Friday, March 16, 2012

Put Some Clothes on that Anchor

Tyler Clementi's cyber-bully was found guilty today in New Jersey.

The Rutgers University freshman had been outed by a hidden webcam placed strategically over his bed by his roommate, Dharun Ravi.  Distraught over the calloused way Ravi had treated his sexuality, Clementi committed suicide by jumping off of the George Washington Bridge.

That story should be troubling enough on several levels, from the way college students like Ravi cling to adolescent behavior patterns when they're supposed to be entering responsible adulthood, to the questions surrounding Clementi's apparent belief that no resources were available to him with regard to handling such a grievous breach of intimacy.

And then a CNN broadcast anchor, shown here in a video made of her on-air presentation of the story, helps reinforce some of the similar juvenile stereotypes in our society that contribute, in part, to mindsets like Ravi's:

(You don't need to watch the whole video to see what I'm talking about. I'm sorry, but the video is having issues in FireFox.)

Don't pay attention to the content of this video. Instead, compare the news anchor's clothing - or rather, her lack thereof - with the expert analyst's suit and tie. Isn't it striking to you how much flesh Suzanne Malveaux is exposing to the camera as opposed to the suited, buttoned-shirted, necktied Paul Callan?

Here's Malveaux, clucking somewhat sanctimoniously about the punishment meted out to one young perpetrator of severe chauvinism while she's exposing a considerable amount of chauvinism herself.  Look at all that skin she's showing on the air!  Granted, the crucial bits of anatomy are covered up, but not by much.  How much credibility does her attire lend her profession as a journalist?

Meanwhile, if Callan were dressed in a silk tank top, how much credibility do you think his audience would give him?  Malveaux looks like she's broadcasting from a studio with malfunctioning air conditioning.  Is it because she's a woman, and that black tanktop is in style?

It's so sexist - not that I think women shouldn't wear such revealing clothing on the job, but that Malveaux and her superiors think they should.  Ravi has been found guilty of what's essentially aggressive sexism, since he probably wouldn't have been cruel enough to record a heterosexual roommate's intimate encounters.  Yet Malveaux apparently is trying to play towards the stereotypical slut female TV personality, presumably since she's confident enough in her journalistic credentials that she doesn't see the need to remind her audience that she got her job only because she knows how to report the news.

There are appropriate places to wear the type of clothing Malveaux models as a supposed journalist.  At a picnic; at the mall; or even as a journalist, underneath a blazer or even a scarf.  Perhaps it wouldn't even be so noticeable if she wasn't paired on-screen with a far more appropriately-dressed person in a suit.

But the issue isn't just about Malveaux is - or isn't wearing.  Plenty of other women these days think dressing down means covering the barest minimum amount of skin.  Or at least, shall we say, accentuating the positive in their physique.  This trend is perhaps even more inappropriate in church than in a TV news studio.  Here in at my church in Dallas, come summertime, we chivalrous men spend a lot of time looking at the floor and the ceiling to avoid all the bare cleavage, thighs, and backs that prance around us in the sanctuary and hallways.  If these women want men who appreciate them for their intellect and integrity, they've got a funny way of showing it.  When men like me complain (which has happened - even from the pulpit), women invariably point to people in the media like Malveaux, saying if she can do it, so should they be able to.

Yeah, sure - this problem isn't new.  But it used to fall in the realm of teenaged hormones gone wild, where parents had to practically wage war to keep clothes on their adolescent daughters.  These days, the skin-baring has moved into the twenties and on into middle age - and sometimes, to the consternation of us all, beyond.

I could fall into the old mantra of "how you dress reveals what's in your heart," but the problem isn't even that complicated.  It's simple pridefulness in one's physical beauty, manifested in skimpy wardrobes to celebrate one's good looks.  "If you've got it, flaunt it" would be more accurate an assessment of the situation.

Then again, there's another phrase I heard years ago that I think also applies:

"If you're not in business, don't advertise."

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