Many years ago my mother relayed to me a conversation she’d had with two of her friend’s daughters about Barbara Walters’ work as a journalist. The young women said they didn’t like Ms. Walters because they didn’t like her clothes.
I was confused by their reaction. Why would Barbara Walters’ clothes be a reason to not like her as a journalist? Clothes have little to do with the work of doing research, crafting questions, fielding the back and forth for places to interject, deciding when to push, when to pull, and how to interact with someone to get a story. I can’t imagine how clothes would impact that work.
Was it that these young women couldn’t push past their own personal preferences to see what the journalist was doing? Did they register unappealing clothes and stop? Did they get far enough to actually evaluate the interview, the technique that this reporter used in her work? Was it that in the world of mass media clothes were now a first barrier to get to the heart of what was being presented?
It wasn’t that Ms. Walters was a fashion designer. And, even if she was I know of at least one fashion designer who wears the same basic outfit frequently so as to save his energy for his work. Were the clothes distracting? Could they not hear the questions she was asking her subject because the cut or color was in the way?
Was it that these two young women were so self-conscious about themselves that they pushed that mentality at everyone else in their world? And if so doesn’t that suck?
And, more importantly, where does this tendency stop? Clothes? Hair? Glasses? Facial scars? Gender? Skin Color? Weight? Hearing aids? Wheelchairs? Sexual preference?
As I look back at this memory I am even more astounded, and far more frustrated, than I was then. I didn’t understand it then. And I still don’t. But now it also pisses me off.
How does this type of thinking start? Clothes? Seriously?
I liked Barbara Walters. I thought she was a good reporter. I don’t think I ever paid attention to her clothes. There might be reasons to not like her as a reporter. But clothes? I don’t think so.