Women don't ask for nasty voyeurism
I'm sure by now most of you have heard about this horrible incident with sportscaster Erin Andrews. Someone videotaped her through a peephole while she was undressed in her hotel room and posted it on the internet. This article was the first I had heard about it, but I found myself pretty confused about the point Maggie Hendricks, the writer, was trying to make. She writes, "Now that Andrews is a victim of this crime, why would a woman want to follow her on camera? That's not the sort of thing that ESPN co-workers Chris Berman or Stuart Scott have to worry about." Very true, men rarely have to worry about voyeurism unless it's in the form of a sex tape. But it confused me why her reaction to this wasn't like mine, which was, 'How horrible is it that women are the victims of such kinds of assault, why is this still the case?' Her article makes it sound like this the first time this sort of violation has happened to a high profile woman, when in fact both famous and not-famous women have been dealing with it for quite some time. To me, this is kind of like saying women shouldn't go to nightclubs or wear short skirts because they might be raped. Another female reporter comes close to saying as much about Andrews, but I'll get to her in a minute.
Hendricks goes on to say, "It's crazy how much Andrews, and all female sports journo-types, get judged for what they look like, what they wear, even the food they eat, rather than simply the work they do. While that sort of scrutiny is unfair, it can be tolerated to a point. But for a woman to have her security and her dignity robbed from her because she is famous? That's unbearable, and might be too much for a young woman who dreams of working the sidelines to handle." The point Hendricks is missing in all of this is that Andrews was not harassed because she is famous, she was harassed because she is a woman. Andrews doesn't get judged for what she looks like, or what she wears, or what food she eats because she is a female sports journo-type – she is judged that way because she is female! I am judged for all of those things, or feel like I am, on a daily basis, and writing this article in this blog is the height of my sports journalism career. I want to feel as though Hendricks meant well in writing this, but she is clearly ignorant of the larger issues at work here, so her writing comes off sounding more like a question raised at a party or in a class discussion, rather than the illuminating commentary one would expect to find in a news article.
Maggie Hendricks isn't sexist, but fellow sports writer Christine Brennan certainly is. I found this article (that is an excellent example of intelligent feminist commentary) which shares Brennan's catty comments on Erin Andrews. Everything she had to say was like one rape myth after another: she was asking for it because she is sexy, it was her fault for flirting with men, next time she should be more responsible, etc, etc. My question to you is, why do women constantly feel the need to show a difference between women who are victimized and themselves? Erin is being blamed for the crime committed against her, for the same reasons all attractive women are when they are harassed, abused or attacked in some way. According to the masses, because of the face they were born with, the way they wear their hair, and the clothes on their back, women, and especially attractive women, were "asking for it." I think humans have this desperate need, when something horrible like this happens, to find some reason why it could never happen to THEM. In actuality, sex crimes can be committed against anyone, regardless of how they dress, how pretty they are, or even how visible they are - because sex crimes aren't about any of these things; they are about power. They are crimes of opportunity, and crimes of insecurity. Sex crimes do not happen because of anything a woman did or did not do; they happen because she simply exists.
I had dismissed Erin's story as something I was going to write about until I saw the Salon.com article and realized that Erin's story is my story, and your story, and the story of, to quote Gloria Steinem, any woman who "chooses to behave like a full human being." Erin has been met by the armies of the status quo and needs her sisterhood, but unfortunately, it seems in this case her peers are the status quo. When will we stop pointing fingers at each other and put the blame where it belongs – SOLELY on the people, mostly men, who commit these crimes against us? Are we too afraid of sounding like feminists to actually be one? Where is Erin's sisterhood now that she needs it most?