Serious news or serious sexualization?

CBS anchor Norah O’Donnell during a Television Critics Association panel discussion in July 2012. (Photo: Mark Davis/WireImage)

What should female journalists wear on television? The Washington Post addressed that issue yesterday with an article entitled “The colorful evolution of newswomen’s attire.”

To anyone who watches TV news, it has become obvious that female anchors no longer feel constrained by the old “dress for success” style of dark suits and conservative blouses that emulated their male counterparts. It seems only right that women soften their look a bit; after all, there is a difference between the sexes.

Nevertheless, after decades of dominating the world of business and communication, men still wear suits and ties. Perhaps there is a certain unspoken but agreed upon decorum among people who are serious about what they do. So should the women in TV news be adhering to that standard? Post reporter Katherine Boyle discusses the matter at some length but never really takes a position; hurray for objective reporting!

We’ve all seen newswomen on TV wearing bright colors, sleeveless tops, low-cut necklines, conspicuous jewelry and, if they aren’t behind a desk, spike heels and short skirts. It’s particularly prevalent on Fox News. Personally, perhaps because I lived through the “dress for success” era, I find such outfits very unprofessional and distracting. As Boyle hints, they seem to be more about sexualizing the women and attracting viewers.

I applaud the bright colors and the addition of attractive dresses to suits and blazers, but in my opinion the styles should remain conservative. Spike heels and open toes are unprofessional and intended to be sexy, as are low-cut necklines. Sleeveless tops are either for sun dresses and hot weather or for evening wear. Jewelry should be flattering but not overly conspicuous. And I’m old-fashioned enough to still think a well-dressed woman should wear hose.

The point, after all, is supposed to be serious news, not sexy women. But then cable news isn’t really serious news anymore, is it?


9 thoughts on “Serious news or serious sexualization?

  1. No PT, cable news is most definitely NOT serious news anymore. Increasing market share for the purpose of hawking their sponsors wares seems to be the only thing that matters anymore. Never having been much for personal adornment myself, the only times I’ve ever cared about what I was wearing was when I needed protection for work, or when the weather was bad, or on those occasions where I allowed myself to be dragged to someplace that called for a more “formal” appearance. So about the only time I even notice what someone is wearing is when they’re doing the “peacock” thing to draw attention to themselves. And then it’s only a turn-off – especially when it’s being done by people who think I should take them seriously…

    1. One of the first things I did after I retired was start dressing for myself instead of for the workplace. Now I dread the day I have to appear on short notice in something other than “sloppy comfortable” because I don’t own anything else.

  2. Almost all broadcasts/networks are scrambling into this mode. First noticed the “casual/cute-pie” clothing trend for women in CA about 10 years ago – put it down to relaxed lifestyle. San Antonio is another area adorned with that eye catching trend in the past.
    Now it’s spread like a virus – maybe because the TV personalities only read what is handed to them and are rarely (on local channels anyway- even national ones are getting more glammed) hard news reporters…more eye candy for the ratings….which makes them less credible. News is pretty much managed and “magazine style” reporting now anyway…it’s pretty much entertainment – no matter the network. (except maybe BBC)

    1. I could understand local newscasters adopting whatever fits their local audience. But nationally that’s just not going to fly. I wonder how the Fox News women dress when they go to White House press conferences. Or if they are even allowed to represent Fox when a serious story needs to be covered. My guess is the men cover the serious news and the women stay on set to read the news.

      1. Your last sentence is probably right. I don’t know about Fox, but the national “news” teams are far from professional standards of not too long ago. (and please, we don’t want to be your friends – just report the news accurately and stop the silly filler comments and giggles/ fake laughs)

        1. Seems like the inane on-air chit chat between anchors has been around even longer than the sexy outfits. If they have to fill a little time at the end of the show, I can understand that. But I don’t want the folksy chat as part of the show. We already have talk shows; I watch news shows in the hope of seeing news.

          1. Sigh. I think that’s our problem: we expect objective factual news presented by professionals using neutral language and standard English – who are dressed to be invisible so as not to detract from the news.
            It’s all about ratings, now.

  3. Sorry, PT, but I have to tell you, sexuality is not going out of style in our lifetimes. Lately I’ve noticed (as a man, how can I not?) that both NBC and ABC News have new weather girls, er, ladies to report on the subject. Ginger Zee on ABC is particularly fetching. In each case the lady is often shown seated in a short skirt across the desk from the News anchor and, as chance would have it, the desktop is transparent glass. That part of my male brain that is not under autonomous control invariably announces “leg shot!” to the rest of my brain. As if that were needed. I think Ginger Zee preceded the one on NBC who think suspect reacted competitively.

    This stuff has been going on as long as I can remember. When I was a young officer aboard USS Pocono in the early 1960’s we were in port a fair amount of time and when we were, our b & w TV in the wardroom would be turned on at breakfast each morning and the favorite program, before the workday started, was a calisthenics workout led by a trim young lady in tights. Even the old Warrant Officers would lounge for an ogle. That’s the way it was. And is. 🙂

    1. Heh, no, I don’t imagine sexuality will ever go out of style. But I still believe how a woman presents herself tells you a lot about her intentions. In the newsroom or anywhere else.

... and that's my two cents