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Back when we were kids, growing up on the mean streets of Mahopac, N.Y., my brother and I were hooked on a record we bought at the local music store. It was a compilation of Z100’s different on-air spoofs—pranks, characters, etc.

Anyhow, some of the skits have never left my mind. One was a song, “The Devil Dance,” mocking the New Jersey Devils. And another was called, “Small Boobs.” It was a song, made to sound like a commercial jingle, about how all the local news networks always had a lead female anchor with small breasts. It went something like: Smaller boobs/she’s got smaller boobs/’cause small and flat is where it’s at/On the nightly news.

It was good for a 12-year-old boy’s chuckle.

•••

Yesterday was a strange one. I handed in a book the night before, and was feeling great. Went to the gym, hopped on a machine, turned on the TV. Only four or five networks are available. ESPN was talking about the Steelers. CNN was in a commercial. I flipped to Fox News, channel 66 or 68 on the dial. It was one of the network’s morning shows, and it featured the eternal Gerald Rivera on a couch, surrounded by four women—all in skirts and heels. Now, as has rightly been argued on my Twitter stream 100,000 times by now, nothing is wrong with a woman choosing to wear skirts and heels. Literally, nothing.

Regardless, I fired off this Tweet …

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 10.40.34 AMHoooooooooooly shit, did I get slammed. Slammed, slammed, slammed, slammed. Slammed on Twitter, slammed on Facebook. I’ve been slammed before, but this was a whole new level of slamming. And you know what—I absolutely, 100-percent deserved it. Fuck, I’m looking at the photo now and none of the women are dressed like hookers, or even close to hookers. They’re wearing short skirts and heels.

It was a ridiculously shitty brain fart, and—in this modern era of social media public shaming (which I’ve certainly partaken in)—I deserve the flogging. We all control what we write. It was my phone and my words. And, really, I owe the women pictured an apology (To be official: I’m sorry). Because it was bullshit. Also, to be clear, this isn’t me covering my ass, or cowering, or whatever. I don’t have a boss, so I’m not losing a job. I work for myself. I haven’t been called into an office that doesn’t exist. It was just a fucking dumb Tweet. And, again, to the women of Out#, I was wrong. Also, this wasn’t a liberal-conservative thing (I only know the political leanings of one of the women pictured) or a Geraldo thing. It was a me thing: Me Tweeting without thinking about the way the message would be received.

You called the women hookers!

No, I didn’t.

You called the women hookers!

No, I didn’t.

So what did you do?

I said they’re dressed like hookers, because I hate the way television news treats women.

That’s a fucking stupid way of expressing it.

Um … well … eh. Yeah, you’re right.

•••

All that being said, I have a point to make. It doesn’t reduce the apology, or the wrongheadedness of a shit Tweet. Actually, I want to say that twice: It doesn’t reduce the apology, or the wrongheadedness of a shit Tweet. But it does explain where the sentiment behind the Tweet comes from.

Namely, I hate how women are treated, portrayed and utilized in televised media. I hate how they’re treated, portrayed and utilized at ESPN, I hate how they’re treated, portrayed and utilized at Fox News, I hate how they’re treated, portrayed and utilized at FS1. This isn’t something I’m making up—I’ve probably had this conversation with a dozen women in media (and I’ve written about it plenty of times before). You can be a man and look like lumpy mashed potato and last forever. F-o-r-e-v-e-r. From Geraldo to Chris Berman to Tom Jackson to Sean Hannity to a seemingly endless supply total, men rarely (if ever) age out/looks out of television. You can gain weight, lose weight, lose head hair, gain nasal hair—it barely matters. You will have a job, because an older man projects gravitas … seniority … worldliness. You don’t have to be sexy, perky, flirtatious. In fact, you shouldn’t be. You’re a guy. Be a guy.

The pressure on women, however, is ludicrous. It’s no secret (either that, or it’s the worst-kept secret) that looks play a MUCH larger role in the employability in women than men in television. It’s simultaneously laughable and disturbing. We were actually permitted a peek into the world a few years back, when Fox demoted America’s best football sideline reporter (Pam Oliver) and replaced her with, eh, someone significantly less talented. It was the most transparent example of something that happens (in one form or another) all the time. Hell, look at sideline reporters in professional sports. Again, no secret—networks generally see this as a place for a perky, pretty (emphasis on pretty) young woman. But if you’re overweight, or not a beauty—good luck (Yes, there are surely examples. But they’re few and far—and almost never at the national level). Meanwhile, try getting women into the booths as play-by-play and color commentators of men’s sports. Try landing them those gigs. Again, it has happened. But almost never. They’re not even considered.

