We were reminded again this week that physical appearance plays too important of a role when assessing the job performance of women in the news industry.
Nina Harrelson, news anchor for WREG in Memphis, called out individuals—primarily men—who find it acceptable to comment on a female news anchor’s physical appearance.
Harrelson shared a personal encounter on Facebook. A man approached her and body-shamed her while also complimenting her on her appearance—not her professional job performance.
“‘You look mighty big on TV!'”
“That’s what a complete stranger just said to me.”
“FYI – journalists are not models… And I can assure you, none of us want to hear your opinions on our bodies.”
“WE ARE NOT YOUR EYE CANDY.”
“Luckily, after nearly nine years in this business, I have a very thick skin.”
“But I feel sorry for the young women breaking into news who will have to deal with that kind of criticism, which their male colleagues will almost certainly never face.”
You can see the full post here:
Her brief post was quickly shared, commented on and covered by fellow news outlets. Viewers discussed what should be important in the news industry regardless of gender identity—professionalism, etiquette, accurate news coverage—and what is typically emphasized instead for women in the press—appearance and sex appeal.
Due to the overwhelmingly positive response to her post, Harrelson followed up by stating how important it is to keep the lines of communication open about these important topics.
“I never expected this kind of response when I posted about this encounter earlier today, but if it makes even one person think twice about the things they say – or type – to women in the public eye, then I’m glad I called it out.”
You can see her follow-up statements here:
Many on Facebook and Twitter have also shared their support for Harrelson and the importance of emphasizing professional talent over appearance.
It is sad that in todays world of gutless internet trolls, it takes courage just to be yourself. Just by being true to herself, Ms. Harrelson is an inspiration to all who can be inspired!!— Patrick Baker (@pbaker8667) November 5, 2019
The intelligence level of some people consists only of insults and mockery.
— BDLeather (@bd_leather) November 5, 2019
— Lobo Solitario (@AutomatedDawn) November 5, 2019
It’s heartening when someone in the spotlight—who has the power to draw more attention to important issues like body shaming and the reduction of women’s work to their sexual appeal—actually chooses to discuss and challenge the topic.
By not only coming forward, but also making an example of her own life and how she’s treated, Harrelson illuminated what it means to be a successful news anchor. She still continues to be judged for her looks over her success.
Her challenging of how this is talked about, and why we prioritize appearance over performance is invaluable.
Hopefully more celebrities and others will continue to come forward to discuss the double standard—and eventually it won’t be a necessity anymore.