A female newscaster who crowdsourced style advice received very mixed results about what’s considered appropriate for women to wear on television.
On Monday night, KFVS-12 Missouri evening news co-anchor Mary-Ann Maloney shared a Facebook photo of herself wearing a rose-patterned sleeveless blouse, writing, “Wondering if this top shows too much skin (as in shoulders). Jeff says no; I’m not so sure. I see anchors wearing skinny strapped tops — I just haven’t tried it yet. I will probably go with it tonight (I did bring a sweater but the neckline isn’t good with the blouse), then watch the newscast later and decide. That’ll determine whether you ever see this blouse again. Haha.”
Her audience debated the appropriateness of the top. One person wrote, “I don’t think anchors should have their shoulders showing…” While another added, “It looks great but I’m sure some will say a little bare. It pushes the boundaries.” However, most complimented the 10 o’clock anchor’s look, with one person declaring, “You wear whatever the hell makes you feel comfortable/pretty. You don’t need my opinion or anybody else’s….”
Maloney explained in the comments section of the post that years ago, she wore a more revealing top during a 30-second segment and afterward, received a “mean” phone call from a female viewer.
Female news anchors are expected to appear pretty and professional without distracting viewers with their clothing. They’re also under pressure to keep up with style trends and maintain viewer interest in a climate in which people consume more than 60 percent of their news from social media and reporters are shamed in real time about their clothing choices.
For example, in 2015, a pregnant Canadian meteorologist named Kristi Gordon was flooded with hate mail regarding her maternity clothing. Describing working during her first pregnancy, she wrote on her company website, “I received emails telling me to ‘cover up,’ ‘be more professional,’ ‘not wear horizontal stripes,’ and how irresponsible I was to be wearing high heels.” During pregnancy No. 2, she was also called “gross” and accused of wearing indecent clothing.
The following year, a KTLA meteorologist in Los Angeles was literally handed an oversized blue sweater in the middle of her report to conceal her black, sparkly dress. “We’re getting a lot of emails,” a male voice said off-stage.
And in March, Toya Washington, an anchor at WISN 12 in Milwaukee, posted a viewer letter on her Facebook page that read, in part, “Lately, your style of dress has become ‘more revealing’ and ‘less professional’ … and there’s no reason to wear what appeared to be a ‘camisole’ … to increase your ratings.”
There’s been limited but interesting research on clothing in the newsroom — one 2010 study conducted by Indiana University found that while sexy news anchors boosted ratings, they had different effects on male and female viewers.
Men were less able to retain information conveyed by reporters wearing fitted clothing and red lipstick (versus those who wore baggy clothing) and viewed them as less suitable to report on war and politics. However, female viewers were able to retain more information from the sexy anchors and didn’t deem them less able to report on any given topic.
Yahoo Style could not reach the study authors for comment; however, sex expert Laura Berman gave Forbes her take on the female study subjects: “Maybe we’re all still 13-year-old girls — and the sexually attractive, well put-together woman on the screen is the equivalent of that same popular girl.”
The findings echo previous research that found men experience a decline in mental focus after being in the presence of attractive women.
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