COLUMNS SUSIE O’BRIEN
Why women shouldn’t feel threatened by Sunrise host Samantha Armytage.
LIFE SURE ISN’T BORING
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?