The Hot Newsanchor, A Cultural Institution?

Illustration for article titled The Hot Newsanchor, A Cultural Institution?

Last month, Mattel launched "Newsanchor Barbie," a 12" career woman in a skin-tight pink-and-black jacket, a ruffled miniskirt, and platforms. Insulting — or too accurate?


Professional crank Liz Jones addresses the issue of newsanchor fashion with characteristic finesse, asking, "They're intelligent, talented - and role models for the young. So why do so many TV anchor women dress like barmaids?" Continues she,

And why does it matter? Can't a woman be a feminist and still shop in Fendi? Can't a woman be in her 50s and still feel the need for a floral, short-sleeved jacket with giant buttons? Well, yes, of course she can, but I don't think she can really tackle anything remotely serious while dressed like a superannuated shop assistant at New Look. For one, I don't want announcements of more British deaths in Afghanistan made by a woman who looks like a WAG.

Jones is cranky, of course, and generally about a hundred times more enraged by things than the average bear, but she does identify a central tension. While all professional women risk the "damned if you're sexy, damned if you're not" trap, it's particularly glaring in the case of women whose appearances are expected to hew to certain standards, yet are tasked with communicating serious stories. One need only point to the hoopla surrounding Katie Couric's wardrobe (she was critiqued for changing it up too often, you'll recall) to be reminded of the pitfalls. Only last month, the issue was called into stark relief when Ines Sainz did interviews in the Jets locker-room and faced comments on her outfit.

Do we admit that news involves entertainment and showmanship? Is such scrutiny unfair, or somehow encouraged — and by whom? When, like Couric, a woman has a certain reputation already, shouldn't that eclipse the need to scrutinize her wardrobe? Or do we hold them to a higher standard of professionalism? All of which comes down to the age-old question: should it ever be a woman's responsibility to not "distract" us? Barbie, at least, is unambiguous: Although given that she appears to work for Barbie News, she's probably in the rare position of making the rules — and has firing power.

News Anchor Barbie: 'A Flair For Journalism — And Power Pink!' [LA Times]
Did Sports Reporter Ines Sainz Show Up Too Sexy For Work? [PBPulse]
Oh, Do Put Them Away! [Daily Mail]



The real issue here is that there isn't a version of "professional" or "visually appealing/telegenic" for women that isn't sexualised to one degree or another. Obviously there are variations, and some environments lean more blatantly sexual than others, but when you think about the female version of the traditional power suit, it's pretty damn sexy. And women aren't allowed to be sloppy when in the public eye in the same way men are, so you have women sports reporters, for example, who do look a lot sexier than their male counterparts, but they're essentially wearing the same thing - jeans, shirt, boots. But the female version of that uniform is tighter and more stylish, and if a woman was to show up in the more schlumpy male version she'd be seen as unacceptably unkempt.

The problem isn't so much that female news anchors are specifically sexualised, it's more that their sexualisation reflects the way women are sexualised throughout our culture. And American TV in particular has an unwritten "no unattractive women" rule, far more so than say British TV. So basically it's a combination of the fact that society sexualises women all the time, the fact that the average female wardrobe is more close fitting than the average male wardrobe, and the culture of American TV where all women are eye candy and people are shocked to see any woman who isn't pretty.