PSA: Can We Stop Shaming Pregnant Anchors?
A Chicago meteorologist and expectant mom was shamed for wearing a form-fitting dress on the air. She joins a growing list of anchors who have had to contend with similar criticism.
When Morgan Kolkmeyer, a meteorologist for Chicago's local news station WGN and an expectant mom, shared on Facebook that she had been shamed for not wearing maternity dresses on the air, it should have been a more gasp-worthy moment. But Kolkmeyer's experience echoes a ridiculous number of similar incidents.
On October 11, Kolkmeyer, who announced in July that she and her husband are expecting their first child, shared on her own account that an unnamed viewer had posted on the WGN Morning News Facebook page, "Please tell the weather girl to get some maternity dresses. She is so pretty, but wearing regular dresses at this stage of pregnancy looks so trashy."
Her response: "If you think this (maternity) dress is tight, wait till you see me in 3 months. Love, Trashy Weather Girl."
Kolkmeyer's post was met with a wave of support, including over 1K reactions and 500 comments.
The Troubling Trend of Body Shaming Pregnant Anchors
The Chicago meteorologist joins an unfortunately large group of broadcast journalists who have faced similar shaming while they were pregnant.
In June, a former Miss American contestant-turned-meteorologist in Ohio named Ashlee Baracy told TODAY Style that when she was expecting, comments like “I thought your face looked fuller" soon turned into warnings that she was gaining too much weight and should watch her heart. "Another said I was covering up temperatures on the weather map during my broadcasts," Baracy said.
She blasted her critics on social media, writing, "My weight gain is normal, my blood pressure is perfect."
In March 2019, Becky Ditchfield, who reports the weather for KUSA in Denver, told TODAY that she's routinely received mean messages from viewers complaining about her appearance. She shared on Instagram that one called her a freak whose belly sticks out "two miles." While discussing Ditchfield's experience, Al Roker pointed out how problematic it is that men are rarely called out in the same way for their appearance or size.
The epidemic has hit nationally-known broadcasters, as well. In early 2018, ABC meteorologist and then-expectant mom Ginger Zee was similarly criticized for wearing a form-fitting dress that showed off her growing bump. "You have complained about being pregnant for months," the female viewer tweeted. "Who chose that dress?" Zee replied, "I don't remember complaining. I remember being quite happy about it. And I am responsible for hiring or choosing my own wardrobe—so, me!”
And if you thought the issue was uniquely American, think again. Pregnant anchors have been shamed overseas, as well. In 2015, Australian anchor Sarah Harris was targeted by viewers and told her critics off on the air, saying, "I thought, you know what? Bugger it. I'm growing a baby. I hope those photos of me make other pregnant women feel better about their bodies, because I'm kind of fed up with the body shaming that happens when you're pregnant and the pressure that comes afterwards to lose the baby weight."
Lynn Smith, HLN anchor, host of On The Story and mom of two, can relate to her fellow journalists' frustrations.
"I've had my fair share of comments reminding me I was getting 'bigger' on viewer’s televisions, and I’ve always understood it’s a sad reality of this profession," she tells Parents.com. "No matter how hard I work writing and reporting, the vast majority of 'comments' are on my appearance—good and bad."
Smith has also received comments after giving birth that are just as disturbing as the comments during her pregnancy. "'Wow, that baby weight is really starting to come off,' said an actual viewer," Smith notes." "After you bring a human into the world, keep said human alive each day, and then dive back into an extreme profession, the pressure to take off your baby weight is unrealistic. Babies are important—not baby weight."
What People Need to Know
The good news is that the response to all of these women's stories was a groundswell of supportive commentary, which likely drowned out the far fewer nasty voices behind each shaming incident. But as long as anchors continue to be targeted by some viewers' vile, superficial words, we have a major problem—one that's rooted in sexism—and priorities that are fully out-of-whack. Broadcast journalism might be a visual media, but no pregnant anchor owes it to their viewers to look or dress a certain way.
As Smith implores viewers, "Please don’t assume it’s OK to comment on a woman’s body. Not when a woman is pregnant, after a woman is pregnant, or if a woman is thinking about getting pregnant. It’s never OK."