Can I Just Tell You?Can I Just Tell You? NPR's Michel Martin gives a distinct take on news and issues

The Larger Issue Behind Brett Favre's Bad-Boy Drama

Brett Favre

Minnesota Vikings NFL quarterback Brett Favre, pictured during a recent football match against his former team the New York Jets, is engulfed in scandal amid allegations that he sent lewd cell phone images to Jenn Sterger, a former Jets employee. Seth Wenig/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Seth Wenig/AP

So it's Monday, and I'm getting ready for some football.

Unfortunately, try as I might, I cannot stop thinking about Brett Favre and this craziness about these text messages that he allegedly sent to a young lady who worked as a game day hostess for his former team, the New York Jets.

You know, the ones that included pictures of his boy parts on full display — and I mean full display. (The kinds of text messages that make us married folks say to ourselves: If this is what passes for courting these days, I am really glad I got married before this kind of nonsense.)

Can I just tell you? I recognize that the manner in which this story came out is particularly sleazy, even by today's so-called standards. And I further recognize that with 1 in 10 Americans officially out of work, many people have much more important things to think about than a multimillion-dollar athlete and his alleged boorish antics.

But I can't help it. I am still thinking about this story because it is, in part, a story of what goes on at work. And it is, in part, a story about the kinds of things that continue to make it difficult for half the population to succeed at work.

Now, I can practically hear the collective eye-rolling by some of you out there. Maybe it is hard to think of sexual harassment as a scenario in a job where people take their portraits wearing outfits that barely cover their girl parts. But professional football is, after all, a job — a job in which men are expected to be adult enough and professional enough to take questions after a game while wrapped in a towel in the locker room.

And while I don't know exactly what a game day hostess does, if the unspoken job description requires getting intimate with players, I think the authorities a little higher up the food chain than the sports columnists will be very interested to hear about that, because there's a name for that job ... and it isn't "game day hostess."

Now, to be fair, I think we should all be adults and recognize that some people do socialize at work. For some people, that's part of why they work where they work — for the opportunity to be a part of the scene. (And if you want to call it trying to get an M.R.S. or, at the very least, some approximation of it, I won't start a fistfight.) But when I consider all the male executives who are married to people whom they met at work — and I assume these relationships are of their own free will — I have to assume that the instinct or desire to find companionship at work applies to both genders. And, frankly, I don't know that that is so horrible, as long as people who are doing the socializing are giving full value for whatever work they do perform, and as long as people are really free not to get intimately involved with people at work.

But herein lies the problem: What about the people who just want to go to work to work? Or the people who don't want to socialize with a particular colleague or boss?

It seems far too often the people on the losing end of this equation are women because, despite the growing numbers of women with Ph.D.s, and six-figure salaries, the rules of the workplace are still written by, and for, men.

For example, it is my understanding that many of the professional football teams consider it a firing offense for cheerleaders or dancers to socialize with players — now, it's a firing offense for the dancers, that is. As has been reported by the gossip site that first published the pictures, the young lady in question resisted Favre's alleged advances, saying that she did not want to end up in the garbage can.

You can see her point. Is there anyone who can honestly envision a scenario where a star player loses his job because of some unpleasantness with a female employee? Not going to happen.

On the plus side, the league and sportswriters seem to be taking this and other allegations of bad-boy behavior toward women seriously.

A decade ago, I doubt that would have been the case.

The fact is, though, that too many grown men think that pretty women at the workplace exist for their enjoyment.

And that tells you everything you need to know about how far there is yet to go.



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Can I Just Tell You?Can I Just Tell You? NPR's Michel Martin gives a distinct take on news and issues