On Saturday, Australian Today show host Karl Stefanovic revealed that he has been wearing the same blue Burberry knock-off suit to work everyday for a year to make a point about double standards for men and women.
He became frustrated when he noticed that viewers were criticizing his female colleagues — specifically co-host Lisa Wilkinson — on their appearance: what they wear and how their hair and makeup is done. This didn't sit right with him, because he hadn't ever experienced this type of criticism: Instead, viewers more appropriately gave him feedback on his performance at his job, which is interviewing and reporting.
So he decided to conduct an experiment: He would wear the same suit to work indefinitely — and after a year, not a single audience member has mentioned the fashion faux pas.
He told Fairfax Media:
"No one has noticed; no one gives a shit. 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.
"Women are judged much more harshly and keenly for what they do, what they say and what they wear."
What makes his findings even more disappointing is that it's reverse sexism: The majority of those criticizing the looks of the women on air are, in fact, women.
"I think in this situation, for women on TV, it's mainly women judging other women on what they wear. So, 'Is that sexism?'" Stefanovic asked Wilkinson on the show today, still donning his signature suit.
She replied, "I would have to say, from the emails I've had over the years I've been in this job, most of them have been from women. And I don't know how we've kind of got into that space, where it leans towards a lack of support. Although I would say the majority of women are really, really encouraging. I get a lot of really good stuff. But when I get criticism, more often than not, it's from women."
Stefanovic's experiment demonstrated that, at this point, women in the media cannot avoid scrutiny based on their looks. Men in the same business can pretty much wear whatever they feel like, no makeup, and never hear a word about it.
It's unfortunate that the biggest bullies of women are fellow females, but it's refreshing to see a man care so deeply about how women treat women. To answer Stefanovic's question: Yes, it is sexism — even if its women-to-women. And it's time for women to start caring as much as he does.
You can see the video of the co-hosts' conversation from today here.
What do you think of Stefanovic's experiment?