Team GB is currently riding high in the medal table for Rio 2016, on par to top the London 2012 successes, yet the headlines this week were dominated by discourse around the wardrobe choices of BBC poolside presenter, Helen Skelton.
Helen’s ‘plunging’ and ‘racy’ attire caught the attention of many of the nationals, who seemed happy to dedicate column inches to her outfits, inevitably sacrificing word count that should have covered the performance of athletes who have trained for years to compete in Brazil.
Shameful? Yes. Shocking? Maybe not. Because earlier this year we saw women’s world number 1 tennis player Serena Williams asked by a commentator to ‘do a twirl’ in her tennis outfit at the Australian Open – a request she was uncomfortable with, quite rightly asserting that that the same suggestion would not be put to Rafa [Nadal] or Roger [Federer].
While Helen has retained a dignified silence on the subject, dad Richard featured on This Morning, with some insightful commentary: “This is a non-story. I’m surprised it’s made the front pages of the news. I thought we’d moved on from this, obviously we haven’t. She is simply a young woman in a hot place in a skirt.”
Well said Richard.
As industries strive towards equality, it seems the media may be one step behind. But this isn’t just a UK issue, all indicators point to it being endemic.
Australian TV host and breakfast TV staple Karl Stefanovic made international news when he conducted his own experiment in the face of co-anchor Lisa Wilkinson’s wardrobe consistently being scrutinised.
He wore exactly the same suit on the Today Show for one year, with a few dry cleans thrown in for hygiene. The response? “No one noticed,” he said. “No one gives a sh*t.”
His motivation was to highlight the huge double standards in operation. Wilkinson commented: “When you’re a woman doing breakfast TV, you quickly learn the sad truth that what you wear can generate a bigger reaction than even any political interview you ever do.” She is also damning of a culture whereby the majority of abuse is from other women. “I don’t know how we’ve got into that space. It’s not too hard to figure out: in a toxic climate, where a woman’s appearance is often deemed the only noteworthy thing about her, it is inevitable that the harshest critics may also be women. Unlearning sexist behaviour is a job for us all, men and women alike.”
The Tonic Communications is committed to equality and diversity. For support with media relations, or to receive our credentials, get in touch with our team.