Sky Sports News, Charlie Webster, and the pretence of gender equality 0

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Sky Sports management are apparently upset at the decision of Charlie Webster, one of their Sky Sports News anchors, to appear in FHM. Without a shred of irony, the broadcaster is upset at the threat Webster’s photo-shoot represents to the credibility of its female presenters.

Surely there’s an obvious solution here: maybe Sky Sports should stop hiring female presenters purely on the basis of their appearance? Name a woman who works in front of one their cameras, and you can be certain that she’ll be catwalk-ready. All of them, without exception.

Sky isn’t the only offender with this kind of faux-equality, because you could easily level the same criticism at numerous other broadcasters, but they certainly don’t possess much credibility in any argument which demands that model-like presenters don’t do any…you know…modelling. It’s hypocrisy 101.

Sky, like many corporations, believe in the appearance of equality rather than the genuine existence of it. When a woman appears on screen, within a sporting context, somewhere a box is being ticked and an employment statistic is becoming more favourable.

“We need a woman, any woman…just as long as she’s attractive. We need a black guy too, maybe a bisexual, and a Muslim probably wouldn’t hurt. Look at our diversity. LOOK AT IT!”

For every Charlie Webster at Sky, there are probably five plain Janes who are stuck behind a desk and limited to research. Webster is the acceptable face of women in sport, and she can also be used to provide a neat, politically-correct xx/xy balance behind the SSN desk with Jim White.

The problem is, that all of this is very transparent, and whereas Sky believe that they are a modern broadcaster, and part of the war against inequality and discrimination, they are actually part of the problem. The prejudice is still prevalent, it’s merely been focused in on a more specific group: “we believe in equal opportunities for women, just not the unattractive ones.”

Unfortunately, the perception of Charlie Webster and her credibility isn’t damaged by her appearance in a Lads’ magazine, because it’s already been compromised by the hiring policy of her principle employer. She may well be a sports trivia bore, have collected Panini stickers when she was younger, and followed a team home and away all her life, but that’s just not the association Sky have created around their on-camera female talent.

If you want to promote equal opportunities and credibility, then you have to genuinely believe in it rather than just be pretending to do so.

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