For WWLTV news anchors Sheba Turk and Charisse Gibson, being on air every day means dealing with an onslaught of vicious comments – and frankly, they’re over it.
If you are a woman and you have a body, you will have suffered the abject boredom of having to listen to someone’s unsolicited opinions on it.
If you are a woman in the public eye, these opinions can become a tidal wave of sexist, toxic drivel intended not only to bore you to tears, but to direct attention away from your every success.
Sheba Turk and Charisse Gibson, two US news anchors, know this better than anyone. They receive comments on their hair, clothes and make-up every single day, despite being respected journalists in charge of primetime TV slots on the New Orleans channel WWLTV.
But of course, their breaking stories and special reports aren’t important – to the internet gremlins, it’s their appearance that really matters.
Turk, who wears her natural curls on air, has had to deal with an exhausting number of comments on them. She recently decided to share one such ‘complaint’, sent in to the news channel during one of her shows.
“You have some nerve appearing like that on TV with your hair all whacked out,” the email from ‘Mike Everyman’ read. “And your station needs to be warned it’s crap like this that’s why they are not #1 in the ratings any longer. You look like hell. Straight out of Africa.”
We could go to town on ‘Mike’ for this racist mess, but happily, we don’t have to; Turk cut him down to size on Twitter in the very best way.
“Mike says I look ‘straight out of Africa’,” she said. “He didn’t mean it as a compliment but it totally is – so thank you.”
She said that although the comment was far from uncommon, she wanted to share it to draw attention to the issue of natural afro hair being considered messy or unkempt.
“This is what we look like. It is professional. You can’t define what professional is by a skin colour or a hair texture,” she told local news site nola.com.
The fact that a black woman rocking her hair as it grows from her head is considered controversial is disheartening to say the least, but Turk’s daily presence on TV is vital in terms of representation.
One viewer wrote to her on Twitter: “Growing up I always wanted long, straight hair because that’s what I saw. Young black and brown girls need you. They need to see the styles they wear on TV.”
Turk also came out in solidarity with her colleague Gibson, an Emmy-nominated journalist and fellow anchor who receives a similar level of criticism – often from the same people.
Gibson tweeted four pictures that a viewer had sent in to their channel, with the comment: “Someone complains daily about my clothes and I don’t share hate because I don’t care really. But she took great screenshots, so there’s that. Enjoy!”
Gibson’s self-assured response to this odd fixation with her fashion choices is sheer brilliance – and so were the replies from the hundreds of women who came out in support.
“Woman has breasts. Next,” said one, while others told her she was “drop-dead gorgeous” and demanded “details of the gorgeous nude dress.”
Journalist Julie Niesen wrote, “Whoa. A woman has… cleavage? News at 11,” while fellow news anchor Tearsa Smith admitted, “I’m just here to fangirl your hair.”
While no one should have to deal with the kind of racist, sexist comments that Turk and Gibson do on the daily, their comebacks are a masterclass in how to disempower trolls clearly threatened by women who dare to be themselves.
And the solidarity of their followers – with their supportive, hilarious responses – reminds us that although we may be going through dark, Trumpian, Atwood-esque times, there is serious power in having each others’ backs.
Women supporting women – you love to see it.