A female meteorologist who had the audacity to wear a sleeveless dress during a weather broadcast has been told to cover up live on air – because viewers couldn’t handle the sight of a woman’s bare arms in the morning.
Liberté Chan wore a black sparkly dress to present the morning weather on Los Angeles news channel KTLA on Saturday. As she began to talk viewers through the temperatures in Santa Ana and Long Beach, a disembodied male hand appeared at the edge of the screen, waving a grey cardigan.
“What’s going on?” Chan asked. The hand gave the cardigan an insistent little shake. “You want me to put this on? Why, because it’s cold?”
Her confusion was understandable, considering that temperatures reached 22 °C in Los Angeles on Saturday.
As a second hand appeared to help the mystified Chan into the cardigan, a man’s voice said from off screen: “We’ve got a lot of emails.” He added, in the firm-but-fair voice of a dad from a 1950s movie: “There you go. That’s nice.”
Chan was incredulous – “What? Really?” – but begrudgingly accepted the cardigan, commenting: “I look like a librarian now.”
“That works!” said the same man from off screen, with grating enthusiasm. “It’s a librarian who’s going to a cocktail party!”
Chan, who has multiple degrees and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, later posted a behind-the-scenes video to her Facebook page, in which a male broadcaster read out some of the emails that they had received that morning. “Liberté Chan’s dress is totally inappropriate for a Saturday morning newscast – looked like she didn’t make it home from her cocktail party last night,” read one.
Chan promised that she wouldn’t wear the dress again – and explained that she had been originally planning on wearing another outfit, and had to change into the black dress at the last minute.
In a post on her blog, she later wrote that she was not "ordered" to put on the cardigan, and that the incident had been a joke: "If you’ve ever watched the morning show, you know we poke fun at each other all the time... My bosses did not order me to put on the cardigan, it was a spontaneous moment."
Nevertheless, the whole exchange raises several questions.
If it was a joke, shouldn't Chan's colleagues have made that more clear?
If the producers were so worried about scandalising the good people of LA – a city famed for its delicate sensibilities, after all – couldn’t they have waited for an ad break to ask Chan to cover her body?
And most importantly: in 2016, shouldn't viewers be past the point of keeling over in shock at the sight of a woman’s bare shoulders?