Tuesday, July 21, 2009

OK, fine, about the Erin Andrews story; read Nicks' take

Honestly, the Erin Andrews peephole story was something you shouldn't touch with a 39½-foot pole while wearing a hazmat suit.

Whoever is responsible for it acted alone (maybe ). You write about this, inevitably you're going to end up trespassing on the moral high ground that should be off-limits. No one wants to be that guy and besides, manufactured outrage is dead. Since the traditional media are all over this, there a couple takes worth relating. One is Erin Nicks' at The Universal Cynic on her reaction as a woman trying to be taken seriously while opining on sports.

The other, obviously at the other end of the spectrum and definitely not safe for work, is from the girlie photo site Don Chavez and makes it very clear why it's weird how ESPN's legal eagles called attention to a video that had been on the web for more than four months. The phrase "inside job" is making the rounds, since it all blew up right before the ESPYs. (ESPN's new slogan, you just know, will eventually be: "We're pure evil, but better than what else is on.")

Anyway, here are E's salient points:
"The fact of the matter is, that while not all men are capable of doing dangerous/criminal things, most are more than capable of objectifying women to some degree -- be it publicly or privately. The spotlight is on her in such a male-dominated business, and her appearance adds to that. Anything — and I mean ANYTHING that can be perceived as questionable (a hand on a player's shoulder or a dress cut to mid-thigh) can and will lead down a slippery slope.

"One of my biggest outcries regarding this issue incidentally came right before this drama took place. Andrews was spotted at the ESPYs wearing a black Herve Leger strapless dress with cutouts down the front. This dress had previously been spotted on other celebrities, and has been repeatedly been crucified in the press for causing its wearers to look like, well, $5-dollar whores.

"Did the dress suit her? She certainly has the body to pull it off. But that's not the point. This is a night where the attention would undoubtedly be on her, and she could have chosen to wear something far more sophisticated. Instead, she went for full-on sexpot. Why? It's not necessary.


" ...for a woman, you're more likely to be taken seriously in print as opposed to the other two mediums (TV and radio, presumably — Ed.). I believe print offers the greatest opportunity to neutralize one's gender — in short, if you can make readers forget that they're hearing from a woman, there's a better chance of being taken seriously. Granted, print is also where the money is the sparsest, so I understand the need to push towards television. No matter what your appearance, this is no easy world to deal with. In nearly ten years of messing about in this industry, I've been told to 'sound sexier,' 'wear something pretty' and 'think about being a golf cart girl or a cheerleader for a day — it'll be a good story.' Keep in mind that I'm a relatively average-looking woman who doesn't (expletive) around with work and seriously wants to discuss a team's defensive foibles — and not which of the blueliners I may find 'cute.' "
The only quarrel with that is the premise it's a positive to neutralize gender in sports coverage. Females and males are wired differently and as noted in the only post on this site that ever examined Erin Andrews, the old boys club' mentality in the sports media probably is detrimental to the storytelling. Other perspectives get lost.

A classic case in point was two years ago when the big pre-game story before a Florida Panthers-Ottawa Senators game was defenceman Cory Murphy, who grew up in Kanata a stretch pass away from Scotiabank Place, playing in his hometown after years of bouncing around European leagues. The stories mentioned his parents, his family, but some did not even mention his spouse, a Kanata native who had been with him through his peregrinations through pro hockey abroad. But I digress.

Anyway, Randball noted with respect to a lot of the Andrews adoration on the web. "... that there was always a wink-wink undercurrent that was unsettling. You can't just post pictures or videos, or write a headline with a vague double entendre, then walk away and pretend only the people reading or watching had dirt under their fingernails." Nor can one do a self-righteous jig,unless that's your gig right, Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com? Please bear in mind this is coming from a self-described male feminist who has howled at the moon over not having the traffic numbers of some sites which pretty up posts with some Maxim-genre photo of "some chick from Entourage." The objection there was less than it was sexist and more that it was a lazy, parasitic way to give your numbers a goose, plus Entourage is a crappy show that has not evolved since its first season. The season premiere should have had a scene of Vincent Chase water-skiing while wearing a leather jacket.

Perhaps the fratboy mentality in the blogeteriat jumped the shark last week.
There are probably larger points (suggestion: Read the book Guyland), but let's leave it there. No doubt even though it has little to no connection to Canada, a lot of papers up here will run it since it's an excuse to use a picture of Erin Andrews. That kind of proves the point, but who's fit to judge?

Erin on Erin: Through the sports media peephole (Erin Nicks, The Universal Cynic)


The Universal Cynic said...

