While those of us who have electricity are glued to the news and following multiple compelling stories, I’d like to write about something that’s been on my mind for a while:
There are many more women behind the anchor desks and in front of the green screens than there used to be. In some cases, you get the feeling that producers have gone out of their way to keep an equal gender balance. The host brings in two guest commentators, one male and one female. They speak with equal facility and authority and are treated with equal respect. But they look very different – from each other. In terms of, say, a cocktail party, the look is traditional: The man is in a suit and tie and the woman is in a bright, tight, sleeveless dress. I am starting to see more of the male commentators appear without a tie; just yesterday I saw a fellow in a preppy v-neck sweater instead of suit jacket. Occasionally you see a man with his shirt sleeves rolled up. But I have yet to see any male newscaster or pundit appear with his shoulders bared.
So I’ve been paying close attention and I find myself wishing that more women broadcasters would cover those shoulders and resist the subtle (or maybe not so subtle) pressure to do double duty as commentator and set decoration. These bright, beautiful women are no less so in sleeves. Alternatively, they can ask their male counterparts to show some arm, neck and, yes, even (be still my heart) those manly shoulders.
I hope that once you have constructed that mental image for yourself – of both the man and the woman sitting there in sleeveless tops (or how about the man sleeveless and the woman in a blazer?) – you will understand why this matters, even though it’s obnoxious. Human attire has always conveyed important social messages about one’s function and status. Today’s uniforms are less uniform than in times past, but if anything this has put more pressure on professional women to doll themselves up.
Look closely at women broadcasters. Who is showing arms and who is not, who is sitting behind a desk and who is sitting with her legs exposed, who is standing with her entire body/outfit on display? Here, just among the women, you will find a pecking order of authority and seriousness. I bring this up because I think this is one aspect of equalizing the professional playing field that is in our own hands – and arms and shoulders.