On Monday Libby Copeland published a piece on Slate's Double X critiquing the phenomenon of female anchors wearing sleeveless dresses. "The seriousness of the news (OK, seriousness sometimes) has been completely decoupled from the seriousness of the attire of the women presenting it," she wrote.
I'm pretty sure she was trying to demonstrate the unfair rules female anchors have to play by. Still, I couldn't help but read the piece as deeply unfair, even insulting, to the anchors themselves, and to other successful, highly visible women. When was the last time you read a full-length article or even a blurb detailing the fashion choices of male anchors?
I understand where Copeland is coming from. Do I think that the decision to seat Megyn Kelly behind a glass table was unnecessary and had more to do with showing off her bare legs than with the fact that people wanted to "see" the anchor? Yes. Do I wish Fox News would include a little more age diversity in its female host lineup? Of course.
But I also think that Mika Brzezinski should be able to wear whatever kind of sleeve she wants -- cap sleeves, peasant sleeves, Juliet sleeves (??), no sleeves -- without us saying that her choice detracts from the "seriousness of the news" or that she lacks the "dignity" more clothing affords.
Haven't we long since come to terms with the fact that women can wear short skirts and red lipstick, love fashion and champion women's rights? That describing a woman as smart and sexy is not, in fact, an oxymoron?
Isn't it possible that Gayle King simply liked that sleeveless purple dress? Or that Melissa Harris-Perry had more important things to think about than that her dress would be called better "suited for a night out in the meatpacking district"? Isn't it just as much Hoda Kotb's perogrative to wear high heels as it is Rachel Maddow's to wear a "conveyer belt of gray blazers"?
The problem with Copeland's piece is that she removes all agency from the grown women wearing the clothes. And she accepts the reality that women who wear certain clothes are seen as "unserious" rather than exploring what it would take to change that.