The front page of The Australian’s media section today features a news article reporting the possible promotion of Chris Bath to become the first solo female news anchor on commercial TV in Australia.
The ABC (non-commercial) already has a number of solo female anchors, but channels 7, 9, 10 and SBS all currently feature either male solos or a male/female double act.
OK, progress being made, good news.
But what bothered me was this quote from Seven’s news director Peter Meakin:
“There’s a school of thought that there is a risk putting a woman on her own, largely because of female viewers not accepting female readers as authority figures.”
Is that true?
The article also appeared on the news.com.au website where comments are allowed, and some of the comments submitted (71 so far) are equally concerning.
Steve of Brisbane: “A good looking female news reader beats a male news reader any day.”
Yeayeahwhotever of Melbourne: “quite honestly, TV and print news are a dying breed in any case. Too slow to react, too interested in creating sensation and hype. All that being said however, I do find Chris Bath very very tasty.”
RT: “The SBS newsreaders Janice Peterson and Neema Mairata and also Juanita Phillips and Felicity Davey of ABC are very professional and easy on the eye, as is Chris Bath. Good luck to her. I could watch them read the grain and produce market news and still be interested.”
Freda of NSW: “Television is still one of the last bastions of sexism towards women, Chris Bath should have been in the 6pm time-slot at least 2 years ago. She is much more pleasant to look at and listen to than any of the male newsreaders and I am a straight women.”
Jo Bloh: “We get Natalie Barr over here in the mornings and I can tell you I’ve never seen so many men watch the news of the morning, even after night shift!”
OG of Jerramungup: “Chris Bath can read the news at my place personaly any time she likes”
Helen of Queensland: “Love Chris Bath. Good looking and very professional. Just why has Australia still got a thing about gender? It is time Australians grow up. It is 2009 not 1909!!!”
David of Sydney: “My problem is that when Chris Bath reads the news I stop listening, and just look at her very beautiful face”
I have obviously just taken a selection, but I actually didn’t bother showing you the most silly sexist comments obviously left just to get a rise from other readers.
I am utterly intrigued that the appearance of a female news reader (indeed any female in the public sphere) appears to be of equal importance to her ability, yet no mention is made of the aesthetic merits of male news anchors. To get their jobs these women have had to play the game by the rules – to get a good news job you need to be well presented. But then once they get that job their unnaturally shiny hair and startlingly white teeth merely reinforce the stereotypes and discrimination that they have had to navigate themselves. How can we break the cycle?