Has television overcome the tyranny of beauty?
The scrutiny that social networks make of the image of presenters makes it difficult to free themselves from aesthetic corsets
Television is image and, in the name of this, for many years the professionals who appear on screen have been forced to follow certain aesthetic canons and conform to a certain idea of femininity. The pressures to respond to the expected image are not only external but self-imposed by years of education that pushes women to have a specific image, as journalists and television presenters acknowledge. Despite the fact that in recent years feminist movements have raised awareness to break the corsets of aesthetic pressure, breaking free from the dictatorship of beauty is still difficult.
Sports journalist Danae Boronat, presenter at Movistar Futbol, decides what to wear and what not to wear together with the stylist of the channel, who proposes the garments according to her taste and the aesthetics that have been agreed for the programme. Although she assures that she does not feel pressured, she remarks that "everybody thinks they have the right to give their opinion about what I wear and say if they think it's good or not", although many times these comments are not sent directly to her. Opinions about her image are also echoed on social networks. "Normally they always go along the same lines: considering that I use my wardrobe to attract attention", explains Boronat, who points out that many years ago she decided to ignore this type of opinion. "I find it incredible that people still feel they have the right to judge what your intentions are when you wear a shirt, a turtleneck sweater or heels", says the journalist, who remarks that these are comments that her male colleagues never receive. The situation described by Boronat has also been experienced by Jèssica del Moral, presenter of En línia (La 2), who confesses that the comments she receives about the programme are almost always about her physical appearance - her wardrobe, make-up or hairstyle - and rarely about the content. "Men and women do it, and I doubt very much that my male colleagues get the same. Everyone has an opinion about the image".
One of the most paradigmatic cases of how hurtful can be the comments made on networks about the image of the presenters was experienced during the last New Year's Eve chimes broadcast on TV3, when the wardrobe of Lídia Heredia, Helena Garcia Melero and Cristina Puig became almost a matter of national debate. "I'm convinced that if the chimes had been done by three guys this would not have happened", says Puig. The journalist says that one of the most dangerous aspects of the noise that was generated -some comments said that they had been forced to wear a wardrobe that would have them freeze to death- was that many of the criticisms came from women. "Nobody forced us to wear those dresses and I think feminism is not at odds with being able to wear a party dress for a special night like New Year's Eve. For me it is a misunderstood feminism to believe that a woman who looks beautiful, who shows off her body and who wants to wear a flamboyant dress can't be a feminist", reflects the presenter of Preguntes freqüents, who remarks that she would never wear a garment that went against her criteria.
"Often we women are the ones who self-impose a specific aesthetic that seeks to make us more stylish or refined", says Boronat, who explains that she always goes on screen with heels because they make her feel more confident and look better. "I hope, over the years, to be able to change these self-impositions and be so sure of myself that I can go out with flat shoes if I feel like it", she reflects. Del Moral, who also detects the existence of an "internal pressure" that is difficult to avoid due to years of education in which it has been a priority for women to have a certain image, thinks along the same lines. "If they told me to go out without make-up I wouldn't want to either, I would look very strange", explains Del Moral, who points out that the pressure for aesthetics is not exclusive to television, but is present in all areas of society.
Despite the fact that the figure of the stylist is often demonized, Berta Vallvé, freelance stylist and gender trainer who works regularly on television, argues that styling can also play a fundamental role in destroying complexes and reinforcing self-esteem. "Good styling has to reinforce the person who wears it and can be a political tool to empower a person and help them to take their rightful place", explains Vallvé, who stresses that the stylist's job is to understand what each person needs to feel comfortable and well represented, even if they are very different in each case. Vallvé believes that through styling one can work to break harmful attitudes that are present in society, but also in the world of communication, such as fatphobia or ageism.
"Making television it is more difficult to free oneself from the gaze of the other, but it is essential that neither age nor normative bodies nor a systematically sympathetic and smiling attitude should be by default a yardstick to determine the presence and prominence of women in front of the cameras", reflects Anna Pérez Pagès, director and presenter of the programme Ártic on Betevé. The journalist, who assures that she has never felt pressured by the channel to project a certain image and that the stylists work with her to choose the clothes with which she feels comfortable, is convinced that one of the great battles that television has pending is to get women over 40, 50 or 60 years old in front of the screen.