Nina Harrelson, a news anchor in Memphis, Tennessee, was out reporting on Sunday when an elderly man called her name.
“I waved and said hi,” Harrelson told TODAY Style. Seeing his smile, Harrelson was expecting the stranger to say something about the show. Instead, she said the man, who was relaxing in a lawn chair, exclaimed, “You look mighty big on TV!”
“I would be lying if I said it didn’t sting," said Harrelson, who works for WREG, a CBS-affiliated station. "There are so many women in my industry who look like Victoria's Secret supermodels. It can be tough to be a normal-sized woman."
Later that day, Harrelson posted about the incident on Twitter and her tweet went viral, earning more than 100,000 likes.
“‘You look mighty big on TV!’ That’s what a complete stranger just said to me,” Harrelson wrote. “FYI — journalists are not models… And I can assure you, none of us want to hear your opinions on our bodies. WE ARE NOT YOUR EYE CANDY.”
Harrelson said she's been dealing with unsolicited comments from viewers since she landed her first on-air job nearly nine years ago.
“I got a handwritten note from someone telling me I look like a man,” she said. “And then that person sent a separate letter to the production staff telling them not to do close-ups of me because I’m so ugly.”
It’s not uncommon for Harrelson to receive feedback about the size of her breasts or her outfit choices. (And she's hardly the only female TV reporter to get unsolicited comments.)
“We already have enough consultants who come in and tell us how we should dress,” Harrelson said. “We don’t need it from it from complete strangers.”
Harrelson noted that male anchors seem to be exempt from viewer shaming. She pointed to Australian newscaster Karl Stefanovic, who wore the same suit every day for a year as part of a sexism experiment.
“Nobody noticed,” Harrelson said. “But female anchors are regularly picked on for their dresses, hair and makeup. People need to understand that we’re not serving ourselves up on a silver platter for you to dissect every aspect of our body. We’re here to present the news.”