After a male viewer offered unsolicited fashion advice, telling her she should try "dressing like a normal woman," a female news anchor struck back in her own clever way — and, in the process, inadvertently sparked a conversation of the pressure that women face to be physically attractive, even in the workplace.
Maggie Vespa, a reporter for KGW-TV in Portland, Ore., has worked as a broadcast journalist for nine years and currently serves as the station's weekend anchor. Despite her esteemed career, one man on social media decided to focus on her wardrobe decisions and told her that her high-waisted pants were "foolish."
"Just wanted to let you know that the clothes you've been wearing, especially those crazy pants that ride half way up your torso, are not cool looking, in any way," a man, identified only as Jeffery, messaged Vespa on her professional Facebook account on Thursday. "They look rediculous [sic] on you. Please change your wardrobe, you're way too pretty to look so foolish."
Then, while Vespa was live on air on Friday, Jefferey sent her a follow-up message: “OMG you really looked uncomfortably [sic] tonight. Try dressing like a normal woman. Doesn’t KGW pay you enough for a wardrobe makeover?”
In response, Vespa wore five different high-waisted pants during separate newscasts throughout the weekend; meanwhile, a conversation regarding the policing of female bodies started to brew on Vespa's Facebook page.
On Sunday, Vespa addressed the man’s comments on-air.
“This is dumb," Vespa said of Jeffery’s message. "We know that. These are my pants. I like them. I bought them."
"The thing is, I posted about this on social media and it really hit a nerve with people. Hundreds are sounding off about the pressure that women obviously face, especially those in the public eye, to embody the epitome the body of physical attractiveness at all times," Vespa continued. "If we don't, it's somehow seen as a sign that we're less credible, or less capable, and by and large, guys don't have to deal with this, as my awesome male coworkers can and have attested to."
Commenters agreed with Vespa regarding this inequity.
Erika Thomas, an evening anchor with 5NEWS, commented, “I’m am evening anchor who’s not a size 2 and have been criticized for my weight many times... just last week, I got a lovely email telling me that a chiffon blouse and black slacks (when 99% of the time I wear dresses) were ‘unprofessional’ and I should dress differently if I wanted to be ‘taken seriously.’”
“Thank you for posting this! The pressure that society puts on girls and women is ridiculous and harmful,” another commenter wrote.
“PREACH! This is fantastic Maggie. It really bothers me hearing people harassing hard working journalists for what they wear,” Scott Perry, a photographer for KATU News, wrote. “I see it so much in this business. I hope one day people will eventually stop.”
Vespa's mother, who worked at as a news anchor in Peroria, Ill., also sympathized with her plight.
“She talked about getting horrible, toxic comments from people and unbelievably sexist things that make [Jeffery’s comments] look pale in comparison,” Vespa told the Washington Post.
"Our goal here is to send a message, to women, to girls, to everyone. Dress how you want, look how you want," Vespa said on-air. "And if anyone tries to make you feel less than because of that, that's their problem, not yours. In other words, there is no one way for a normal woman to look or be. Ten years ago I would have needed someone to remind me of that, now I'm very comfortable to let it roll off my back while I wear my high-waisted pants."
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