After witnessing the sexist criticism of his colleagues, Karl Stefanovic decided to conduct an experiment. The host of Channel Nine’s Today show wore the same blue suit on air for two days in a row. Then three days. A month passed by. No one noticed.
Now, a full year has passed, and he wore the same cheap Burberry knock-off suit every day, and no one noticed.
Not a single audience member, fashion commentator, or anyone else in the media has noticed or cared.
“No one has noticed; no one gives a shit,” Stevanovic said to Fairfax Media.
However, his co-host Lisa Wilkinson still receives regular biting criticism of her appearance. She revealed in her Andrew Olle lecture last year that one email asked: “Who the hell is Lisa’s stylist? Today’s outfit is particularly jarring and awful. Get some style.” These same viewers – who are apparently incredibly fashion forward – have failed to notice the same suit on their screens everyday for a whole year.
“But women, they wear the wrong colour and they get pulled up. They say the wrong thing and there’s thousands of tweets written about them,” Stevanovic said.
“Women are judged much more harshly and keenly for what they do, what they say and what they wear.”
Bearing witness to the disparate treatment his co-host faced prompted his experiment. The ‘experiment’ could even be hailed as a protest.
“I’ve worn the same suit on air for a year – except for a couple of times because of circumstance – to make a point.
“I’m judged on my interviews, my appalling sense of humour – on how I do my job, basically – whereas women are quite often judged on what they’re wearing or how their hair is … that’s [what I wanted to test].”
Tracey Spicer recognises this double standard, and looked at the time and money she was spending on her appearance to meet the industry and societal expectations of what she should look like. She decided to start stripping it back.
In her inspirational TEDxSouthBankWomen speech earlier this year, Spicer discussed becoming what she had despised; “a painted doll who spent an hour a day and close to $200 a week putting on a mask.”
As she was in the middle of her elaborate and complicated beauty ritual, her daughter asked, “Mum, why do women put on make-up and men don’t?”
“Darling, society has unrealistic expectations about the way women look,” she replied. “It’s not fair. But I’m going to do everything I can, in my own small way, to change that. Always remember: you’re beautiful just the way you are.”
This effort to inspire change culminated in Spicer’s TEDx talk, where she wiped off her make-up, squirted water in her hair, removed her heels and her tight office style dress. Underneath, she wore casual shorts and a singlet, proclaiming “This is the real Tracey.”
The clip went viral and has attracted 1.7 million views to date.
She says she’s been decreasing her extravagant beauty routine every month since. Spray tans, hair treatments, and serums are gone. She has halved blow dries and dye jobs and reduced her makeup routine to a bare minimum.
Happier than ever, Ms Spicer now has more time to play with her kids, paddle board and play the guitar.
According to one survey, women spend on average 27 minutes a day getting ready for work. When worked out over the course of a lifetime, that’s 3276 hours, whereas men spend only 1092 on their preening routines.
That’s a lot of time women spend on their appearance.
In fact, in that wasted time one could complete a pre-MBA course at Oxford University. Or become proficient at an instrument. Or learn another language.
Tracey acknowledges in her TEDx speech that this societal expectation that women’s appearance is more important than what is in their heart or mind isn’t going to change overnight, however small steps towards resistance challenge this expectation.
Despite receiving questions about the status of her health, and comments suggesting she is tired, Ms Spicer is continuing in her quest to deconstruct the beauty myth. Now when a colleague tells her she looks sick or tired, she asks: “How is that relevant to the work I’m doing?”
Karl Stefanovic’s experiment and Tracey Spicer’s deconstruction of the beauty myth highlight just how relevant and important it is to encourage a public dialogue in the unrealistic expectations placed upon women’s appearance. Instead of criticising women’s clothes, crow’s feet, or hair, both television personalities are calling for women to instead be judged on the quality of their work and the content of their character.
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