Letter From A Young Female Sportswriter: Ines Sainz, You Make Me Want To Stop Trying

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If rationality and feminism and mediocre Spanish skills didn't stop me, I would write to Ines Sainz and ask her to tell me why she does what she does for a living.

You were a Miss Universe, I would remind her, so why did you try to become a sports reporter? Que, I would ask, are Ines Sainz's ambitions in this field? Is she merely attempting to compile a comprehensive list of NFL players' bicep measurements? Is she trying to find unique ways to expose a bra in as many different outfits as she can in her time on this planet? These motives I can entertain. But is Ines Sainz really trying to be a sports reporter?


I am 22 years old and I have my career in mind. I have typed the phrase "aspiring female sportswriter" too many times to count, and once, on this blog, I responded ferociously in the comments to a post by editor emeritus Will Leitch in which he suggested that the "next Bill Simmons" could also—maybe!—be a woman. Even more embarrassing: When I hear the acronym WSJ I think not of the Wall Street Journal but of the website womenssportsjobs.com, a site I visited more frequently than Facebook during my job search.

Last summer, I was interning at a sports magazine when the video of Erin Andrews undressing in her hotel room surfaced. Every media outlet reported it. They all said how "sad" it was, and then they all kept showing the video stills anyway. At work that week, I overheard a few women talking about Andrews in the hallway. One, a writer, had been in a locker room with her a number of times. This reporter felt that Andrews's coquettishness and her one-of-the-boys disposition inherently undermined her own professionalism in that space. How could she seriously approach a team captain, she wondered, after Erin Andrews had spent 15 minutes twirling her hair and rolling her doe eyes at him—and how could he, in turn, take her seriously?


So what are we up against? I am aware that, if I were to secure the proper credentials to enter an NFL locker room, it's unlikely anyone would catcall me. I don't have the booty, and I don't have the access besides. It is also unlikely that anyone would slingshot a jockstrap in my direction, as a St. Louis Cardinals player did to reporter Paola Boivin in 1985, nor would an athlete stroke a razor handle on my leg, as a USFL player did to Joan Ryan of the Orlando Sentinel that same year. And I am quite certain that most female sports reporters now are spared of the kind of awful sexual abuse that the Boston Herald's Lisa Olson suffered in the Patriots locker room in 1990. For that, I am thankful.

But I am also aware that, if I had the chance to interview, say, Mark Sanchez after a performance as awful as his on Monday, I would over-compensate anyway. I would not ask to touch his throwing arm. I would feel the need to prove myself. The first big-name athlete I ever interviewed was the wonderful and forgiving Steve Nash, and in the days leading up to our scheduled conversation I dedicated myself to researching his career and his background. I felt that I had to have every angle covered and triple-checked, just in case. I wonder now if I did that merely because I wanted to be prepared, or if I did that because even if there aren't the catcalls to prove it, I still have the underlying sense that I don't really belong on the other end of that phone in the first place.

I've been trying to convince myself otherwise. For all of the encouragement I've gotten from various women in this field, I've also gotten a hell of a lot of hard, honest feedback about what a sportswriting career can do to you over time. My boss at a sports network a few years ago was absolutely brilliant, yet she had left her reporting gig at a sports magazine because she was tired of the predictable assignments. She was blonde and beautiful, and they'd send her on a fishing boat with a 350-pound lineman and expect her to write about how scared she was and how giddy the experience made her and how she would never again feel the same way about deep-sea fishing or NFL linemen ever again (sound familiar?). She loved writing, she told me, but the content they reserved for her began to feel downright disrespectful.

So now, Ines Sainz has an opportunity. Thanks to women like Boivin, Ryan, and Olson, the place for female reporters in the locker room is more secure, and incidents such as Sainz's are rare. Boivin went on to serve as president of the Association for Women in Sports Media and now writes for the Arizona Republic, and Ryan helped found that Association and also became one of the country's first female sports columnists. She no longer writes about sports. Lisa Olson received hate mail and even death threats for exposing, well, that the Patriots had exposed themselves to her, and she even moved abroad for some time. She covered rugby and cricket in Australia in order to escape the criticism, but when she returned stateside to write for the Daily News, the threats continued.


I have to wonder what Ines Sainz is doing out there today, and what she hopes to gain or change from this situation, if anything. In her mind, why is it that she has a microphone and a press pass and a measuring tape? Does she secretly hate her job, and all the sexist bullshit she deals with and all the predictable claims that she "had it coming" or that she just wants one of those "53 packages"? Does she wish she could press charges? On Tuesday's Today Show she denied taking any offense.


"I must say that I don't hear anything that is in a sexual way," she told host Meredith Vieira. "I'm not the one who say the charge or try to involve all of the team in this situation."

If not for herself, then for the rest of us: I wish that she would.

Emma Carmichael is a writer in New York. Her work has appeared in SLAM and The Awl.