September 23, 2010

Dear Ines Sainz: Please Stop Dressing Like That.

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.

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