The Erin Andrews video controversy: Did she “deserve” it?

Posted by: ST on July 24, 2009 at 11:56 pm

Erin AndrewsEven if you aren’t a sports fan, you’ve probably already heard about the video that was made of ESPN sideline sports commentator Erin Andrews while she was naked in a hotel room. It was a video done through the peephole of 2 different hotel rooms, according to reports, and without her knowledge nor consent. She and her lawyers are taking the appropriate steps towards legal action towards the despicable person(s) responsible for making and publishing the (approximately five minute) video in the first place – once investigators get a good lead on who it/they might be. There is wild speculation that the video may have been an inside job, made by someone who works with her at ESPN, since the network would know her work schedule better than anyone else.

I have to confess I had never heard of Erin Andrews before this story broke, and had only taken a mild interest in the story until yesterday and today, when reports about what a veteran female sports columnist had to say about what happened to Andrews were published, which fired up the dialogue and debate on this issue all the more:

One of America’s leading female sports writers has insinuated that Erin Andrews may have been partially responsible for cultivating a “frat house” fan base that led to a Peeping Tom video taping her in the nude and posting the video on the Internet.

“If you trade off your sex appeal, if you trade off your looks, eventually you’re going to lose those,” USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan said Wednesday on the sports radio show 850 “The Buzz.” “She doesn’t deserve what happened to her, but part of the shtick, seems to me, is being a little bit out there in a way that then are you encouraging the complete nutcase to drill a hole in a room.

“Erin [Andrews] did not deserve this. I want to make that crystal clear. But she’s got to be smarter and better,” she said.

Click here to go to the Buzz’s Web site and hear the full interview.

She later tweeted that “women sports journalists need to be smart and not play to the frat house.”

Following her comments, readers expressed their outrage with Brenna’s words online.

“Never thought I would see a woman go with the ‘she was asking for it’ take. Thought that was only for chauvinist male pigs,” one commenter wrote on the sports blog “The Big Lead.”

The USA Today’s sports blog re-posted in full what she wrote on her Twitter account about the firestorm created over her remarks:

Women sports journalists need to be smart and not play to the frat house. There are tons of nuts out there.

…….

Erin Andrews incident is bad, but to add perspective: there are 100s of women sports journalists who have never had this happen to them.

And later ….

Twitter is a great format for many things, but not for serious reflection on an important topic such as this.

When I said “play to the frat house,” it was not meant to be pointed specifically at Erin, and I’m sorry if it was taken that way. It’s a comment I use often in speeches and while talking to younger women to guide myself and all of us on how to live our lives as women in sports journalism. I don’t want us playing to the frat house; I want us talking to the 12-year-old girl on the couch watching sports with her Mom or Dad.

As the hundreds of women who work in sports media know, we often still have to be twice as good to get half the credit. It’s not fair, but it’s the way it is. I have fought for years for opportunities for women in sports journalism, and will continue to do so. For those who think I am against Erin, nothing could be further from the truth. What happened to her is terrible, and she will always have my full support.

Brennan is taking a lot of heat over her remarks, mostly from women (example). So far, I’ve only found one person – a male colleague – who has stepped in to defend her. He made some interesting commentary about women in sports in general later on in his article, which I’ll get to shortly.

Andrews, for those of you who – like me – never heard of her until this week, is a 31 year-old attractive blonde with long hair and a cute figure, and is someone who has developed a cult-like following over the years since she was hired by ESPN in 2004. She’s also got a fashion style which I find somewhat unique to female sports journalists, who typically wear modest suits (although admittedly I’ve not studied the fashion habits of female sports journalists – who cares when there are men on the field/court/ice to check out? :D ) and other types of outfits that don’t draw attention to them (I know there are occasionally exceptions to this). Women in and of themselves draw attention in the sports world, regardless of whether or not they are fashionistas.

