Why do we think it’s OK to publicly shame women on TV?

Posted by
Jessica Rapana
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In the wake of Piers Morgans’ sexist remarks about his colleague Laura Tobin, we reflect on the sexism faced by TV meteorologists on a daily basis.

Earlier this week, Piers Morgan made some inflammatory, inappropriate and not out of character comments about some trousers worn by his colleague Laura Tobin.

Tobin, a meteorologist on Good Morning Britain with a degree in Physics and Meteorology and nearly 20 years’ industry experience, was wearing some red faux leather trousers that Morgan apparently took umbrage with.

Tobin just finished reading the weather – aka, doing her job – when Morgan, live on air, asked her: “Can we talk about your hot pants for a moment?” 

If you’re thinking this is wildly inappropriate and sexist, you’re right. 

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Piers Morgan’s sexist comments about Laura Tobin’s faux leather trousers on Good Morning Britain are not OK

And yet, it got worse. 

“They’re the most skin-tight leather hot pants I’ve seen in many a year,” Morgan added. “And you’ve paraded them for your seven-day forecast.”

While these disgusting comments blatantly expose Morgan’s ignorance of what qualifies as “hot pants” and “parading”, they also highlight a much bigger systemic problem: the frequent body-shaming of female meteorologists – which, as far as we know, is not rained upon their male counterparts.

Here, we look at a small sample of the kind of rubbish these women have to put up with:

  • Liberté Chan, KTLA 5 – 2016

    Liberté Chan, a meteorologist at Los Angeles’ KTLA 5 station, was wearing a sleeveless back dress in May 2016. Midway through her spiel, an anchor handed Chan a gray cardigan and asked her to put it on. “You want me to put this on?” she asks in the video. “Why? ‘Cause it’s cold?” The anchor replies: “We’re getting a lot of emails.” Chan, after saying that she now looks like a librarian, continues with her segment.

  • Mary Ours, WJAC-TV – 2017

    Mary Ours, a meteorologist for WJAC-TV, an NBC affiliate in Western Pennsylvania, responded directly to a body-shamer – who said she needed “some fashion consulting, please” – via the network’s Facebook page. Ours was pregnant, at the time. “My dress was perfectly fine yesterday. If you find one that you think suits better, please feel free to send my way.” she wrote. “I’ll do the same for you. Thanks for watching!” She also shared the exchange on her own Facebook page, talking more generally about the bullying commentary female newscasters face, especially noting the issue of women making these comments. “You’re body shaming a pregnant woman when we should be lifting each other up.”

  • Carrie Duncan, WLOX – 2017

    Carrie Duncan, a new mom and meteorologist for WLOX in southern Mississippi, clapped back at a viewer who made derogatory comments about her weight. In the email, which Duncan posted on Facebook after blocking out the name, the sender made comments about Duncan’s weight and called her “repulsive”. Duncan, who had her second child just six months earlier, said she was sharing the email to “show you what some people have to go through”. She added: “Ugly people always have something ugly to say. Please think about the people you are saying these things about and to.” She added: “Here’s the thing, if you don’t like something/someone on TV, change the channel. Please STOP WITH THE HATE!”

  • Katie Fehlinger, CBS 3 Philly – 2015

    Katie Fehlinger, a meteorologist at CBS 3 Philly in Philadelphia, who was pregnant with twins and in her third trimester, received dozens of emails complaining about the size of her pregnant belly. The criticisms ranged from her beig “too pregnant” and “disgusting” to comparing her to a “sausage in a casing”. Fehlinger had the best response. On Facebook, she wrote: “Even during the most uncomfortable – and let’s face it, less than glamorous – symptoms of pregnancy, what women go through to bring their precious children into the world is, simply put, AMAZING and you should be lauded,” she wrote. “Frankly, I don’t care how ‘terrible’ or ‘inappropriate’ anyone thinks I look. I will gladly gain 50 pounds and suffer sleepless, uncomfortable nights if it means upping my chances to deliver two healthy baby girls.”

  • Ashlee Baracy, WBNS-10TV – 2019

    Ashlee Baracy, chief meteorologist at Ohio’s WBNS-10TV, hit back at viewers who called her “bloated” and “uncomfortable” while she was pregnant. Baracy was absolutely not here for the bullying, reposting many of the mean comments on her Instagram, including: “You are really putting on weight. Watch your heart” and “Pregnant or not, buy bigger clothes!!!”. Baracy added: “Let’s hope by shedding light on body-shaming that fewer people will deal with critics like this in the future, pregnant or not.”

  • Becky Ditchfield, KUSA-9News – 2019

    Becky Ditchfield, a meteorologist at KUSA-9News in Denver, was pregnant with her third child when she received rude remarks about her body and maternity wear. She posted to Facebook: “Earlier this week someone wrote in telling me that I looked like a ‘freak with (my) belly sticking out 2 miles…” Today, I brought my handy tape measure to work to verify this was, in fact, true.” She then delved into some serious mathematics, revealing that in fact, her belly was not sticking out two miles. “So to the people out there who are offended by the (giant) life growing inside me, let’s please be accurate when sending me your hate mail. BTW. Still Pregnant.”

  • Tracy Hinson, KDSK News – 2019

    Tracy Hinson, a meteorologist for KDSK News in St. Louis, responded to a critic who called out her so-called “stomach bulge” and suggested she wear a “girdle” on Twitter in the best possible way. Hinson shared an image of the nasty message with the best response. “Dear Mary,” she began. “Yes, I do watch my airchecks. NO I will not be strapping myself into a girdle because you don’t like my belly. I like pasta, bread and cheese too much to obsess over my weight. I like my body and that’s all that really matters.” 

  • Kelsey McEwen, CTV – 2020

    Kelsey McEwen, a meteorologist from Canada’s Your Morning breakfast show, was eight months pregnant in 2017 when she responded to a troll who called out her “skintight maternity attire” and labelled her “disgusting”. She retweeted the comments, telling the troll: “…you need to check your priorities”. Sadly, this was not an isolated incident. Just this week, she fired back at someone who had tweeted her for not wearing sleeves. McEwen reposted the now-deleted tweet, adding: “PSA: I work inside, so wearing a sleeveless dress is entirely normal. I also live in a different part of the country, but report on wx across Canada. Hard to dress for every forecast. Last but not least, would you oppose [her male colleague] @BenMulroney wearing a suit jacket in summer? I bet no.”

The way these women continue to do their jobs despite this treatment is truly professional and inspiring – but it is also not the point. These women should be able to do their job without having to put up with the cruel and sexist taunts of keyboard warriors and, if you work with Piers Morgan, colleagues.

These woman should be able to eat bread and pasta when they like, wear what they like and do their job – just like their male colleagues.

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Jessica Rapana

Jessica Rapana is a journalist based in London, and enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content. She is especially fond of news, health, entertainment and travel content, and drinks coffee like a Gilmore Girl.

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