Posted on | November 8, 2010 | 34 Comments
In 1981, KMBC-TV removed Christine Craft from her position as a news anchor, after a focus group rated her poorly, saying that the 37-year-old newswoman was “too old.”
Craft filed a sexual-discrimination suit against the Kansas City ABC affiliate under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and such lawsuits have since become rather common: Former Seattle news anchor Nadine Woodward, 48, recently filed suit against KREM-TV, for example, while CNN was sued by Marina Kolbe, 42, and Fox News reporter Catherine Herridge, 46, has complained of discrimination at the cable network.
Certainly, the plaintiffs in these cases believe that TV news discriminates against older women as on-air personalities. And thank goodness for that. Otherwise we might turn on our TVs and see the news delivered by a cast of grizzled Helen Thomas lookalikes.
Rule 5 — “Everybody loves a pretty girl” — is obviously a factor in the TV news business, and why shouldn’t that rule work in New Media? So when I titled a post “Finally, PJTV Discovers Rule 5,” this was not intended to disparage PJTV or any of its personnel, but merely an observation of the apparent application of my own dictum.
Exactly why everybody got all up in arms about this . . . well, I can’t claim to be entirely mystified. The influence of law on culture is such that, once society accommodated itself to the concept of “sexual discrimination” (a concept accidentally invented by segregationist Rep. Howard W. Smith in 1964), it was inevitable that people would find themselves accused of wrongdoing outside any legal or workplace context.
It is not surprising to find myself accused of being “sexist” (i.e., prone to engage in wrongful discrimination) for having employed the phrase “eye candy” to describe the new 25-year-old correspondent on “Kruiser Control” — even though (a) I have no role in hiring decisions at PJTV, (b) I am inarguably pro-eye candy, and (c) I’m probably not the only one who noticed that Kinsey Schofield’s publicity photo shows her with her shirt unbuttoned to display her right breast popping out of what appears to be a black lace push-up bra.
We are not supposed to notice such things nowadays or, at least, we are not supposed to publicly comment on them. And it doesn’t matter, by the way, whether we notice them favorably or unfavorably — whether we are pro-eye candy or anti-eye candy. Even as our culture has become increasingly sexualized, it has become increasingly taboo to acknowledge sexual differences. We are all supposed to be androgynously egalitarian in our attitudes, for to be otherwise is to discriminate, and everyone knows that discrimination is wrong.
To adapt a phrase from a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “You have to be carefully taught” such beliefs, and we have been taught quite carefully indeed. The de rigeur denunciation of sexism, like the de rigeur denunciation of racism, is a conditioned response, a Skinnerian reflex. Anyone who critically examines these reflexes — who disassembles them into their component parts and asks why we react this way — can expect to be indicted for these Deadly Sins of the Post-Christian Era merely for questioning the categories.
Well, then: My response to the PJTV debut of Kinsey Schofield was brusquely cyncial and, when criticized for that response, I conducted my defense in a series of updates that were clearly in violation of Healey’s First Law of Holes.
Nevertheless, while Stephen Kruiser says that I have insulted him, I am prepared to argue that he has insulted me, by expecting me to accept uncritically his assertion that — out of 6 billion people on the planet — he hired a pretty girl without any regard for the fact that she is a pretty girl.
Not at all, Stephen says: “She’s a great writer.”
Fine, then: What has she written? Among other things, “How to Get Your Favorite Celebrity’s Attention via Twitter.”
I believe the word is “Heh.”
My point is not to criticize Kinsey Schofield’s writing. But there are many good writers — even arguably great writers — in Los Angeles who aren’t pretty 25-year-old girls.
With unbuttoned shirts and black lace push-up bras.
Perhaps the problem here is that Stephen Kruiser believes that I am accusing him of discrimination — and certainly I am, in the sense that it is discriminatory to believe that pretty girls fit “the McLuhanesque requirements of a visual medium.” But is it even necessary to say that I don’t consider such “discrimination” to be wrong? Does Stephen Kruiser think that I would admire and praise him for hiring a portly 50-year-old as his video sidekick?
Brusque, cynical, rude — I accept these criticisms. And to my sudden proliferation of Twitter critics, I promise to respond in detail, once I get around to hiring a pretty 25-year-old assistant to handle such things.
UPDATE: Sissy Willis got there a week ahead of me, noting some anti-Palin comments by the occupant of the Red Eye “leg chair.”