Anyway, from what I’ve read and seen, Andrews is trendy, hip, and in touch with what young women are wearing today. Looking at photos, I can see where some people would view what she wore to work on the sidelines sometimes as provocative (tight pants and v-neck tops, form-fitting sweater dresses, very high heels, etc), while other times she looks just like a fan at a sports game, blending in about as much as a woman blessed with her looks can. I admit, if I was in her line of work, I wouldn’t wear about 75% of what she does – I would tone it down quite a bit. She’s working in a male-dominated business, and in that situation – whether we’re talking about a sports-related field or in corporate America, the idea – at least in my view – is to try to blend in so as almost to be viewed as “one of the guys” while still maintaining your femininity and individuality. Ideally, you want to be recognized for your ability and talent first and foremost, not your sex – although sometimes that is unavoidable. That is why I frown on women who don’t know how to dress in a corporate environment (scroll), who wear outfits that are barely suitable for a club environment, let alone an 8-5 on the 35th floor of a major banking company. You can almost never go wrong by dressing professionally.

That said, the idea that by dressing a certain way Andrews “encouraged” some a**hole to film her through a hotel room peephole is outrageous, and as other commentators have pointed out, is reminiscent of those who would blame a woman for being raped because “her skirt was too short.” Someone wanting to dress cute and look hip and win over fans is not “asking for it” in any way. But it does bring me back to what Ed Berliner, the veteran sportscaster who defended Brennan earlier today, had to say:

There are far too many female sports journalists who believe the road to respectability is paved with push-up bras and snuggling up to athletes with more than an interview in mind. In the same breath, there are far too many TV station and network executives who force female reporters in both news and sports to accentuate their positives, and I don’t mean writing skills. I have watched from the insider’s perspective as some very good female reporters careers were derailed thanks to consultants and demographics experts who made them repeat the mantra, “Style over substance”, instead of the proper manner in which it was long taught.

Is Erin Andrews one of these types of sports journalists? I can’t say. I’ve never watched a single commentary or interview she’s done, but I have to say that if columns like this one – where the whole topic is about what type of sports guys she likes and what she finds “sexy” – are any indication, I’m not hopeful. But yet and still, that still does not mean she “encouraged” what happened to her with the video.

I can only imagine the emotions that Andrews has gone through since she found out about the video. I imagine it’s like being assaulted but without being physically touched. Someone’s watching you in some of your most private moments, moments not meant to be shared with every horndog who has scoured the I’net for copies of the video. I’ve read articles about this type of invasion of privacy, and some of the women interviewed talked about how for weeks and months – and even years – after finding out they were secretly videotaped that they didn’t feel comfortable showering, dressing, sleeping or anything having to do with showing their bodies in any way for fear that they were still being watched, becoming almost phobic about being in a state of undress (the Susan Wilson story is one of the more prominent and shocking stories out there about video voyeurism).

Andrews is on hiatus from ESPN until September (a hiatus unrelated to the video, I think). It will be interesting to see how – beyond the eventual legal proceedings – she responds to this issue, if at all. All I can say at this point is that I hope what happened to her doesn’t discourage her from returning to sports journalism. Maybe after the shock wears off, this incident will give her a fresh perspective on where she wants to go in sports journalism and how she wants to go about getting there. It would be a shame for her to stay in the shadows rather than return – that would mean that the video voyeurs, the jerk-offs who do this sort of thing for sport and profit, have won. Incidents like this one could also discourage young women from getting into sports journalism, which would also be unfortunate.

Back to Brennan, she may have been trying to say is something along the lines of what I wrote a few paragraphs ago about blending in, but it certainly came out all wrong, didn’t it? The bottom-line is that if you put your nose to the grindstone, ignore the “image consultants,” and work hard to prove your worth, you will go far and will endure over the long term. Rely solely on looks and you’ll fade into the sunset almost as quickly as you rode in on the sunrise. I don’t know if Leslie Visser is a role model for Andrews but if she’s not, she should be. She’s an example of a woman in sports journalism who has been through it all and has come out on top (no pun intended) without having to sell her soul to the image gods in TV journalism.

Women in sports have been debating the image issue for years. I remember some of the controversies over various women in sports posing nude, etc and the debates about What It All Means for women in sports. Brennan would have been better off with not suggesting that Andrews “encouraged” the peeping Tom(s). On top of that, she should have saved her remarks on style for a time when this issue had died down and could have been applied to women sports journalists in general. You can talk about your disagreements with someone’s style of dress without suggesting that they “encouraged” unwanted behavior. You can say “Look, it’s fine to be trendy, but people may take you more seriously as a professional if you do xyz instead.” It’ll still be controversial and you’ll be called on it, but it would still be a far cry from suggesting someone encouraged or deserved unwanted attention.

