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Do (Weather) Girls Just “Wanna Have Fun”?: A Survey of Broadcast Meteorologist Stereotypes and Experiences
AuthorPerryman Rayne, Nyssa
AdvisorStarrs, Paul F.
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The historical caricature of the “weather girl” comes from the original women (primarily actresses and entertainers) who broke into the field of broadcast meteorology in the mid-1950s, with little in the way of educational or experiential background in meteorology or climatology. Instead, these women were hired to increase station ratings as a gimmick, and, as a result, cemented the ditzy, blonde, sexy, often unintelligent “weather girl” stereotype that persists in the field today. This dissertation delves into the historical context of the “weather girl” stereotype, exploring the present-day ramifications of this cultural caricature through an analysis of popular media, in addition to two distinct surveys of current broadcast meteorologists. Our research finds that movies and TV shows further reinforce the negative attributes of the “weather girl” stereotype, portraying these women as unintelligent and overtly sexualized, and thus adding to the sexism and perceived lack of trust and credibility more generally afforded women in our patriarchal society. Additionally, our survey findings show that the “weather girl” stereotype serves as a negative lens through which women and men weathercasters still view women broadcast meteorologists, further driving deep-set weathercaster beliefs that women unfairly “get ahead” in the field by using their beauty rather than their brains. This sexist view not only shapes the perception of weathercasters, but also contributes to significantly more critical, negative feedback and harassment—most of which references attributes of the “weather girl” stereotype—for women broadcast meteorologists from viewers and station management alike. Finally, our survey of Black women weathercasters indicates that the “weather girl” stereotype is nuanced and perceived differently by women from different race/ethnicities. In part, this difference in perception is rooted to the idea—held by women of all race/ethnicities—that the “weather girl” is a white woman, with blonde hair and/or blue eyes, a nuance that emerges from the responses of Black women weathercasters in particular; however, additional data are needed to definitively determine if (and how) the “weather girl” stereotype impacts Black and Latina women weathercasters.