It’s no coincidence that the people doing the hiring, and making the decisions, are almost all men. It’s also, from a business sense, fiscally logical. ESPN’s audience is predominantly male. Fox News has many more male viewers than female viewers, too. Human beings are suckers for visual impulses. There’s a reason Sports Illustrated still publishes its Swimsuit Issue a solid three decades after it became clear the thing wasn’t cool. We want to be pleased. Attractive women are, to many men, pleasing.

But what happens when the women age? What happens when 28 turns 38, and 38 turns 48, and 48 turns 58? Again—men last. Hell, out here in Southern California, Fox (not Fox News) has a morning program, Good Day LA, that has become a running joke among friends. Here’s the cast from a promo shot …

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 11.02.59 AM

It’s not that Steve’s colleagues aren’t skilled. It’s that, when they reach ol’ Steve’s age, they sure as hell won’t be surrounded by four handsome guys. No chance in hell.

Bottom line: I have long hated that women are not treated as equals to men in media. It shouldn’t matter what you look like. You shouldn’t feel pressure to dress a certain way.* If you can report, you can report. If you can speak eloquently, you can speak eloquently.

Call me as asshole, call me a dick, call me what you want—again, I accept the criticism for a really stupid statement. But, when it comes to the issue at hand (the mistreatment of women in media), I know I’m right.

There needs to be an even playing field in television.

And there isn’t.

 * Yes, you’re right. Even if you want to wear heels and a short skirt. But NOT if you feel pressure to dress as such, or know there’s an expectation (stated or unstated) you dress as such.

PS: On Twitter, a ton of the insults came from people who use the term “Libtard” in their bios. As in, “I hate Libtards.” If you’re gonna rightly bash someone for his inappropriate labeling, I’d argue incorporating “retard” into any sort of sneer disqualifies your take.

16 Comments
  • Stone Gossardish

    They prob do get paid more to dress like they do, whether that’s like a hooker or not. Stern talks about this all the time, how Fox News sells it by who they hire and put on their network.

    Truth is hard for folks to digest, quite often

    January 13, 2016at7:27 pm Reply
  • SHAMPOO BRACELETS

    Dumb flamebait tweet in order for you to write up this clickbait/flamebait article.

    I am not impressed by your performance.

    January 13, 2016at7:35 pm Reply
    • sanford943

      Good grief what do you want from him. He didn’t use the usual if I offended any body line. Came out and admitted he was wrong, which most people in media don’t. Rush Limbaugh and others have said way worse and have never apologised.

      January 13, 2016at11:07 pm Reply
  • bryoneill11

    Social Justice Warriors at its finest!!!

    January 13, 2016at7:40 pm Reply
  • Cyberxion

    Maybe it’s not so much that folks genuinely misunderstood you, but that they were simply motivated to throw your personal politics back in your face by intentionally misrepresenting your tweet. I’m not saying that would be fair, but people’s tolerance for obnoxious shit-stirring is paper-thin, and the usual response to it is to illustrate to folks like you just how ridiculous you come across to everyone around you whenever you do it by shoving it right back in your faces.

    But eh, let’s be real here. You absolutely suggested that these women are whores, inasmuch as you quite clearly implied that their manner of dress was forced upon them by the network for the titillation of male viewers. Oh, I know, I know. You did it for the purpose of demonizing the network, but in your over-eagerness to give it a black eye you stupidly stripped the women of personal agency and devalued them by suggesting that their dress was all that they brought to the table.

    Which is of course why folks dislike you and your ilk so much. You try to make everything into an issue of gender-bias and whatnot, and in the doing almost always end up rather ironically coming off as deeply sexist yourselves. And not just in the way you demonize your own gender for a random, uncontrollable happenstance of conception, but in the way that you frequently strip women of their agency and reduce them to mere objects that exist only to be acted upon.

    Just a thought, but maybe that’s what folks actually took issue with here, Jeff.

    January 13, 2016at9:48 pm Reply
    • Ted Mark

      “Which is of course why folks dislike you and your ilk so much.” You realize, of course, that people of your “ilk” are disliked just as much for your phony sanctimonious bullshit?

      January 14, 2016at5:50 pm Reply
      • Dr.Excellent,AstonishinglyMD.

        not only that, those women at Fox News have no agency…they simply are not allowed, or are at least strongly encouraged not to wear slacks…that is well known

        January 18, 2016at3:56 am Reply
  • Billy

    You made a point in your post that they hire in these young, pretty women for their mostly male audience (no different than having a lot of young handsome men on daytime soap operas).

    If you already made the point that this is done to attract an audience, would it not then be in your best interest to check the ratings for men vs women and young vs old before jumping to the conclusion that the networks just want young, pretty women?