It’s a fine line you walk. The situation is the similar when talking about the issue of rape. No woman who dresses overtly sexy “wants” to get raped, but sometimes it happens. It should be ok to say “Watch how you dress, because you know how some people will look at you and get the wrong impression and act on it,” but that’s not politically correct and is seen as somehow “blaming” the victim, when in actuality what you’re saying to a woman about protecting herself is no different than what you’d say to a young adult being trusted to be at the mall by themselves, or with their friends. You tell them: Don’t talk to strangers, don’t walk by yourself anywhere, and don’t get in the car with anyone you don’t know. Such advice is not 100% foolproof against sexual assault or kidnapping, but it could lessen the chances of it happening.

Anyway, that’s my rambling .02. Your thoughts?

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15 Responses to “The Erin Andrews video controversy: Did she “deserve” it?”

Comments

  1. Great White Rat says:

    I never heard of Erin Andrews either until this story broke, but I have read Brennan’s columns in USA Today from time to time. She’s not particularly good, and on several occasions I’ve seen her depart from talking about sports to pushing a classical leftish feminist line. So there just may be a hint of the green-eyed monster showing here, especially with the snide accusation that Andrews “plays off her sex appeal”.

    I’m assuming, of course, that Andrews isn’t dressing like a pole dancer and making undue and inappropriate physical contact with the men she interviews. But there’s something about an attractive woman succeeding that brings out the ugliest side of the left – exhibit A being the recent Playboy online sewage about which conservative women the author would like to rape.

    But this is the worst of Brennan’s comments:

    there are 100s of women sports journalists who have never had this happen to them.

    Yes, and there are thousands of women who are never raped. That doesn’t mean whose who are victims deserve it or encourage it.

  2. Interesting. Like you, I’d never heard of Andrews before this incident. (Does she do college football?)

    Maybe this is a difference between West and South (or male vs. female? :"> ), but I saw nothing unduly provocative in the way she was dressed for her work. She’s hot, but no more so than a lot of female sports reporters. Unless the peeper is emotionally disturbed (which I assume he is), I can’t see any reason why her dress should, as Christine Brennan implied, mean she was asking for it.

    (Side note: If it was an ESPN colleague who did this, I should hope other ESPN staffers would have the decency to take him out back and punch his lights out.)

    Bottom line is, Andrews was in the privacy of her hotel room and deserved to have that respected, regardless of how dressed or undressed she was.

  3. Peter says:

    I don’t care if this Andrews person went to work in a string bikini. Those videos were crimes, period. Andrews, or any other woman (or man either, for that matter) do not ask for this nonsense.

  4. ClassicFilm says:

    Women fought for equality in our grandmother’s day, to be evaluated as human beings, not sex toys of men, and to not be treated by a double standard. It’s appalling that this happened to Erin Andrews, and even more appalling that Christine Brennan, another female sportscaster, implies that she somehow “deserved” it because of her choice of dress.

    This was the same deplorable argument some men made decades ago to justify a woman being raped… if only she had not brought it upon herself. Victim becomes vilified. The Women’s Movement has taken a giant step backward. Brennan is a disgrace not just to her profession, but to all women.

  5. Severian says:

    I’ve heard of her, only because my boss at work a while back was talking about her and an incident where some athlete groped her on camera during an interview or some such. At the time, he showed me pics of her, and yeah, she is a babe. Very attractive and well built. But with the photos of her doing her work thing were never, IMO, overtly and improperly dressed. Slacks, sweaters, if that’s provocative what should she do wear a burka? I’ve not seen anything on her work photos that would be out of place in any business casual job I’ve ever had.

    I suspect this woman’s issue with her is similar to the left’s feminists and other women’s issue with Sarah Palin, the “green eyed monster” rears it’s ugly head far too often among these types. An attractive woman who is accomplished and successful in her field, why, she must be denigrated and destroyed, how dare she be more attractive and successful and better adjusted than they are!!!

    I loathe this kind of attitude, and you are right ST it is the same thing as the “well she deserved to be raped” BS spouted by misogynistic types everywhere.

  6. Carlos says:

    Andrews owes a good deal of her success to the fact that she is, in fact, a babe and, if not flaunting that, certainly doesn’t conceal it. In her shoes, neither would I. One uses the tools one has for success.

