News of ESPN’s Erin Andrews being violated by a voyeur who secretly filmed her naked in her hotel room has many people asking the same question: What would compel someone to do such a thing? (Or, as Barbara Walters breathlessly put it, “The question is why? Wuh-eye?”) Luckily for us, USA Today sportswriter Christine Brennan offered an answer on the radio show “850 the Buzz”: Andrews asked for it. Oh, but of course. How could we have gone for so long — a whole two days since the story broke — without returning to the familiar “she asked for it” refrain?
No matter, we are now back in victim-blaming land where the motto is: “Don’t wear such a short skirt next time, honey.” No hyperbole here: While discussing the peephole video on-air, Brennan made sure to mention how Andrews, “America’s Sexiest Sportscaster” according to Playboy, once wore a too-short skirt into a men’s locker room and touched one of her interviewees. (Touched an interviewee while wearing a skirt — that hussy!) This isn’t so unlike the character assassination that can go on in rape trials.
It’s truly worth listening to Brennan tie herself into a knot attempting to appear sympathetic while clearly reprimanding Andrews for her on-air persona. “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 your room?” Shorter Brennan: She didn’t deserve it, but maybe she was asking for it? She also added: “I don’t think anyone is going to drill a hole to look into my room” — because, of course, she appropriately guards against such attacks by presenting herself in an appropriate, asexual manner. “We all do things to make sure these kinds of things don’t happen — so, hopefully, she will do that so that it will never happen again,” she said. The male radio host offered, “You have to be aware that something like this is going to happen eventually, where someone is going to cross the line.” Brennan quickly replied: “Yeah, you do … in this wacky world there is going to be that potential.”
Later on her Twitter account, Brennan sang the same tune: “Erin Andrews incident is bad, but to add perspective: there are 100s of women sports journalists who have never had this happen to them.” It’s hard to know what she’s suggesting — that this is not an epidemic or that Andrews did something to bring it upon herself? And later, “Women sports journalists need to be smart and not play to the frat house” — that’s a fine sentiment, but then she continued — “There are tons of nuts out there.” In other words: Female journos shouldn’t play to frat boys because they might be sexually violated in some manner. Brennan now claims her Twitter comments were misunderstood — she says she tells young women all the time to not “play to the frat house” — but she failed to explain her far more offensive radio commentary.
It isn’t unusual in this “wacky world,” as she put it, for people to search for ways to place blame on the victim of a sex crime — but it makes particular sense in Brennan’s case. She has worked hard at being considered a serious female sports commentator in a male-dominated, cheerleader-ogling arena. She must be desperate to distance herself from the likes of Andrews for the sake of her own career. It’s also understandable that she would want to internally rationalize why she is safe from such a violation herself — and that’s because she plays by the “good girl” rules, which require she admonish the “bad girls.” Upholding sexist double standards can be a great means of protecting oneself — at least in your own mind, if not in reality.