From daytime to primetime, turn on any news program and you will see a mix of male and female anchors. They look at you through the TV screen with a chipper smile, coiffed hair and a voice that commands attention. But, similarities end there with the dress code, which is motivated by underlying biases in the media.
The male and female “uniform” in the media drastically differ. Day in and day out, men don their suits, ranging in various shades of neutral colors. Then, the only place in which they show personal style is possibly a patterned tie or a lively pair of dress socks. Even so, they may only be seen when the camera pans out before the commercial break. Paradoxically, menswear has been having a moment in recent years and it has become socially acceptable for men to have fun with fashion. In addition, clothing lines have been playing with prints, bright colors, unique cuts in a way that women’s clothing has for years. Ironically, it seems that has not crossed over into the professional sector as of late. Is there an underlying implication that men will not seem credible if they do not abide by the traditional professional dress code?
In the eighties and nineties, when more females rose to prominence on network TV, the pantsuit was the outfit du jour of the anchor. Consequently, women had to dress like men in order to be taken seriously in a traditional men’s position. Now women have more leeway with dress on TV and the new uniform is the sleeveless shirt and pencil skirt, or a sheath dress. Of course, they do get to have more fun with various patterns, colors and accessories, unlike their male counterparts. Interestingly enough, while a pantsuit hid femininity it seems this new dress code blasts it over the airwaves. On the other hand, if professional dress is what lends credibility, then is this new look doing a disservice to women?
Males and females in the news are subject to limiting styles of dress. One aspect that makes a program a favorite of the viewer, is the journalist’s personality. It would seem that in the media the wardrobes would be more self-expressive of the individual in the anchor’s chair. While the news world has made strides in inclusiveness, they are still subject to underlying biases from the viewers. A man with too much flair, loses professionalism, a woman that is too masculine is not warm and a woman that is too feminine is not credible. In conclusion, the argument for a man to be able to lose his suit jacket on air or for a woman to forego the pencil skirt is much more than a sartorial one.