Sports network ESPN had a “Jane, you ignorant slut” moment recently when Tony Kornheiser, host of its Pardon the Interruption program, said on his radio show that ESPN television anchor Hannah Storm was wearing “a horrifying, horrifying outfit today. She’s got on red go-go boots and a Catholic school plaid skirt … way too short for somebody in her 40s or maybe early 50s by now.”
According to USA Today, the “kicker” was his comment: “She’s what I would call a Holden Caulfield fantasy at this point.” (I think the kicker was the “…maybe early 50s” line, seeing as Storm is 47.) Kornheiser also said, “She’s got on her typically very, very tight shirt. She looks like she has sausage casing wrapping around her upper body.” Kornheiser is known for what’s been described in multiple places as “humorous criticism of sports figures” but ESPN wasn’t amused by Kornheiser’s badmouthing of a colleague and suspended Kornheiser for two weeks.
Here’s Hannah Storm’s outfit.
Here’s Tony Kornheiser.
I don’t like this costume-y and matchy-matchy outfit on Storm, but age isn’t the issue. Context is the issue. If Storm were going to the grocery store or a casual dinner out or a sports event as a spectator, she has the legs and figure to carry this off. But on TV shows and networks where viewers might expect a certain gravitas from on-air talent, an anchor or in-studio reporter probably doesn’t want an outfit to say “cute.” She would be better off with clothes that proclaim “powerful” or “in charge.” On other shows and networks, the standards are different. If Giuliana Rancic of E! News wore Storm’s outfit, she’d look downright serious.
Storm’s context is the “guys who watch sports” demographic. Need I say more about that audience’s conservative mindset? Just check out this NextRound post on “Slutty Outfits on ESPN Sets.” I think the only things that would qualify as non-slutty here are Hillary Clinton pantsuits and burkas. Of course, the pantsuits would be derided as dykey and burkas would be criticized for revealing women’s naughty, sexy eyes. You can’t please all of the people all of the time … and there are places where you can’t ever please them. I suspect sports television falls into the latter category when it comes to women’s appearances.
This does bring up an aspect of my Wear What You Want™ policy that I’ve mentioned before. My policy is about trying something new and having fun whenever the occasion permits. There are times when, if people don’t like your look, you just say, “Fuck you! You’re the ones with bad taste.”
But there are other times when envelope-pushing garb can have a serious effect: you can lose your friends’ respect, your job, your court case or even your life. My new favorite example of inappropriate dressing is the mother of a groom who insisted on wearing a pale, pale, pale, pale … really pale! … pink dress to her son’s wedding. Basically, she was wearing white, with the barest hint of pink . She could have saved a lot of money if she skipped the gown and carried a homemade sign that said, “I’m psychotic!” because that’s the message sent by wearing white to your son’s wedding.
So Wear What You Want™ but be prepared for the consequences and learn how to distinguish minor consequences (Giuliana Rancic doesn’t like your Oscar gown, little kids point and stare at your rainbow-hued Manic Panic hair) from major consequences (your family has you committed, the Taliban beats you mercilessly). If you’re up for dealing with major consequences, more power to you.
As for the Kornheiser vs Storm case, I’m going to take a guess at Hannah Storm’s thoughts in the very order in which she had them. I am qualified to do this based on my years of being abused for wearing red lipstick and heels in conservative workplaces.
- My top is not that tight.
- You WISH a woman in a tight top and a schoolgirl skirt would pay attention to you.
- I never paid attention to you before, but now that you’ve made me notice you, I realize you have a face made for radio.
- I’m going to get you suspended.
- See you in two weeks!