetic and erotic potential of the human body is powerful stuff indeed, which is why it shouldn't be such a central feature in students' trips to the blackboard (we don't have blackboards anymore, but you get the picture).

    If it's just jeans and a t-shirt, why is it so difficult to read this entire post without getting distracted by the pictures? If this becomes the new baseline for professional women's dress, what will they have to wear to get attention? My students are pretty sure it is leggings-as-pants. What will today's elementary and middle school students choose?

  13. Yaz says:

    thil, while it's true that it is the direct responsibility of parents to shape and guide their children's sense of self as they grow, it is also the responsibility of the wider culture to not make that all the more challenging with irresponsible images of hyper-sexualized men and women as acceptable and desirable role models.

  14. lberg says:

    Yes she has a beautiful body and has a right to be proud of it.

    No the guys in the NY Jets locker room didn't have any right to treat her as they did.

    Both of those being said, I have to agree with Scott in many ways. "… I will not say that a more professional self-presentation might result in more professional treatment, because I’m not allowed to say that." Well Scott, you may not be allowed to say it, but I am. How many of our workplaces dictate a dress code, telling us what is "professional" looking and what is not? I cannot tell you how many many times, over the years, I've encountered bias in the workplace because I wasn't wearing a suit, or because it was summer and I wasn't wearing nylons. No, I wasn't as overtly buffeted by negative sentiments as Ms. Sainz was; my experience of the bias took on more subtle tones: passing whispers in the hallway, being told my "wardrobe needed some help" by a supervisor. None of it had anything to do with the quality of my work much like none of what Ms. Sainz"s experience did either. But it's an established fact of the professional world: if you want to be taken seriously and treated professionally, you have to dress for it.
    One wouldn't wear their jammies and slippers to the office, or their bathing suit to work at the supermarket. There is a time and place for everything, and the clubbing clothes should be left at home for Friday/Saturday night. Perhaps I am part of an older generation that views work and the workplace as such, but in my opinion the skintight jeans and low cut tank top were an inappropriate choice of an outfit for the occasion.

  15. Lauren says:

    I'm with Sean, and I'm a heterosexual woman. When I taught High School a few years ago it was all the rage for the girls to wear shorts that were so short you could see almost half their butt cheeks, and while they were absolutely beautiful young women, I did not want to have to stare at their bums while I tried to teach them the difference between "who" and "whom." I don't normally feel compelled to stare at women's butts, but there is a train-wreck-fascination with having one parade its way up the aisle to diagram a sentence at the white board.

    People, not just women, *should* be proud to be beautiful. And beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and wearing clothes that look good on you is part of the package. But I don't want to stare at a man's pecs or six-pack while I'm at work any more than I want to look at 3/4 of a woman's breasts. Unless you are an exotic dancer, you should not dress like one at work. If you *are* an exotic dancer, then please do dress like that at work: your clients expect it.

  16. Diane Marie says:

    WOW, you're comparing what she's wearing to the garb of an exotic dancer? When was the last time you went someplace other than bible study?

    • Peg says:

      Bible Study? Never, but my Pagan networking group is meeting tonight. For the record Dianne Marie, I'm a feminist, a Druid, and a domestic violence prevention activist. I've actively participated in my local V Day campaign as an organizer for the past 7 years.

  17. elephant journal elephantjournal says:

    Love the passion, but keep it respectful! Agree to disagree, kinda thing. Dialogue!

  18. holly troy says:

    I want that outfit. cute!

  19. Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

    Ellen, if you have any serious reasons for doing any of those things, please write them down and send them to me; I will include them in a future post, and if convincing, will act on them.

  20. AJ Parker says:

    Perhaps she should sport a burqa (sp?) to help ya keep yourself in check?

    • Jennifer says:

      a) YesuDas does not have any trouble keeping himself in check. His behavior is not the issue. This is about his attempt to see every human being as a complete person rather than an object, which is made more difficult when people intentionally objectify themselves.
      b) Since this apparently must be spelled out: He's not talking about a burqa. He's talking about losing the cameltoe.

    • Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

      If you really think my article suggests anything like that, AJ, I can't imagine what I could write in a comments box that would be clear enough–except perhaps that I haven't time to spend fending off silly ad hominem attacks.

  21. holly troy says:

    i want her outfit. i get to wear spandex to work (yoga teacher), but my second favorite outfit to wear is jeans and a cute top. classic.

  22. Darrin LeBlanc says:

    My mother used to say "if women don't like the way men behave they should raise their sons differently". Keeping in this mode of thinking, If men don't like the way women behave "We should raise our daughter's differntly". But this involves an entirely different type of communication that generally men suck at. Talking to our daughters about being women is just not in the wheelhouse. We're stronger at screening the pimply faced boys that show up at the door (or at least we think we are) that wish to date our daughters then trying to shape them into the women we think we would want in our own lives. Most men have no idea what they want from a woman and I say that meaning not in a sexual way. We stumble along through our 20's, 30's 40's and maybe we begin to get a clue as we move towards a more purpose driven life. By that time the daughters are out the door and fully engaged in repeating the cycle of landing a man/provider/hunter/gatherer type.

