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Why 95.8% of Female Newscasters Have the Same Hair

These two pictures show Esther Katro presenting local news in Arkansas. The only difference is the TV news makeover. The way a woman chooses to present herself is very individual, the result of years of consideration and experiment by the time she is ready to join the workforce. But for a woman in TV news, her look will be shaped by outside forces, whether from management or from audience feedback. The pressure to look a certain way for television reporters is not necessarily to make them look better, but to make them less distracting. The result is that they end up looking the same across the country and up and down the dial.   

So what are the so-called rules of on-air hair? Anchors, reporters, and industry experts interviewed for this piece laid them out: Wear your hair down, in a smooth style that hits at the collarbone or above. Updos and complicated styles are a no, as are drastic color changes. Youthful appearance is key (better dye those grays away!). A bit of wave is okay (and increasingly popular at some stations), but ringlets and kinky curls are not.

It's not just perception, either. Researchers at the University of Texas, Austin, analyzed more than 400 publicity images for local broadcast journalists and found that 95.8 percent of female anchors and reporters had smooth hair. About two-thirds had short or medium-length cuts. Nearly half of the women were blond. Zero had gray hair. Just one black woman in the UT study sample wore her natural curls.

The custom does not affect all women reporters equally. Black women spend an inordinate amount of time and money trying to conform to expectations for their hair, and older women must fight against the forces of time. News anchors do not want their looks to distract from their work, but must they sacrifice their sense of identity to keep a job? Read about the women in TV news who deal with that pressure at InStyle.  -via Metafilter


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I find this passage from the article very interesting:

“Viewers write in, or call in and complain, and yell about the way women look in way disproportionate numbers compared to men,” says Kelly McBride, a senior vice president at the Poynter Institute who consults with newsrooms and runs journalist trainings across the country. “The expectation for women to look young and pretty with smooth skin and smooth hair — and to conform to this very narrow standard — is so disproportionate. Men are allowed to be bald. They’re allowed to have curly hair. They're allowed to have straight hair; they're allowed to have hair that’s a little bit longer, a little bit shorter. They have so much more range of acceptability.”

... and I'm curious as to the gender makeup of the viewers that complained. I have yet to meet a man who complained about a woman's hairstyle.
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