If your only source of information were Fox News, what would it teach you about women? If this supercut from the liberal-leaning watchdog group Media Matters for America is anything to go by, nothing good. In this six-minute video, Fox hosts and guests repeatedly belittle, insult, harass, and objectify women — including women Fox anchors themselves.
To be sure, no one actually relies on Fox as their sole source of information about the world. But for many Americans, Fox is their most trusted source of news, which means the attitudes Fox espouses do inform — or at least reinforce — their worldview. The same goes for any kind of trusted or beloved media: We can’t help but absorb the attitude along with the substance. (My steady diet of X-Men movies and Buffy episodes during adolescence is probably responsible for my belief that women can read minds, control the weather, and fight vampires.)
As it turns out, watching the supercut is pretty informative. I'd seen a lot of the individual incidents before, and even written about one of them. But while each comment can seem like a special sexism snowflake in isolation, when put together like this, certain patterns start to emerge. It's as if Fox's male hosts and guests are given a short list of rules when they enter the studio: How to Exploit Traditional Gender Norms for Fun and Profit.
So what exactly is Fox teaching its viewers about women?
Empowerment for women hurts men, so men must remain constantly on guard against women's equality
Perhaps the most surprising thing about watching the supercut is the sheer testosterone-laden insecurity of it all. Fox's male anchors and guests frequently expressed a belief that women's rights were a zero-sum game: that any progress or empowerment for women must come at the expense of men.
This idea was stated explicitly — it wasn't subtext. One guest announced that "men are depressed and it’s their own fault, because men are allowing women to take over the world." Another segment asked whether Disney's animated movie Frozen was "empowering women by turning men into fools." In other words, because that movie features sisters who save each other, and their kingdom, from peril instead of relying on a prince to ride to the rescue, that must necessarily be hurting men.
And other segments referred to the rise of female breadwinners as "troubling" and a "recipe for disharmony within the home." The sentiment that a woman ought to "know your place and shut your mouth" was so pervasive throughout the video that I found myself almost charmed when one guest tried to insist that women didn't want to work anyway, and would be happier staying home with a husband and children. Misguided as that sentiment is, it at least takes women's happiness into account. The rest of the comments treated women's happiness as a threat against which men needed to remain vigilant.
Making women uncomfortable is a great way for men to show how impressive they are
Being vigilant against women becoming too empowered or happy was apparently a rule that extended into the Fox News studios themselves. Crude comments and sexism weren't reserved as a way to scoff at liberal women or politicians like Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton — they were directed at Fox's own female hosts and guests.
In clip after clip, the women of Fox News are shown cringing with discomfort as their male colleagues speak to them with crude or overly sexualized language. Bill O'Reilly asked a female commentator to provide video of herself "actually sweating." Another male host casually introduced a segment by calling it "the only thing hotter than Brenda's outfit today." Another, when asked by his female colleague to answer a question, sniggered, "I like your top."
Watching those interactions strung together in a supercut makes it especially clear that these interactions aren't just a matter of one awkward or rude comment. They're a way for men to assert dominance over the women who share the screen with them — to show that the women they're speaking to aren't important enough to be treated with respect, and to put them in their place with crudely sexualized comments.
It's not kind or polite to publicly ask a colleague what she does when she's "making love" to her boyfriend, as a male guest did to Fox Five's outraged Andrea Tantaros. It's simply disrespectful to demand video footage of a coworker's sweaty body, as O'Reilly did. And as the video makes clear, those incidents weren't outliers. The fact that the men of Fox News made such comments, over and over, sends a clear message that it's hilarious for men to publicly disrespect the women they work with.
Do not take a woman seriously if she is attractive. Do not take her seriously if she is unattractive, either.
This rule's so basic that I would almost have been disappointed if it didn't make Fox's playbook. Over and over, Fox segments hammered home the idea that the most important thing about a woman is whether she is sexually attractive to men.
So, for instance, a story about the United Arab Emirates' first woman fighter pilot was an occasion for Fox Five's male hosts to leeringly ask whether she was "boobs on the ground," and to wonder aloud about "taking down her missile defense system." Tucker Carlson insisted that no one would have supported Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis's filibuster to protect reproductive rights if she hadn't been "a handsome woman." Rush Limbaugh guffawed that he loved the women's movement, "especially when walking behind it."
Under that rulebook, women who aren't attractive aren't really even women at all. One host joked that Philip Seymour Hoffman should play Hillary Clinton in a movie, and another joked that Supreme Court justice Elena Kagan had to deny rumors that she had a penis.
But either way, the lesson is clear: Women's actual accomplishments don't matter. The really important thing is whether they're attractive to men.
Women are irresponsible and scatterbrained and need men to look after them
According to the Fox News rules, it's fine for men to be in charge because women are simply too scatterbrained to be trusted with responsibility.
That sentiment was spelled out by none other than Rupert Murdoch, who said that no one cares about small charges on a credit card because they're worried about "their wives' hundred dollars." Another gentleman assumed that women's financial irresponsibility was such a given that he used it as a metaphor for the financial health of the country as a whole: "It’s like a wife and her credit cards," he explained. "America has to be the husband that takes the credit card and breaks it up." Another informed a shocked woman host that "you women" are "just more prone to be scatterbrained. You’re just all over the place."
Got that? We poor women simply can't be trusted to make good decisions. That's why we need men to make decisions for us. Like, say, Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes, who casually announced that women "are happier at home," and then informed Fox analyst and attorney Tamara Holder that she was deluding herself about the nature of her own ambitions. "You're making a mistake," he explained to a flabbergasted Holder. "You'd be much happier at home with a husband and children."
No pants allowed
There was one last Fox News practice that I genuinely didn't see coming: no pants.
Apparently Fox & Friends didn't allow women to wear trousers, but when Gretchen Carlson left that program and got her own show, she earned more control over her wardrobe. In the supercut's final clip, Carlson stands and gleefully shows off the pair of slacks she is wearing, announcing, "I have on pants!"
I guess on Fox that's what progress looks like.