I’m sure you’ve seen this video by now: A meteorologist (Liberté Chan) is giving the weather update. She’s wearing a black, beaded, cocktail-like dress (because her other dress didn’t work with the green screen) During the live segment, a male co-anchor hands her a sweater to cover up with because “we’re getting a lot of emails about the dress.”
It’s a strange video to watch, but it showcases what I mean when I talk about policing women’s bodies.
At 1:21 in the video, the anchors go on to read some of the complaint emails out loud. Repeatedly, we hear how “inappropriate” her outfit was:
What caught my attention most in the video above wasn’t the general public outraging all over the place and policing a woman’s body on television, or the fact that her co-anchors thought it was funny to basically body shame her on tv, but that the woman in question, felt that she had to justify her outfit and apologize for it:
Holding up her original outfit — the one that didn’t work with the green screen — she describes it as “this was very demure”
“I’m sorry if I was inappropriate,” she says.
“Sorry about the dress if I offended anyone. You know what? tomorrow, I will completely knock it out of the park.”
She felt the need to promise superior performance as a way of making up for her body’s “failure.”
In her apologies I hear echoes of my own excuses for a body that’s not as slim (read attractive) as it once was. During my vacation I saw a guy that I used to hang out with. His first words to me were: you’ve gotten thicker. I’m certain that my face did exactly what hers did when her co-anchor handed her that sweater. It kind of fell and then I laughed it off. I don’t think I used the words “I’m sorry,” but I certainly found other ways to apologize for my body’s “failure.” And then I hated myself for apologizing.
Many of us know this cycle intimately. We often feel the need to apologize for our bodies — their appearance and apparel–and what we do with them. For the people that we sleep with or the entirely too-short length of our dresses. We say “sorry” for the extra fat that we carry on our bottoms and the embarrassing way that our turkey arm’s jiggle.
We police our own bodies to pre-empt the apologies that we are sure to make. We stuff our wobbly bits into control tops and corsets and body shapers and chicken wing our arms to provide better angles in pictures.
I don’t look down on Liberté Chan for her apologies — I sympathize.
*This all happened over the weekend and since then, the meteorologist and her co-anchors have all released statements to assure the public that: ha ha, it was just a joke. We were joking.You all just don’t get the context.
I watched the rebuttal video and I still don’t get it. The context seems to be that they have a “jokey” atmosphere at work where they poke fun at one another and pull “at least 6.8 gags” on their show each day. And handing her a sweater on air and telling her to put it on was done “in the spirit of satirizing the viewer complaints and to trade the LBD for something that isn’t so much evening wear.” I don’t think the word satire means what they think it means.