Fox News Culture and the death of American Corporate Feminism

Co-host of Fox and Friends Gretchen Carlson du...

Co-host of Fox and Friends Gretchen Carlson during an interview. Cropped and balanced. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Roger Ailes downfall at Fox News has revealed much about the company and its culture. His downfall also shows us the gap between appearance and reality for Fox News culture and American Corporate Feminism. On the surface, the Murdochs claim they knew nothing of Ailes behavior. Despite many complaints over many years, with some lawsuits, the Murdochs insisted that they knew nothing about what he had done. Their denials, the appearance, does not bode well for a culture change required to discuss the reality revealed by various lawsuits. However, the common Murdoch excuse, that they did not know what was going on in their company, is only a symptom of the deeper problem.

The gap between appearance and reality is what defines a corporate culture

The deeper problem is the gap between appearance and reality of American Corporate Feminism. On the surface, Fox News appears to support women in on air roles. Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson appear as strong role models for women who have worked their way to the top. Yet, beneath the surface, Fox News culture habituated the women to be sexual objects and to expect to be degraded. It was the culture; it was the way things were done. Consider two episodes that show how the culture destroys modern American feminism.

The “Spin”

With Roger Ailes, women were expected to the “spin”.[1] This is where they turn around in front of him so that he can check what they look like from behind. He appeared to explain the reason for this in his legal statement: “television is a visual medium; comments about appearance are common because people watch television, they do not merely listen to it.”[2] In effect, Ailes admits that women are sexual commodities to be packaged for male consumption, for his consumption.

Men never had to do the spin. There is no evidence that Ailes ever asked a man to “turn around and give me a spin”.

The “Trunk Show”

According to Andrea Tantaros, female talent at Fox were expected, twice a year, to take part in a trunk show. In her legal claim she stated:

“In addition, each year Fox News conducts a “trunk show” at which female on-air personalities pick out their wardrobe.  Fox News’s “trunk show” requires its female employees, including Tantaros, to dress and undress in front of Fox News’s wardrobe personnel in the middle of a room without even the benefit of a curtain to act as a dressing room.[3]

According to this claim, the women have to strip down to their underwear in front of their female colleagues. The reason for this is that competition for the best outfits is intense.

“In front of a group of women, you are expected to completely disrobe,” Tantaros says. “You have no privacy, and they make comments on, you know, your underwear set.” She commiserated with some of the other women about the indignity of the event, but the competition for the best dresses kept them coming back.[4]

The process is confirmed, to some extent, by Gwen Marder, Fox News’ Fashion Director, who directs the trunk shows. She could confirm if Tantaros’s account is correct.

Gwen and her small team spend just about every working day out at showrooms and visiting designers’ studios, gathering an arsenal of TV-friendly pieces….and twice a year, she holds a “trunk show” for the on-air talent. Each anchor is given a two-hour window to “shop” at the ad-hoc store that Gwen has merchandised (time slots are given on a first-come, first-served basis–no preferential treatment for Lou Dobbs).[5]

If Tantaros’s allegation is verified, that the women have to strip down as a group, then it confirms what we know from the “spin”. The women are treated in a way that subjects them to a sexual inequality.

If men are not expected to do this, why are the women?

The appearance and reality of men and women at Fox News.

The gap between the appearance and reality shows us that Fox News culture is sexist and that corporate American feminism is a convenient façade. Underneath the surface, the strong (the men) do as they like and the weak (the women) do as they must (spin, strip and suck[6]). **

**Roger Ailes has denied all charges and all claims at all times even though he has settled lawsuits alleging sexual harassment.

[1] His crude and cavalier behavior toward women was well known inside the company. “Turn around and give me a spin” was Ailes’s frequent greeting for Fox News’s female personalities. http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/09/roger-ailes-fox-news-final-days

[2] http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a48768/andrea-tantaros-roger-ailes-fox-news/ The statement is taken from his court filing in response to a sexual harassment lawsuit.

[3] http://www.politico.com/media/f/?id=00000156-b7e7-de38-a3df-b7ff973d0002

[4] http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a48768/andrea-tantaros-roger-ailes-fox-news/

[5] http://www.glamour.com/story/behind-the-scenes-of-a-newswom

See also

The stylist has what Kelly calls a “trunk show” twice a year, bringing Fox News anchors a selection of clothing she has approved. Talent, including Kelly, can pick what they want to wear for the season from the approved selection, mixing and matching pieces to create new looks. http://www.latimes.com/fashion/alltherage/la-ig-megyn-kelly-20120318-story.html

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/jul/29/roger-ailes-sexual-harassment-fox-news-laurie-luhn see also http://www.rawstory.com/2016/07/kissing-touching-oral-sex-fox-news-employees-say-harassment-problem-goes-way-beyond-roger-ailes/

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About lawrence serewicz

An American living and working in the UK trying to understand the American idea and explain it to others. The views in this blog are my own for better or worse.
This entry was posted in accountability, demagogic, democracy, ethics, journalism, management, public opinion, reputation management and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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