— Ainsley Earhardt (@ainsleyearhardt) June 15, 2017
When I saw a friend comment yesterday on reports that Fox News Channel’s Ainsley Earhardt had caused a stir by wearing a pantsuit on air, my first reaction was a good old-fashioned eye roll. While Fox is notorious for featuring fetching female anchors and commentators — not to mention the “leg chair” — it’s still a bit difficult to believe that this actually is a thing in 2017.
But a quick trip through the Googles revealed that — sure enough — the story is making the rounds via various media outlets. Granted, FNC’s competitors have a vested interest in dishing some dirt, but there appears to be some truth to the rumors.
While Fox News has repeatedly insisted that it has never had a formal policy banning female reporters from wearing pants, Gretchen Carlson once told a radio show that she wasn’t allowed to wear them while hosting Fox and Friends. And earlier this year, former Fox personality Jedediah Bila told the hosts of The View that she “wasn’t given a pants option” during her time at the network.
It reminded me a bit of the time I created a “scandal” of my own at my law firm. I was a relatively new associate, and after a frustrating winter morning trudging to the courthouse through snow and slush in a skirt and heels, during which time the male associate with whom I was making the trek made an off-hand comment about the benefits of being able to wear pants, I decided there was no reason I shouldn’t be able to, as well. There certainly was no written rule prohibiting it, though that was clearly the unspoken expectation. Which made me all the more determined to test it.
Unfortunately, at that time, the selection of pantsuits available for women wasn’t all that great. Still, I found a three-piece number I thought was cute. (It was brown plaid wool, with brown velvet lapels and accents, and came with a vest; I’m not so certain in retrospect that it was all that fashionable, but at the time, I felt confident in my sartorial splendor.) The first time I wore it, it definitely caused a stir. No one said anything overtly, other than fellow female associates expressing surprise and envy that I was “getting away with it.” But I caught wind of the whispers and clucking and got the double-take/arched eyebrow from several of the more senior attorneys, including one, in particular, who made a point to walk by my office several times and survey this mutiny. (Her office was on a completely different floor, and she was never before – or since – in my neck of the woods.)
Of course, I wasn’t reprimanded – how could I be? Lawyers generally aren’t stupid. (Save it.) And after that, pantsuits became a regular thing for the women at my firm. But at the time, it did strike me as a rather silly that this was still a thing. Have I mentioned that this was 1994?
Now here we are in 2017, and — at least in some arenas — it apparently is still…a thing. Per the Daily Mail:
Although Earhardt wasn’t a complete stranger to wearing pants on the station, the reaction online was immediate – and not entirely positive.
‘Please don’t dress like Hillary,’ wrote Dennis Emken. ‘Pant suits are not your thing.’
‘Jimfrompa’ was even more upset. ‘Pants?’ he fretted. ‘C’mon, Ainsley! Geez!’
SouthernMom complained: ‘Much prefer Ainsley in dresses. Not a fan of the Green pantsuit.’
And Thomas McGraw seemed to get at the heart of a great many complaints online.
He simply wrote: ‘You covered up your pretty legs.’
Honestly, friends, Hillary didn’t prompt or popularize the pantsuit trend. They’re stylish and practical and a pretty standard part of most professional women’s wardrobes. There’s not a thing wrong with a dress or skirt — if that’s what a gal chooses to wear — but they shouldn’t be mandatory. If your primary reason for watching a show is to see some leg, there are plenty of options beyond cable news. It’s nice to see Fox moving beyond this unwritten rule.