Amber Sherlock's all-white controversy says more about TV than women

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Amber Sherlock's all-white controversy says more about TV than women

There are few things the broader public enjoys more than a chance to hack into women for being "petty", "catty" or "bitchy". Once the breeze sends out a whiff that women somewhere might be disagreeing with each other, it's a gleeful free-for-all as everyone rushes to discuss the inherently competitive nature of "females" and how we're all really, sadly, our own worst enemies.

And if the women in question are conventionally attractive in the way societal pressures demand we must be, they can have the added enjoyment of being defined as "bimbos". Ain't it grand to be a dame?

Sherlock whipped out her phone to contact the wardrobe deparment. Photo: Nine News

Sherlock whipped out her phone to contact the wardrobe deparment. Photo: Nine News

I can only presume this is why Mumbrella chose to share leaked video of Nine journalist Amber Sherlock having a very minor meltdown over the sartorial choices of her colleague, Julie Snook. The pair were appearing together in an afternoon segment alongside psychologist Sandy Rea and had, perhaps unfortunately, all turned up wearing white.

In the footage, Sherlock is shown berating Snook for failing to organise a jacket. As we hear (repeatedly), Sherlock instructed her to find one two and a half hours ago. Snook apologises and explains she's been too busy; that she is in fact still rather busy, and would be happy to leave the spot entirely and get back to work "if it's a problem". Throughout it all, Rae looks rather amused. What a plum interaction for a psychologist to be privy to!

Fashion faux pas: Channel Ten's news reader Natarsha Belling wearing the Scanlan Theodore jacket which has gone viral. Photo: UNILAD

Fashion faux pas: Channel Ten's news reader Natarsha Belling wearing the Scanlan Theodore jacket which has gone viral. Photo: UNILAD

So, one seemingly arrogant tantrum down and a leaked video later and the bloodsport of laughing at women and their malicious ways is delivered for all to enjoy (alongside the supposedly fabulous guessing game of wondering who hates Sherlock enough to want to embarrass her like this). Aren't women silly?

But let's just slow down a minute and consider things from Sherlock's perspective. As a woman working in television journalism, she'd be very familiar with unsolicited commentary about her looks and wardrobe choices. Indeed, many of her peers have spoken out about these experiences, not all of which are exacted by the public. Remember when Natarsha Belling's 'penis-jacket' was turned into an actual story on Channel Nine news? The Channel Ten newsreader made the egregious error (apparently) of wearing a Scanlon & Theodore jacket on-air with a particular neckline and became an instant viral hit on UniLAD, Buzzfeed and Reddit. Other journalists have been even more closely scrutinised, with Tracey Spicer even immortalising the judgement in a 2012 TEDx talk.

I am prepared to be corrected on this, but I would bet one million farms that male television journalists are not subjected to this kind of treatment. Given they are allowed to age before the nation's eyes long after their similarly aged female colleagues are sent to the glue factory, I am also reasonably confident my stock of imaginary farms will remain unchanged. Hell, Karl Stefanovic wore the same suit on screen for a year and no one even noticed. Of course, he was hailed as a feminist hero afterwards because all men have to do is show up and they get given a medal. As ludicrous as it might seem to Average Joes not "in the business", perhaps Sherlock was simply safeguarding herself against what she saw as the inevitable onslaught of correspondence from men named Roger who would take altogether too much enjoyment from calling her (and Snook and Rae) braindead b-----s who need to learn how to dress properly if they want to read the news.

Beyond that, what exactly was the point of sharing this video? It isn't newsworthy beyond being a bit of naughty gossip that gives us all a nice feeling of Schadenfreude. Yes, Sherlock is snippy and rude in it. If I were her, I'd be embarrassed to have people see that side of me. But rudeness in and of itself - which is to say, rudeness that is not rooted in racism, sexism, homophobia or anything that has an actual impact on people's lives - isn't a crime. Everyone's had a rude, obnoxious colleague and everyone's probably been that colleague on at least one occasion. Surely the more pertinent point is how seamless Snook and Sherlock transitioned into professional behaviour once the cameras started broadcasting?

I realise the irony in writing an article complaining that something is a non-story, but I'm also more than a little tired of how quickly people rush to stereotype behaviour when it comes from women where they would respond completely differently (if at all) when that same behaviour is expressed by men. Men are allowed to disagree at work without being called b-----s. They're allowed to speak forcefully to their colleagues without being called "bossy". They're allowed to throw mini tantrums and not have those tantrums be used as arguments for why men are each other's worst enemies. And they're allowed to do all these things in whatever clothes and body shapes they want because they don't have a million eyes scrutinising their 'bingo wings' or whether or not the colour of their shirt clashes makes them look old and haggard.

Maybe Sherlock is a nightmare to work with. Maybe this leak has come from a production assistant who's been spoken down to by her one time too many. If so, kudos to them. We've all indulged revenge fantasies about someone who treats us badly.

But don't jump aboard the "women are bitchy and that's why they don't get ahead" bandwagon. It's not true. And more to the point, it's not news.

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