  23. Hi, Scott.

    (Internet tone note–I'm writing this in a friendly tone and good humor toward you. I enjoyed your blog.)

    I didn't have time to read all the comments, so maybe this has been said already, but your plea would be a whole lot more credible if you didn't use multiple photos of the same attire you're decrying to attract people to your own blog!

    As it is it seems like an obvious and highly amusing hypocrisy to me.

    Bob W.

    • Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

      Bob: A valid concern, except that those pictures were simply examples of what I was talking about; if I'd really been trying to exploit prurient interest, I could have chosen much racier pictures, believe me.

      • Just to be clear, YesuDas, I was just amused, not concerned.

        The sports channel has her dress that way for the same reason you chose to show the pictures, which you didn't really need to make your point–for higher ratings!

        Trust me–my comments are all in good humor. I understand your points.

        Bob W.

  24. Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

    Interesting point, Darrin; my wife, who has done medical work in the Dominican Republic, was explaining to me that Latin American culture is less rattled by the sight of skin than Anglo culture. How that plays out in the arena of a woman's ability to advance professionally based on her merits I am not well-informed enough to say.

  25. Kara N says:

    The ethos of sports events is generally aesthetically deficient. Why do you even watch them?

  26. Kara N says:

    This post boils down to:
    1. Women are responsible for my reaction to them.
    2. Non sequitur disclaimer about how women are not responsible for the reactions that men have toward them.
    3. Women are responsible for my reaction to them.

    Look, if you're concerned about your daughter, think about your own actions and what they teach her, not what ppl around her that you cannot control are doing. They will do that crap regardless, but the most important thing she's going to learn about how she fits into this and how men are going to treat her comes from YOU. If she sees you exhibiting anger and frustration that women are not doing what you think they should be doing so that you can keep yourself under control, it's only going to foster the low-self esteem and daddy issues in her that so many young women struggle to manage. It's not the case that young women who engage in soft-porn, stripping, or even less formal versions of those things because they have low self-esteem independent of the context and then seek approval in some means that has been made available to them. Rather, they develop such self-regard precisely because they are faced with stressors of being objectified and it's constantly communicated to them that their self-worth lies how men respond to them. So they seek out a forum in which to exercise some control over the phenomenon. The most influential man in her life is YOU and how you communicate where women stand in this mess is of vital importance to her development. I'd suggest you step it up because as it stands you certainly aren't helping to demonstrate to her that even the most important man in her life is going to project his shit onto women. You need to teach her that it happens, but not all men are like that. Then you need to teach her how to manage it. Hopefull she has a mother who is relatively sane in this regard to help out. Unless, of course, you're happy with her learning otherwise.

    • Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

      Kara: Thanks for writing, but I am hard-pressed to find anything like "anger or frustration" in the article I wrote, nor to understand why you assume I go around "exhibiting" any. Could you cite something in the article itself that would reasonably create that impression? If not, I think you're being unfair.

      I ask that seriously because, now that you mention it, I have felt like a number of readers have been "projecting" their "shit" onto me. For instance, despite what I felt was a scrupulously polite tone in my article, I've been accused of "demanding," "dictating," and "telling women what to wear"–none of which, in all sober objective fairness, did I actually do.

      Obviously, though, something in my article made a significant number of people feel as though I had said those things, and I'm still working out what that may have been all about.

      You're right, of course, about other people's actions being beyond my control; I do hold out some faint hope that the most public–and there most influential–people might be able to exert a good influence, but that hope gets dimmer as time goes on. So yes, I'm sure you're right that it all boils down to what happens in the home.

      Something else I never did, by the way, was to say that women are responsible for my response to them. I'd be very interested in a specific explanation of how exactly I said that. But I would also be interested, in the absence of that, in an explanation of why what I did say made you feel that way. Based on that, I'd be very pleased to have a mutually polite and respectful conversation about this. Because if I knew how to say "It would be easier for me if you would do 'A' rather than 'B,' without anyone hearing "If you don't do A instead of B, I cannot be held responsible," then I would most assuredly say it that way–both because I want to be understood properly, and because I would certainly never choose to have anyone feel dictated to or demanded of.

  27. [...] Sainz Do-Over I recently wrote a little article about journalist Ines Sainz that really set the cat among the pigeons.  A lot of people “Liked” it, and a few actually [...]

  28. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    my god, Scott, I wish I'd seen all these comments earlier, I'd have waded in in support of you and your – I thought beautiful – article, as Jennifer did.
    When I have time I'll be back. For now, I'll just say thank you for speaking the honest truth of a sincere man trying to understand a crazy world.
    With love, Ben

  29. [...] Robinson’s (Dear Ines Sainz: Please Stop Dressing Like That and then) Ines Sainz Do [...]

  30. davi says:

    warmer than traditional ugg boots.

  31. Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

    April: forgive me, but that sounds pretty disingenuous to me.

  32. Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

    Hear, hear! Well said, Jennifer!

  33. Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

    Glad to see your Hubba Hubba Filter is in working order, pedobear.

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