COL­UMNS SUSIE O’BRIEN

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - UP FRONT - for Sun­rise co-host Blog with Susie at Susieo­brien.com.au or fol­low her on Twit­[email protected]

Why women shouldn’t feel threat­ened by Sun­rise host Samantha Army­tage.

LIFE SURE ISN’T BOR­ING

Samantha Army­tage.

First, there was the in­fa­mous pole-dancing in­ci­dent. Then she had to en­counter a naked ra­dio host in the dark. She also lost 10 ki­los and made na­tional head­lines. And she’s raised eye­brows by flirt­ing on air with some of the most fa­mous men of our time.

Men seem to swoon over her, with one hard­ened male net­work ex­ec­u­tive call­ing her his “favourite”.

Mean­while, she continues to cop a bar­rage of crit­i­cism from fe­male com­men­ta­tors, who in­sist she’s con­trolled by the blokey hosts of morn­ing TV but doesn’t know it.

Depend­ing on who you talk to, the new­est host of break­fast TV is ei­ther a vamp or a vic­tim.

So what is it about Samantha Army­tage that gets people – and women in par­tic­u­lar – so riled up?

For a start, it’s be­cause she clearly doesn’t care if she’s part of the women’s club or not. Samantha’s re­fusal to play the vic­tim re­cently saw her come un­der sus­tained at­tack by the fem­i­nist Twit­terati.

She was tak­ing part in a stunt with ra­dio hosts Ryan “Fitzy” Fitzger­ald and Michael “Wippa” Wipfli. She was filmed en­ter­ing a pitch-black panic room, not re­al­is­ing that ra­dio host Fitzy was in there, to­tally naked.

The stunt was im­me­di­ately at­tacked by a num­ber of fe­male com­men­ta­tors who said it amounted to sex­ual ha­rass­ment. Samantha, on the other hand, seemed to take it all in her stride. In do­ing so, she sig­nalled that she is her own woman, which seemed to make them more con­cerned.

While I agree the stunt was very much in poor taste, I do ques­tion the value of be­ing out­raged on be­half of oth­ers.

If Samantha says she wasn’t of­fended – and she’s said that re­peat­edly – then we should lis­ten to her.

As a jour­nal­ist, I’ve posed naked and even done pole dancing for a story, but I'd never call my­self a vic­tim.

Of course, what no one seemed to no­tice in the en­tire in­ci­dent was that the per­son who was prob­a­bly more com­pro­mised was the man who had to take his clothes off and ap­pear naked on TV. At least Samantha got to keep her kit on. A sim­i­lar outcry fol­lowed a seg­ment that saw her pre­sented with a pole dancing pole on air as part of a joke about her “strip­per” shoes.

Al­though both she and her co-star David Koch in­sisted it was just “a bit of fun”, the seg­ment was widely de­scribed as ex­ploita­tive to women.

It’s just an­other ex­am­ple of the way Samantha’s im­age of the sexy city girl who likes to push bound­aries isn’t en­dear­ing her to other women in the me­dia.

The fact that she is sin­gle – and isn’t afraid to use this as fod­der for the show – is an­other point of con­tention for some crit­ics.

In fact, Samantha’s sta­tus as a sin­gle chick has be­come part of her on-air per­sona, and she’s flirted her way through in­ter­views with Rus­sell Crowe, Harry Styles and Rus­sell Brand.

Again, this sort of highly per­sonal on-air in­ter­ac­tion is what’s ex­pected in morn­ing TV, but it’s been a while since the dat­ing suc­cess (or other­wise) of a ma­jor co-host has be­come such fod­der for the masses. Clearly this makes some women ner­vous – un­fairly, I’d say.

Samantha’s weight is also an­other di­vi­sive is­sue, with me­dia cov­er­age rarely fail­ing to men­tion her “buxom curves” and “cur­va­ceous fig­ure”.

Al­though she has said she has found scru­tiny of her weight to be "con­fronting," "in­sult­ing," and "god­damn aw­ful", she has nonethe­less talked ex­ten­sively about her body im­age in the me­dia. So what should we make of Samantha? In­sid­ers on the show stress that she is a coun­try girl who is “un­com­pli­cated and very di­rect”.

Oth­ers say the prob­lem is she doesn’t go out of her way to buddy up with other women she works with, and is much more of a “man’s girl”.

She isn’t best mates with Melissa Doyle, but nor is there the heated com­pe­ti­tion many have claimed. And she didn’t just get the job be­cause she is younger and sex­ier than Melissa.

Women don’t get jobs in tele­vi­sion these days on the ba­sis of their boob size (lucky for me, re­ally). Of course, my work on Weekend To­day means I’m much more of a Chan­nel 9 fan my­self.

But I do feel Samantha Army­tage has been un­fairly treated. Why are so many women threat­ened by other sexy, strong women?

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