in the media, sport and life, women have a use-by date
I remember when I was little, I was watching the news with a family member when the weather report came on. I mentioned that the very feminine presenter was ever so pretty, to which I was given the answer that she was probably chosen for that very reason as opposed to her understanding of meteorology. No, that newsreader wasn’t a brilliant, well informed and ad-libbing current affairs commentator, just a talking head covered with makeup reading from a teleprompter.
As a child I was flooded with this sort of image of women in television, such as on shows where the lead hosts with the responsibility to ask contestants the tough questions were men, and their bubbly young assistants were, more often than not, would-be models whose only duties were to reveal mystery letters as well as their upper thighs.
I grew up in a world where everywhere I looked the aesthetics of my gender were so very important. Thankfully, my proverbial self-worth was rescued by a very smart AND beautiful role model for a mum, who taught me that it is important to take care of yourself, sure, but that in the end none of that matters unless you have something in your head as well: beauty fades and it’s what you’ve got between your ears that’s ultimately going to matter. A couple of events in particular in the last few weeks have reminded me of this advice. And as when I was little watching the cute weather girl, they’re to do with women’s image and capabilities, and how they’re portrayed in the media.
The first is Wimbledon. Tennis is a sport that I love to play (not well) and watch. The hours-long battles of attrition between two athletes are always inspiring. And the women – my gosh – are just so amazing, powerful and strong. The media loves them too, but for a fairly different reason: many of them are stunning, and if not, at least their choice of clothing saves the viewers at home from boredom whilst they’re waiting for the real, male, athletes to start their match. A couple of years ago my boyfriend told me that the reason they wear such skimpy clothing isn’t just for comfort, but to get more publicity. Thus, once again, my too-good image of the world was smashed against the hard surface of reality as I was hit with the unfairness of my heroines’ skills being put second before their looks. This prejudice towards women was further exemplified some days ago as I was avidly watching the match between Agnieszka Radwanska and Li Na, only to have to eventually look away when the camera wouldn’t move from Radwanska’s ass for more than seven seconds as she was packing up her gear. Then of course came the horrid comments after the women’s final when the winner, Marion Bartoli, was described as ‘not a looker’ by high-profile BBC anchor, John Inverdale. I would be hard pressed to imagine Inverdale and his ilk ever coming out and commenting about the looks of a male player in such a way. Doesn’t happen!
This accumulation of disappointment received another layer when I pondered on the slightly wiltered flower that is Melanie Doyle’s recent departure from the Sunrise ‘family’. Not that I’m a huge fan of Sunrise, but Mel has kind of been there for me, on cold mornings, when I needed a bit of pep to steady me into my day. So I was a little surprised when two weeks ago Mel announced that she was, ahem, ‘honoured’ to be presented a new news-type role. She continued that not only is she excited to be doing something new, but that this was a huge opportunity for her. Sure yeah, I thought, who wouldn’t want to move from the highest rating breakfast show in Australia to Channel 7′s sister channel, 7 Two. After all, she will be on at “Prime Time”. In her place will be the blonde, and shall I say more voluptuous, Samantha Armytage, who will be assisting David Koch as anchor and eye candy. Kochie, of course, is staying right where he is. This popular former economist and grade-A dickhead will continue to have the pleasure of flooding our wavelengths because, as everyone knows, men in the media don’t have to be attractive, they’re S.M.R.T!!
To be fair, I will mention that Mel came out with multiple statements of how this is entirely by her own choosing and that she is excited for the new challenge. Let’s wait and see how her new role pans out and in the meantime I’ll keep my seemingly realistic opinion on the matter.
So what is our Use-By-Date? Judging from Mel’s timing I’d say menopause. If I’m talking about women in tennis, the timing is considerably sooner. And what does this mean for my career? When will my opinion cease to matter? It may well be when I’m over 30 and less nubile, or when I’m 50 and seemingly incapable of having anything intelligent to say due to suffering from a hormone overdose and consequent case of ‘the stupids’, to use the technical term.
But I owe it to myself, my mother, and all the amazing women out there, to reject that notion and prove it wrong.