E! News Humiliates Employees and Furthers Desensitization

I’ve noticed that there is a new segment on E! News called “Sweet & Sour Tweets.” The premise of this segment is for co-hosts to share positive and negative tweets about each other to each other. There is nothing spectacularly wrong with this segment on a surface-level, but when one truly examines this segment it is disturbing and demeaning. When the co-hosts share negative viewers’ tweets about each other they don’t share constructive negative tweets. Instead, they share tweets that criticize the co-hosts’ appearance, voice and mannerisms. The negative tweets that they share are downright mean, and the fake smiles the co-hosts paste on while being publically humiliated is excruciating. This segment just makes me wonder, what’s the point?

The negative tweets are cruel, demoralizing, abusive and feels as if the producers are purposely harassing their employees. Making employees share these mean tweets to each other would never be acceptable in any other work place. Why would E! News suggest such a segment let alone go through with it? Why would people send in such mean tweets? Why would people watch this segment? Is this the kind of segment E! News truly thinks people want? What does that say about our society? Does this connect to people’s love of reality television where people are inevitably verbally or physically attacked? What do all of these questions have in common? Desensitization to harassment.

Harassment is everywhere and some of the biggest and most common forms of harassment are sexual and street harassment. While it is true that the general public has been taking more notice of sexual harassment (e.g., in the work place) harassment isn’t usually seen as being a big deal or even as being harassment. Instead, when someone is offended that she has been harassed people minimize that individual’s experience and say that she is just making a big deal out of nothing. That her harassment was well-meaning or funny (e.g., “Naked Guy Picking Up Girls”). All this communicates is that society does not respect nor think that an individual’s feelings, safety or human rights matter. So if the general public thinks nothing of the daily harassments that occur in work and social environments, why would they care about harassment that occurs on a pop culture segment?

It matters because it is so taken for granted. Just because harassment is occurring on a pop culture segment doesn’t make it any less horrible or valid. What is especially awful is that not only is harassment being accepted and ignored, but that it is considered entertainment. This confirms that harassment is a norm and further perpetuates the cycle of harassment. This normalization of harassment (which commonly targets [but is not exclusive to] girls and women) can even be thought of as a stepping stone or a foot-in-the-door technique to further the objectification and dehumanization of females, non-Whites and the LGBTQIA. Individuals and groups of people are not just objectified and dehumanized out of the blue. It takes time and practice, and the E! News “Sweet & Sour Tweets” segment is only one example out of many that ultimately contributes to objectification and dehumanization of individuals. So, yes, it does matter that E! News is airing this segment. Because this segment not only plays a part in objectification and dehumanization, but it says something about us as a society. And I don’t like what it has to say.