The Internet has fallen in love with the story of the $23 “meteorologist dress,” which appeared this week — as if by magic (!) — on hundreds of thousands of televisions. According to legend, the skin-tight sheath dress was first flagged in a closed Facebook group for female meteorologists. Enticed by the low price point, and the promise that the dress “flatters everyone,” more than 50 meteorologists have purportedly worn the Homeyee stretch tunic pencil sheath dress on-air in recent days; maybe you’ve seen it at your local station!
Link to the dress: <a rel=”noreferrer nofollow” target=”_blank” href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0142M5M72?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creativeASIN=B0142M5M72&linkCode=xm2&tag=meteojennimye-20″>http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0142M5M72?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creativeASIN=B0142M5M72&linkCode=xm2&tag=meteojennimye-20</a>
It’s a pretty silly story, as far as these things go; we definitely don’t want to belabor it. But has no one else noticed that the “everyone” pictured in this viral collage is a young, thin, pretty white woman?
That’s not just due to the demographics of the closed Facebook group: It’s a trend that plays out across the wider broadcast TV industry. In short, if you’re a woman, you need to be conventionally attractive to appear on TV.
Of the women who appear on television news — and they’re already in the minority! — 88 percent were rated “highly” attractive in a 2007 study, versus only 12 percent for the guys on TV. A body of research into the sexualization of female broadcasters suggests that means a few very specific things: youth; a small waist-to-hip ratio; blonde hair, frequently — and clothes that over-emphasize the chest and hips. (Like, say, a bright Spandex dress with black banding. “Can’t have a stomach or pudgy arms,” one reviewer says of it, helpfully.)
Men, meanwhile, tend to get a pass on how good they look. Not only do stations fail to screen for male attractiveness in their initial hiring, research suggests, but it’s also okay for male broadcasters to age and grey in a way that it’s not for women. In fact, men with wrinkles or greying hair are seen as more authoritative — whereas attractive women, who are required to look attractive to get their jobs, are typically considered less competent.
The result is that, if you click on the local TV news anywhere in America, chances are you’ll see a variation of this scene: A friendly middle-aged man runs down world news and jobs and politics; the trifles of weather and local events are left to the Homeyeed young things. (We won’t even discuss the aging or — God forbid — unattractive/overweight/”unfeminine” women, who are presumably kept in dark rooms behind the scenes.)
None of this is to say the Homeyee isn’t a very nice dress. Or that its sudden virality isn’t very amusing!! But maybe we should look at this picture — viewed 3 million times already — and see something a little more serious than yet another #dress meme. Zoom out from all those perfect smiles and identical sheath dresses, and the meteorologist dress says quite a lot about gender expectations in modern society.
Here’s one silver lining, at least: Jennifer Myers, the meteorologist who initially posted the collage to Imgur, captioned it with an Amazon.com affiliate link. That means she gets a kickback from every dress Amazon sells; we estimate she’s pocketed $1,500 already.
Amazon.com chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.