Ines Sainz Do-Over.

Via on Sep 30, 2010

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 defended it (you know who you are, you wonderful people, you) but a significant number of you hated it. Really hated it. And me along with it, apparently.

Ouch.

You accused me of all kinds of things, from “dictating” what women should wear to blaming Sainz’s harassment on her wardrobe. Evidently, some of you have linked some of what I said in my article to similar things you have heard some really terrible people say. I probably can’t persuade you here that I am not like those people and I wouldn’t do those things. But let’s assume that’s not important.

I’m also willing to assume that you had valid points to make, and that I couldn’t hear them because a) I was being defensive, and/or b) you were shouting at me.

I do want to suggest that if one’s mild critique of a public figure’s wardrobe choices makes one the Taliban, there is evidently more going on than my little article can reasonably account for.  And judging by some other articles on Elephant lately, these issues have been on peoples’ minds.

So here goes: to all of you whom my article offended–I’m sorry.

Now, I know that sounds like a politician’s bullshit “I regret if anyone took offense” apology. The difference is that I am ready to fill in the blanks about the specific things I’m sorry for–I just need your help. Why did my article make you so angry?

I want to suggest only two guidelines:

  1. Please try to make it about you.  I was very self-disclosive in my original article, and I’d appreciate some self-disclosure from you. Telling me what a terrible person I am and what a terrible thing I did might relieve your feelings, but I probably won’t learn much from it. It would help me if you told me how what I wrote made you feel, and, to the extent you are able to say, why.  This is important, because you and I obviously view my words differently, so if you make it about me—eg., “You dictated what women can wear, you pervert!”–I may not know what you mean.
  2. Please don’t mind-read about my intentions. You don’t know what I “really” meant–you only know what I wrote.  Please assume the two are the same, and I will show you equal benefit of the doubt. I obviously understand better the people who agreed with me than I understand you, so it might help if you assume you do not understand me, either, beyond my bare words on the screen.  Let’s assume anything beyond those comes from somewhere else.  (See #1 above.)

In return, I promise to check my rhetorical weapons at the door and just listen. I promise to assume that your experience of what I wrote is more important than what I think I “actually” wrote, and I promise that I will stop defending what I believe I “really” said and concentrate on how it affects you, and why.  If I hear the truth in what you say, I promise to say so; if not, or if I don’t understand, I promise to ask until I do.

Fair enough?

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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27 Responses to “Ines Sainz Do-Over.”

  1. Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

    Thanks, Amy; it's very kind of you to come forward about that.

    I think I may need a ghost-writer to write my titles. They always make sense to *me*…

  2. Ben Ralston Ben Ralston says:

    Fair enough.
    I’d like to say that i loved your original article; i thought it was a heartfelt plea from an honest man genuinely trying to come to terms with a world in which women dress *extremely* provocatively. And let’s be honest. It is provocation.
    As a fellow man I feel that pain. I too want to sublimate my animal nature into a more pure and subtle manifestation of myself… and find it hard when I’m bombarded on all sides by images of semi naked women (not to mention the real thing).
    I found it incredibly ironic, and well, just unbelievable (in the true sense of the word) to find out that many magazines put provocatively dressed women on their covers not to sell to men, but to women!
    I think there is a part of a woman’s psyche that equates power with sexuality. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable assumption, based on the fact that for hundreds or maybe thousands of years, at least in some parts of the world (here), women have been the less dominant sex, and one of their primary sources of ‘power’ has been their sexuality.
    So I’m sure that for many women, seeing another woman looking ‘sexy’ makes *her* also feel powerful.
    So perhaps your challenge to women to stop dressing like that really touched a very painful nerve Scott?
    At any rate, after this comment at least you won’t be the only one getting ‘hate mail’!
    With love, Ben

  3. Blake Wilson Blake says:

    You need to apologize to me for taking away all of my hate comments! Jerk!

  4. Amy Crawford says:

    Here's my thought (expanded on what i wrote earlier). We live in a very black-and-white culture that has set up a clear system: women as Saints, or women as Sluts. This message has been around for a very long time, especially in religious circles. It leaves us very little room for middle ground, and it can be frustrating to live in the middle ground, because we just don't know the rules. It leaves us feeling really sensitive to the Saint Vs Slut way of thinking.
    And so if I'm being honest, when i run into an article whose headline is "Dear Inez Sainz: Please Stop Dressing Like That", my automatic reaction is: "here we go again. Saint Vs. Slut, and she's a slut, and the only way for her to redeem herself is to become a saint". And immediately I begin to read the article in an uncharitable light. i think that's what happened – here on elephant journal, you have a lot of women who are seeking spiritually (like me, probably coming from rigid upbringings) and who are working to overcome old messages about their bodies and sexuality, and we are very sensitive to that negative patriarchal voice. I know I am , for sure. All that to say, I agreed with your original article, I just wish that the headline had been different, so I would have gone into the article without my back up.

    • Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

      Thanks, Amy; it's very kind of you to come forward about that.

      I think I may need a ghost-writer to write my titles. They always make sense to *me*…

  5. Jennifer says:

    I have to second Amy's insightful take on this.

    When I read your original post, I had a flashback to a college boyfriend criticizing me for going out dressed in a way that he found too risque. I thought (and still think) that what I was wearing was appropriate to the situation, but he felt that, while it was okay for me to dress that way for *him*, it was unacceptable to dress that way for the world at large. I found this to be creepily possessive, and way over the line in terms of relationship boundaries.

    I think a lot of women have been chastised at one time or another for looking either too slutty or too dowdy. You tapped into a whole big thing here that has nothing to do with what you actually wrote, and that may not have been something you were prepared for. Your actual intent, which as I understand it was a request for help in seeing all women as full human beings without the distractions of hyper-sexualized trappings, was subtle, and therefore hard to hear over the imagined and remembered criticisms every woman carries in her head.

  6. Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

    Thanks, Jennifer; I had begun to suspect something of the kind, but feared saying so lest it come off as patronizing. I appreciate the honesty.

  7. thil says:

    To be totally honest right back at you it wasn't your article that bothered me the most, it was your very defensively agressive responses to the comments – it gave the impression that you'd toned down your real thoughts on the subject in the article.

    The day I read the original article I'd seen a family walking down the road. The mother was dressed in a long robe and headscarf (not a particularly unusual outfit round here) as was her daughter who was I would guess 3 years old. Her son, maybe 6, was in shorts and tshirt. I constantly struggle with my reaction to modest islamic dress – why does modesty in a man mean a covering from waist to knee, but in a woman mean head to ankle? And why on earth does a three year old need to dress to that level of modesty?

    Personally, I find the creeping obsession with modesty in clothing much more worrying that the sexualisation that the media seems to be constantly obsessed with. But either way, I believe strongly that adults should be able to decide how they present themselves in the same way I believe in free speech.

    Thank you for thinking it over and asking, though, listening is much nicer than preaching.

  8. Alden Wicker Alden says:

    I agree that we all come to this conversation with baggage, especially women. But perhaps if I compare it to something less emotionally charged?

    Walking into a mens' locker room wearing provocative clothing is like leaving your door unlocked in bad neighborhood. Does that mean you SHOULD be robbed? Absolutely not! Does it mean you might? Yes. Be smart. Lock your door. Dress professionally.

    • Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

      Very nicely put, Alden; thank you.

    • Gordon Geise says:

      Well… yes and no. If you leave your door unlocked, are you likely to be robbed while you're sitting in the living room watching TV? 'Hi, my name's Clay, I'll be your burglar tonight.' In the case of the locker room, we're talking about non-anonymous persons publicly engaging in disrespectful behavior. A. There is no excuse for the harassment. B. There is no rationale for anyone to condone it. C. No discussion or commentary of Ms. Sainz's apparel choices negates A or B.

      Having said that, I agree with the commentators who noted that most of the rest of us (male and female) are required at least sometimes to dress a certain way by our employers; even beyond that, for better or worse we have very deeply ingrained notions about what's appropriate to wear in [mumble] circumstance or to [hoozarumph] function.

      I'm glad to see some folks coming to realize their reaction was more about emotional memory triggers than what Scott actually wrote.

  9. thil says:

    And on the parenting front, if it's any consulation my daughter has just come downstairs wearing pjs and a headscarf. And giraffe ears.

  10. Dawn Burkart Smith says:

    Ok, the reason it was offensive to me was because you are a"yoga type dude". That means that you are always in view of lovely ladies behinds in very tight and usually sexy yoga pants but we stupidly thought that it didnt matter because you are the guy that taught christian music and records kirtans. You are now and always have been sizing me up by my backside ( I think I secretly knew it!) The problem is that women are always sized up by their looks whether it is " she's hot" or "shes fugly" both make us feel uncomfortable. And if a guy that composes kirtans is saying that she asked for it by wearing such tight jeans ( I am OBVIOUSLY paraphrasing) then what fricken' hope do we have for the typical all American dude? Oy.

    • Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

      Ow! Ow! Ow!

      Thanks for writing, Dawn.

      Some Christian mystic–I forget which one–said that when we first invite God into our lives, it's like turning on the light and seeing for the first time what a mess our room is. That's me. Messy.

      Ow.

      • Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

        Some Christian mystic–I forget which one–said that when we first invite God into our lives, it's like turning on the light and seeing for the first time what a mess our room is. That's me. Messy.

  11. Alanna says:

    Scott,

    Thank you so much for opening up and wanting to hear from the other side. We are all here to learn. And learning is best done when listening. It feels good to be heard.

    I apologize if there was any heated tone to my posts. I am also sorry if anything I wrote was geared toward you specifically (I don’t remember if I did or not). I appreciate your perspective and actually can see and understand your side of this. It just so happens this is a subject that happens to be one of my soapboxes. And you happened to just kick it out from under my table that day.

    I am happy to engage in this dialog with you to gain a better understanding of this subject.

    I wasn’t angry at your article. I was frustrated. I was frustrated that I felt this was yet another example of how women were somehow supposed to be responsible for men’s feelings. I have a difficult time understanding why men can wear what they want, but women have to be very careful about their clothing selections not to stir too much blood up in men. Yet, we also get told we need to appeal to men to keep them interested in relationships. Mixed messages? I think so. It seems we are either sluts or prudes. Why can’t we just BE?

    I do not find shame in sexuality. On the contrary, it is the one thing that we ALL have in common. We are here because of a sexual act. Because of sexuality itself, so why are we so afraid of it? Why does it threaten both men and women alike?
    And all the conditioning that we have developed throughout our lives… Men are told to be respectful of women. So, I understand the complexities of feelings that arise when a man sees someone dressed in a provocative way. It must be confusing to have feelings and thoughts that go against “better judgment”. But I don’t think suppressing natural feelings and instincts is the answer. Nor do I feel like acting upon those feelings and instincts are the right thing to do either.

    What if we just watched those feelings and thoughts? What if we didn’t judge? What if we took responsibility for our own feelings and dealt with them ourselves instead of turning on some external target? And I am speaking for men and women. The fear that comes up in some women around other attractive women is appalling. What if we just noticed the feelings that come up for each of us, acknowledge those feelings and then go back to whatever it was we were doing? Why do we have to dwell and make such a big deal out of something that isn’t really worth talking about? I mean, are we really talking about this woman’s clothing selection or are we talking about something much deeper here? I would guess to say underneath the clothes (pun intended), there is a much deeper, issue. And that is why the article garnered so much attention.

    It would be amazing if we could all strive for security within ourselves. Security that it is ok to feel however it is we feel. We don’t have to act on those feelings. We don’t have to externalize it and take it out on others. We simply can just feel. When a man feels sexually attracted to a woman, it doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have those feelings and it doesn’t mean he needs to jump on her. He can simply just appreciate the feelings that come up and the fact that he is feeling. When a woman sees a woman who is attracting attention from men, that woman doesn’t have to pretend that she’s ok with it (if she’s not). And she doesn’t have to make her out to be a whore or a slut just because she’s getting attention. She can simply just watch the feelings that come up. See the jealousy. Acknowledge it and move on. Maybe she may want to look at why she is feeling jealous and deal with that. But to stay in those dark places and build up a story that someone else (external) is making you or I feel a certain way just isn’t true. We make ourselves feel however we feel and we have complete control over that.

    I honestly just want to see women strong and at peace with the choices we make without having to factor in what men will think about it. I’m looking for balance in a way that there hasn’t been before. I’m tired of the slut/prude pendulum we’ve been on for so long. The judgment has got to stop.

    So you see, it’s not about what that woman wears to interview football players. It all comes back to us. And I think that’s a good place to start.

  12. germaine says:

    I think most people got a bit too emotional reading your post, Scott.
    In a way, I agree with the point that you are putting across. no one said that women should be dressing like a nun – on the flip-side, how you dress also projects how you like to be treated. Maybe because I currently live in Asia and people are more religious/conservative. Walking down the street in your bikini top and tight mini skirt does invite leering.
    Honestly, I don't know who this Ines woman is but just by looking at her photos, I can't say I have a good impression of her even if whatever that comes out of her mouth is as intelligent as a Nobel Prize winner.

  13. guest says:

    …The article started a big debate on my wall as well…bottom line..tee hee..pun intended…It was in poor taste on her part to dress like that at a game filled with raging men playing football. I am ok with what you wrote. Yes women can dress as they wish…but just because you can..doesn't mean you should. :)

  14. [...] was my memory of that response that led me to write what amounted to an apology for an earlier post that offended a lot of people, even though I believed those people were [...]

  15. Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

    Brian: I am confused; did you read my original article? Or is that last sentence aimed at someone other than me? Because that's actually the polar opposite of what I said–or meant, anyway. Or maybe I'm misunderstanding you?

  16. Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

    Thanks very much, Lasara. I have exactly the same wish for my own daughters.

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