    One cannot exist typically in this society without being inundated daily, hourly, with blatant sexual images. On TV one sees advertisements for everything from bras and panties to menstrual napkins. What is “normal female attire” for young people now would have put streetwalkers to shame before 1960.

    That said, there is not a single excuse to assume that a woman, any woman, is “asking for it” anytime, anywhere, without actually verbalizing “it”, and even beyond that the privacy of one’s own room/home should be such that whoever did the dastardly deed should spend more than a couple of years in prison and wear a “sexual offender” label for the rest of his life.

    As a side note, I wonder if this would have been ok with Letterman if the victim had been Palin or one of her daughters? Just askin’.

  7. Mwalimu Daudi says:

    “Never thought I would see a woman go with the ’she was asking for it’ take. Thought that was only for chauvinist male pigs,” one commenter wrote on the sports blog “The Big Lead.”

    Apparently that commenter was asleep throughout the entire pants-down Presidency of William Jefferson Clinton.

  8. Leslie says:

    El Raton Blanco is so right about the stupidity of Ms. Brennan’s remarks.

    Are there no sports fans here other than me and Cat fancier ST herself? Anyhow: I AM familiar with Erin Andrews. Her role on ESPN is to report from the sidelines at college football, basketball, and baseball games. (She fills in for Peter Gammons on the Sunday Night Baseball telecasts from time to time, too.) She’s cast as America’s sports sweetheart–her good looks are more Betty than Veronica. She’s the kind of sexy woman you WOULD bring home to mom. This is why ESPN has her covering college sports.

    The reason why she’s on “hiatus” now isn’t because she’s been traumatized (although I wouldn’t blame her if she has been), but because there are no college events for her to cover until the college football season starts.

    Normally, during football season she does the Thursday night Big East games, and during basketball season she usually works the Big Ten circuit, although here she is covering last year’s TN-Memphis game, at a time when the winner would be no. 1 ranked.

    I suspect this is the video that people are “kvetching” about, although I personally don’t think the coach has done anything improper. And as you’ll see, Ms. Andrews is dressed appropriately.

    LINK

  9. Bachbone says:

    I’ve seen Ms. Andrews covering the NCAA Women’s and the Men’s World Series, and the MLB All Star Game. Yes, she’s attractive. She wouldn’t be on ESPN nationally if she looked like Helen Thomas! But on none of those broadcasts was she ever inappropriately dressed. In fact, Jessica Mendoza and Michelle Smith wore knee-length shorts during the Women’s Games, and as I recall, Andrews wore a skirt in 100+ degree weather. But regardless of those facts, blaming her for someone committing a felonious act, especially a woman blaming her, is downright asinine. It smacks, to me, of another instance of knowingly writing something incendiary to get noticed. Would Brennan have written the same thing had the pervs been spying on her sister? I think not.

  10. Steve Skubinna says:

    Andrews ought to count her lucky stars she isn’t openly conservative. Then, the persons of tolerance would be hoping she gets raped. I’d say she’s getting off easy, and if she knows what’s good for her she’ll hustle her little butt back onto the reservation like a good feminist. She needs to consider this a teachable moment.

    And remember folks, watch out for those Republicans! They’re as bad as the Taliban!

  11. Carlos says:

    Yeah, Steve, I’m really surprised the MSM didn’t report on the Peace Conference held in Chicago last weekend where 17 suicide Christians killed all those peace-loving Islamists.

    Oh, excuse me. When talking about the “suicide” bombers of the “religion of peace” they’re “suicide bombers”. When those 17 or 12 or 213 Christian bombers did the same thing, they were murderers, right?

    BTW, I’m using one of Napolitano’s dreams when talking about the bombing incidents in Chicago last weekend. Like most of her other fantasies about reality, they didn’t happen. Wonder why?

  12. Tango says:

    ….PEOPLE! PEOPLE! We’re losing sight of what’s really important here!

    Namely, how long until NFL season opens? b-)

  13. alchemist says:

    From what I’ve read (I don’t remember where) this was a slimeball who has a history of releasing hidden videos from hotel rooms. It had nothing to do with Erin Andrews (or how she dresses), she just happened to be stay at the wrong place or the wrong time. Brennan’s comments are pretty gross.

    I don’t have ESPN at the moment, but what I have seen of Andrews is a smart interviewer, and knows her stuff.