Now that we’re in the midst of playoff baseball, there’s been a lot of discussion at ESPNw and Jezebel over the past couple of days about how Major League Baseball’s first season with a dress code for reporters went. And a lot of people, including some of the women to whom it applies, aren’t very happy about it. As Erin Gloria Ryan writes at Jezebel:
The League was cognizant of possible charges of sexism when they put the code together, which is why they included a woman on the panel behind the policy. But just because a vagina was present doesn’t mean that the end product didn’t turn out a little dickish. The new code addresses nearly exclusively wardrobe features found on women’s clothing, banning such non-gender neutral staples as short shorts, sheer fabrics, tank tops, one shoulder tops, and strapless tops and dresses. For women who work in warm weather environments covering a sport that plays right through triple digit temperatures, being barred from going sleeveless often means filling the undersides of sleeves with unladylike pit stains.
The best practical argument against the dress code is heat, and as someone who gets easily bedraggled while sitting in the stands at a baseball game, I sympathize with female sideline reporters who have to stand, doing their jobs, in full sun, for three hours. That’s an issue that seems like it could be in conjunction with both the league and news organizations: if Major League Baseball wants sideline reporters to dress a certain way, perhaps it could also require teams to provide them easy access to break rooms, water, shade in between takes, and it could set standards for how much time the organizations it credential games have to allow its reporters out of the sun or heat on days when the temperature ventures above a certain threshhold.
If MLB is really concerned about the presence of attractive women on the sidelines at games, teams could also just decline to credential sideline reporters of any gender, from any organization, confining interviews to the locker room and dugout, and commentary to the broadcast booth. There are exceptionally good sideline reporters, but there are also an enormous number of substanceless ones, and the league could easily shift patterns of coverage with new credentialing rules. The thought of listening to a few more minutes per game of Joe Buck talking about sports isn’t a prospect I find particularly attractive. But I wouldn’t complain if the networks had to think a bit more carefully and creatively about how to structure their coverage without cheesecake or fluff interviews as an option.
At the end of the day, though MLB should have saved itself a headache and been as clear and detailed about what kind of clothing is professional for men as well as for women. I don’t really think a one-sleeved top in sheer fabric is professional attire. But the fact that Craig Sager’s suits are considered less distracting and unprofessional than the suggestion of a woman’s breasts says a great deal more about us than it does about the people wearing the clothes.