Okay, this really fucking pisses me off…

Pardon the indelicate and unladylike language, but when you see what follows, I’m sure you’ll agree with me for using it:

Possibly even more earsplitting than the chatter about Katie Couric’s plans to leave her post at NBC’s “Today” show for the “CBS Evening News” is the talk about whether she can cut it. Again and again commentators have mouthed off on whether they think she has the “gravitas” to handle the position. An article in the New York Observer asks an interesting question: What is gravitas? It’s not Couric’s oft-cited attributes (or weaknesses, depending on whom you ask): her legs and perky giggle. (Never mind her interviewing skills or ability to hold her own on-air for three-hour stretches.)

How exactly has the term gained traction as the defining characteristic of a worthy evening news anchor? It seems that “dignity” or “trustworthiness” would be sufficient. If you ask Connie Chung, gravitas requires something more specific: balls. Well, the Observer says that “delicacy prevented” Chung from actually defining it as such, but the suggestion was made nonetheless (leave it to Broadsheet to throw delicacy to the wayside). She did say that “it is essentially a chauvinistic word.”

Chung, who co-anchored the “Evening News” for two years, may know a thing or two about what it takes to make it in this boys club. She said that David Carr’s recent New York Times column, in which he concluded that “the fact that networks seem willing to concede that the best man for the job is clearly a woman means that it just isn’t the same job anymore,” drove her nuts. “The news business is changing, so the importance of the evening news is diminished, so therefore it’s finally acceptable to people if it’s a woman who anchors,” she said. “It’s really a shame, because I’d really love for it to be the same-thing level of prestige — but with a woman.”

As the Observer points out, there is one example of a female anchor holding her own, but only by accident. Elizabeth Vargas has taken charge of ABC’s “World News Tonight” after coanchor Bob Woodruff was seriously wounded while reporting in Iraq. But don’t forget the upset over her upcoming maternity leave — you can almost hear the detractors scream “See! So unfit and unreliable!”

Chung’s words — and the whole “gravitas” debate — echo back to Maureen Dowd’s Dec. 10 column, which recounted a conversation she’d had with a male TV exec who said that Vargas, then under consideration for the position, might not have the “gravitas to hold that anchor chair.” One of Dowd’s conclusions seems incredibly relevant now: “By the time women get to take over something — like Hollywood or Bush administration diplomacy — the thing is already devalued beyond recognition.”

See, this is what’s so fucking insane about the US TV news business. If it’s not the whorish obsequiousness toward BushCo (and other corporate interests), it’s this blatant sexism that still, after all these years of feminism, pervades that industry, just as it so tiresomely and boringly does every other.

So let me just ask all you punditoids this: Why, in the name of all the Goddesses, are women considered not serious enough to be nightly-news anchors in the US? It can’t be because they’re any less capable of asking the appropriate questions; Helen Thomas recently mopped the floor with Dubya’s ass, and polished it to a high shine. And she’s a frickin’ octogenarian! She’s been doing this for a living since JFK was in the White House. So don’t tell me women can’t ask hard questions…just look at Helen, and marvel at how she has more guts than all the men in the White House press corps combined.

And up here, north of the 49th Parallel, we’ve had women anchors for so long that the very idea of women NOT being anchors is frankly absurd. Sandie Rinaldo of CTV’s nighttime newscast comes to mind. She’s on weekends now, but when Lloyd Robertson retires, guess who’ll come out of the wings to replace him? If not Sandie, it will surely be Lisa LaFlamme–another estimable lady who can hold her own all alone behind that big ol’ honkin’ desk. (I’d be seriously surprised if it were another man. I often get the feeling they’re only using Ravi Baichwal so’s to keep up with CBC’s Ian Hanomansing–a.k.a. Ian Hanomandsome, in my heart-of-hearts. And yeah, women do look–got a problem with that???)

So when I see all this hogwash about women lacking “gravitas” enough to be anchors, I call FUCKING BULLSHIT! Equal is equal. Isn’t it? Or have we not progressed since the bad old days when Christine Craft was basically shafted for having a birthday? After frickin’ YEARS of dutifully letting others remake her in the image THEY had in mind???

The industry is, let’s face it, sick. When male anchors are allowed to get as old as Methuselah while woman are still expected to be perky, cute and not terribly bright, it’s obvious that someone is too obsessed with image, and not concerned enough with quality. No wonder “the thing is already devalued beyond recognition”, as MoDo says.


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