Thanks, N. On the gender neutrality issue -- I understand what you're saying. I got some of my gigs by providing a "different voice" as a woman. But for every man who was appreciative of that, there were nine behind him who would give a glance and say, "Who gives a fuck what a woman thinks about hockey?"

(I wish I was being overdramatic, but I've heard it said within earshot.)

Dave said...

Don't know all the details, but it really is a shame what's happened for sure. Scanning though a number of stories trying to figure it out, I find myself a little surprised that most want to play the politically correct angle of "it shouldn't matter what a person looks like". I suppose it shouldn't on some level. My wife (her sister and mother for that matter) know more about football than most men I know, and she'll often (as we all do) question the strategies of baseball, I'll bet she knows more about that game than 98% of the population up here.

Point is, what began with William Veeck Sr and his son Bill's "Ladies Days" worked. It made half the population that wasn't already into sports fans. I quite enjoy the female broadcasters, who tend to argue less with each other and know what they're talking about. Anyone saying "Who gives a fuck...." has made up his mind and isn't listening anyway.

Anyway, finally, my point. To say attractiveness doesn't matter ignores basic biology, and given that we're wired to pay attention and trust people based on their appearance along with what is sure to be thousands of qualified applicants for these sportscasting jobs, OF COURSE attractive people are hired. I don't get why they're making this into anything other than some moron and a criminal act. Of course the female sportscasters on the #1 sports entity in the world are attractive....

sager said...

@ Erin,


@ Dave,

Perhaps that is all it should be, provided this wasn't an inside job. I didn't much care for people such as Neil Best trying to blame the blogosphere.

sager said...

Couple good takes today ... one is from After Atalanta, which looks at sports through a feminist lens:

"In no way am I saying the Andrews asked for it. But this is not surprising given that she has failed to speak up against the overt sexualization of her. It is possible that even if she had spoken out, the peeper still would have proceeded to film her. But it's too bad that this is the tipping point--a very extreme tipping point. Because no one is saying ... that this is just funny or playful. But media outlets cover it by showing stills or blurred out portions of the video in their coverage of an event that they admit is an outrageous violation of privacy. Curious, eh?"

Again, like Erin N. says, you have to be careful to avoid the "you shouldn't have worn that dress" reflex.

Bruce Arthur wrote a good column in the National Post. He had the stomach to write this without making it seem like a sexist dig: "This is an industry of men, writing and talking about the exploits of men. Women's sports don't sell, not really, unless sex appeal is involved. Outside of women's tennis - where Anna Kournikova was the biggest thing in the sport, and not for her play - women are largely destined to be cheerleaders, or sideline reporters, or ignored."

That's kind of an outdated view. If that's so, why is the WNBA considering expansion?

Alex said...

The best part of this issue is seeing the old boys' club mentality of the mainstream colliding with the white knight mentality of the bloggers/commenters.

Someone did something illegal and should be punished but it has no implications beyond that. It's not the end of the world, her life, or even her career. If this is the worst thing that ever happens to her she's an extremely lucky person.

sager said...

@ Alex, thanks, although I know I'm not applying to be a white knight. I'm the grey knight.

sager said...

One would hope this is just some creep acting alone, maybe that's all ... however, Jeff Pearlman wrote a good post about the consequences of ESPN creating a sex symbol.

"Over the course of my career I’ve heard countless female peers tagged as 'hot' by looming, foaming, sloppily dressed men, and I’m always mortified to be a part of the conversation. (My lowest moment, easily: Being in a spring training press box with Warren Cromartie, the one-time Expos star who was working for some local radio station. When a female radio reporter, no older than 23, walked away, he turned to a young colleague and uttered something along the lines of, 'I bet you’d like to tap that ass, eh?')."

" ... When it comes to her job, which — if a reminder is needed — is as an on-air sports reporter, Andrews is OK. Not amazing. Not terrible. Just OK. Yet during her time with ESPN, she has been branded as anything but a journalist — by viewers, as well as the network itself. Countless magazines and websites have deemed her 'hottest' reporter or sports personality. If you Google her name (which results in more than 10 million sites), two of the first four pictures that pop up are close-ups of her breasts and rear end. Yet I have never — never — heard anyone from ESPN’s offices criticize the response to Andrews, or insist that she deserves credit, first and foremost, as a reporter, or that the days of treating her as an object should end. The truth is, every time someone Googles 'Erin Andrews' and 'ass,' ESPN is getting attention. And, as we all know, ESPN loves attention — good, bad or indifferent.