Chances are, by now, you’ve seen the footage. It’s the video from Channel 9 in which two television reporters clash over their clothes. They’re both wearing white and so is the other guest joining them. They’re about to go on air. Someone needs to change.
A tense exchange ensues before one of the reporters puts a black jacket on.
The leaked footage has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times in the past five days.
Part of the clip was aired on Jimmy Kimmel Live over the weekend so even if no one in Australia had watched it, it’s still been seen by millions of Americans. Even by modest standards, it’s gone viral.
And, my god, that makes me feel dreadful for both women but Amber Sherlock in particular. She has been cast as a petty diva at best and a vain bully at worst and is in the eye of an intense storm as a result.
In reality she was just doing her job. On a scale from one to epic meltdown, Sherlock would barely score a two. She firmly repeated a request a few times. She didn’t yell or hurl expletives. Most of us have probably witnessed behaviour far worse. Most of us have probably behaved worse at one point or another.
We all have pressure points in our lives and we don’t always act our very best under pressure. For the vast majority of us, our off moments, the times when we snap or get irritated or lash out, are rarely – if ever – captured on film. Most of us are lucky enough to not even need to contemplate one of our worst moments being shared for the world to see. Sherlock was not so lucky. The world watched and has jumped on this “catfight” with predictable fervour.
What Sherlock – or anyone else – wears on air shouldn’t matter: it should be inconsequential. But it’s not. At least not for women.
Television is a visual medium and for women this still carries with it exacting standards. Viewers do care what women wear on screen and they are all too happy to share their feedback – good, bad and awful – directly with the presenters and television stations. Men escape this entirely as Channel 9’s Karl Stefanovic proved with a secret experiment in 2015.
“I’ve worn the same suit on air for a year – except for a couple of times because of circumstance – to make a point,” Stefanovic said. “I’m judged on my interviews, my appalling sense of humour – on how I do my job, basically. Whereas women are quite often judged on what they’re wearing or how their hair is … that’s [what I wanted to test].”
The results of his test were persuasive: not a single viewer complained or noticed.
“But women, they wear the wrong colour and they get pulled up. They say the wrong thing and there’s thousands of tweets written about them. Women are judged much more harshly and keenly for what they do, what they say and what they wear.”
That is the context for Amber Sherlock’s insistence that her colleague change. Not vanity, not being catty, not being a diva. Knowing that three women all wearing white on screen at the same time would prompt criticism.
At 40 years of age, having dedicated her career to the high pressured, highly competitive, reality of live television, it’s a travesty that a professional like Sherlock would gain global notoriety for a single tense exchange with a colleague. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t springs to mind.