    At the end of the day if a young, pretty woman results in poor ratings (which equates to a loss of advertising revenue) why would they keep them hired at the risk of losing ratings, money and possibly the station?

    Of course, if the data shows otherwise — that having older or less attractive women equals high ratings and having young, pretty women equals lower ratings — then you have a practically irrefutable argument.

    January 13, 2016at10:37 pm Reply
  • Eric Williams

    Hey Jeff, I had never even heard of you before this tweet about the ladies of Fox. At least you are getting a little attention. You know, the same kind you received as a 12 year old little boy…

    January 14, 2016at11:33 pm Reply
    • benseattle

      Just for the record, “Eric,” admitting that you’re ignorant and have been living in a cave is no way to establish your credibility. For the record, most of us know that Jeff Perlman has been an outstanding sportswriter for a number of publications for years and his insights are always keen and useful. Time to open up the door to mom’s basement.

      January 18, 2016at10:50 pm Reply
      • Eric Williams

        Ben – You really got me on that one. I think I was 20-21 last time I used the Mom’s basement line. Yes, he showed very keen insight on this topic. I am really upset that I wasn’t able to “establish” any credibility with you. Now go smoke a bowl, hug a tree, and read the latest article from such an outstanding sportswriter. Please leave the politics to the adults. Go Panthers!

        January 19, 2016at2:03 am Reply
  • Rock Lancaster

    Here’s the problem: you were RIGHT. Screw the PC Police. Even worse, it looked like there were FIVE hookers on that set. Four female and one male. Just take a gander at Rivera’s ridiculous outfit, he looked like he was about to be picked up in a car at 4 o’clock in the morning by Eddie Murphy.

    January 18, 2016at2:59 am Reply
  • Rock Lancaster

    If it makes you feel any better, I remember back in the NBC days when Letterman used to be funny. Oprah had been on a hiatus and had lost a ton of weight. Who knows if she really got her stomach stapled or whatever, but that’s not the point.

    So on her first day back on her talk show for the start of the new season, she shows up in a ridiculous tight pants outfit as if she’s a stripper. Then every damn show thereafter (until she started ballooning again), Oprah was dressing up like she was on the prowl in a college bar to show off she’d lost a ton (both figuratively and literally). It was ridiculous.

    So Letterman, back when he was still edgy and funny, said basically the exact same thing you said: he joked that Oprah was now dressing like a hooker. And you know what? He was right. And we all laughed, and that was the end of it.

    January 18, 2016at3:11 am Reply
  • Dr.Excellent,AstonishinglyMD.

    Ailes: “Move That Damn Laptop, I Can’t See Her Legs!”

    Sherman relayed an anecdote of Ailes regarding former Fox News reporter Kiran Chetry: “Anchor Bob Sellers remembered Ailes once calling the control booth. ‘I was doing the weekend show with Kiran Chetry. He called up and said, ‘Move that damn laptop, I can’t see her legs!'”

    Ailes: “I Did Not Spend X-Number Of Dollars On A Glass Desk For Her To Wear Pant Suits”

    Sherman reports that Ailes “had admiration for [former Fox host Catherine Crier’s] legs” and was livid when she appeared on-air wearing pants:

    January 18, 2016at4:01 am Reply
  • JoeRecruitNik

    I’m late to the party but just saw the video of the blonde idiot who dresses like a hooker blast you for saying she dresses like a hooker.

    First, men on television wear suits. Could they go on TV wearing shorts and a tank top? If no, why not? Women do virtually the same thing with their skirts and blouses missing half the fabric (see the above picture).

    No, Jeff shouldn’t have compared them to hookers (he didn’t really compare them to hookers) but shouldn’t the right have backed him up on it since they, like their hero Trump, tell it like it is? Aren’t they sick of the PC police?

    They’re more sensitive than the “libtards” they like to ridicule (libtards is an abhorrent word).

    Jeff, you’re a good person for apologizing. It was a mistake to call them hookers (even though you didn’t), but you were spot on with the double standard.

    Women shouldn’t be pressured into using their looks for ratings–but they are–and they also should be held to the same standards as their male counterparts, which means they should dress like uptight female politicians.

    February 11, 2016at2:41 pm Reply
  • Margaret

    I just came by your twitter post. I have to completely agree with you. As a (pretty, young woman) the woman on FOX news and women who want to be attractive anywhere are told (by other woman) to dress as “hookers”. I get told, “Do you have low self esteem?” If they dressed like Hillary Clinton – “Oh, do you want to be pretty?” ,”It’s empowering!”, “We don’t do it for men, we it for ourselves!” When in fact, they dress “like hookers” to get attention from men who like to look at female bodies. It’s an epidemic.

    May 25, 2017at4:40 pm Reply
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