Home Commentary Girls, are you on-air ready?

Girls, are you on-air ready?

by Nicole Alexakis February 2, 2021
Girls, are you on-air ready?

Female broadcast journalists and their efforts to be noticed for their work

It turns out that the “effortless beauty” exuded by female broadcast journalists takes a lot of effort. Waking up and washing your face isn’t enough to be considered on-air ready.

As far as Laura Casella, anchor at Global News Montreal is concerned, “The Laura Casella who walks into work from bed with [her] hair tied up in a bun and no makeup … that Laura can’t necessarily go on TV.”

For female broadcast journalists, physical appearance plays the biggest part in one’s success. These female anchors are the liaison between viewers and the news station, but their journalistic talents are often overlooked.

Laura Casella speaks on behalf of all female journalists when discussing how she wants to be recognized for her hard work and talent within her profession. She wants people to watch her for her stories, not her good looks or wardrobe choices.

So, you noticed my hair but you didn’t hear anything I was saying? I want people to pay attention to the context of my story like they do with male anchors,” Casella adds.

Double standards between men and women are very prominent in broadcast news, according to Caroline Van Vlaardingen, anchor for CTV News Montreal. She believes that male anchors are easily forgiven. Whether they are balding, carrying extra weight or even wearing the same clothing day in and day out, men are not criticized.

Van Vlaardingen continues, “In fact, one Australian male anchor proved it by doing just that, wearing the same suit every day for a year while his female co-anchor changed her outfits every day, and no one noticed.”

Karl Stefanovic conducted this experiment because his co-anchor Lisa Wilkinson was receiving unsolicited critiques from viewers on her appearance. After a year dressed in blue, Stefanovic wasn’t surprised to see that no one ever commented on his wardrobe choices. His experiment confirmed that he is judged on his journalistic talent while his co-host is not.

There are some observations that can be made among the female anchors at both Global and CTV News. To name a few, heavy makeup is an essential part of the ‘getting ready’ process, as well as tighter clothing.

Through observation of 16 women who appeared onscreen on Oct. 23 on CTV and Global News Montreal, every single woman was wearing makeup and jewelry. 75 per cent of these women were white and approximately 65 per cent were blonde and thin. More than half of these women were under 35 years old.

“Acceptance of aging among women on the air is … a challenge,” says Van Vlaardingen. “The sad irony of this job as a woman, is that just as you step into your most experienced years and feel your most confident, your body and face begin to show your age.”

According to Van Vlaardingen, women who gain weight or develop wrinkles as they age tend to disappear from high-profile on-air jobs. Those that manage to stay on-air have a lot of work done to maintain their desired look. Botox, consistent hair colouring and dieting are common ways that female anchors preserve the youthful look.

Kim Sullivan, weather specialist at Global News Montreal, states that she never felt pressured to look a certain way by the management at Global.

“In my first year at Global, I gained 40 pounds because I was going through fertility and never once did I feel that I had to lose it.”

On the other hand, Sullivan does feel as though she doesn’t fit the look of the ‘ideal weather woman’ but emphasizes that this was a pressure she imposed on herself.

There’s one dress that all weather women have to have, so when I started my job at Global I bought it as a joke. It’s called the ‘weather girl dress.’”

There are underlying standards women must adhere to when considering a professional career in media. Huda Hafez, Journalism student at Concordia University, is an aspiring news anchor. Hafez explains the criticism these women receive in regards to their appearance makes her uncomfortable.

“I want to be a hard core journalist, not a piece of eye candy. I’m definitely aware of what I’m getting myself into, but we are a growing society and I’m hoping that things start and continue to change once I get on the air.”

 

Graphic by @the.beta.lab

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