Who Wears the Pants in This Media Outlet?

Is a FoxNews anchor's implication that being feminine -- being a female -- means not wearing "the pants"?
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We watch a lot of FoxNews here at the Huffington Post.

Not because some of us want to, but because we need to in order to do our jobs. Thus, all day long, our remotes switch back and forth between the mainstream news networks -- CNN, MSNBC, and Fox. Oh, FoxNews. It's mostly inoffensive as a mute background visual. But out of the corner of my eye, I can still see the sorority of always giggling, liberally lip-glossed, buxom TV anchor-esses. Doubtlessly hired for their Columbia Journalism School degrees and hardnosed critical analysis, right?

As a (prickly feminist) young woman in journalism who wants to be taken seriously for my tenacity and reportage, that's frustrating to watch. To say the least.

And just when I thought it couldn't get any worse...

If you haven't watched this video, you simply must: On Sunday's Fox & Friends, a male anchor hands the broadcast over to a female anchor, cracks a joke about pants suits (gee, who do we think they were talking about?) and asks her, "Have you ever worn a pantsuit? Are you a pantsuit woman?"

A strange thing to ask a colleague, but innocuous enough.

But then Ainsley Earhardt -- the anchor-ess -- tucks her hair behind her ears and replies, "I have! But, see, here at Fox we like to be feminine, so we don't wear the pants." Off in the distance, we hear a wolf whistle.

And then Earhardt coyly continues, "Would you like us to wear pants, Brian?" "No, no!" Brian exclaims. (She does have great legs, I admit.) "It's very hard to please Brian," a second female anchor jokes. And then Brian, who sounds like a great guy, announces, "If I were to run for office, I would run on a pro-skirt platform. I am firmly behind the skirts." Another male anchor adds, "You're firmly behind the skirts? Is that what you just said?"

At this point, the second female anchor interjects, a bit sternly, "I think you should stop now."


What's interesting here is that Earhardt said not "we don't wear pants," but "we don't wear the pants." It would have made sense for Earhardt to say "we are feminine, (ergo) we don't wear pants," which of course would not have been actually true but would have been stereotypically true insofar as the Western construct of feminine appearance. But Earhardt says, "here at Fox we like to be feminine, so we don't wear the pants." As we all know, the pants is what the person in charge wears.

Is her implication that being feminine, being a female, means not wearing "the pants"? As a woman who wears skirts and dresses all the time -- and would support Brian's pro-skirt platform on fashion merits alone -- that's a really creepy characterization of femininity right there -- we like to be feminine so we don't wear the pants.

The feminist and conspiracy theorist in me hopes, though, that there's some sarcastic social commentary here. Could Earhardt possibly be making a dig at her FoxNews bosses and their expectations of their female anchors? How hard is it for you to imagine a FoxNews-y conversation either explicitly or implicitly guiding the female journalists ("journalists"?) to wear short skirts, cleavage-bearing tops and copious makeup? Think of that Katherine Heigl and Kirsten Wiig weight-loss scene in Knocked Up.

This is quite enough time that I have wasted dissecting an off-the-cuff convo between FoxNews employees on sartorial matters. I'll go back to figuring out, pasty-white-from-sitting-behind-the-glow-of-a-computer-screen and working-for-feminist-progressives associate blog editor that I am, if leggings, paired with boots and a shirt, count as "pants." And what that, exactly, means for my career in journalism.

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