Social media focuses on Whitmer's dress - not her address

Statement from FOX 2 News Director Kevin Roseborough: On Tuesday night, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's State of the State address discussed many issues of importance to our state. FOX 2 broadcast and streamed the speech live. We were taken aback by the number and nature of many inappropriate Facebook comments on the governor's physical appearance.

We chose not to ignore the comments, and to instead examine them through person-on-the-street interviews and an expert’s opinion on the double standard faced by female leaders. This is not a subject that should be turned away from, and we have extended an invitation to the governor to talk to us about this further.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer emphasized infrastructure, education and water in her first State of the State speech.

But the reaction to Whitmer's address online, was more so, on her actual dress.

"I looked on Facebook and I saw a bunch of comments about people making fun of her dress," said one man. "I thought that was ridiculous."

Social media exploded with comments on Whitmer's boat-neck blue dress.  

"I'm really surprised at that, I thought she looked great," said one woman. "She looked fit, she looked healthy."

As the speech streamed live on Fox 2's Facebook page Tuesday night some of the comments were:

"Dress is looking a little tight," wrote Bill de Monde. 

"I'd hit it," posted one man.

"Push up bra, clearly," said a woman.

"Look how tight it is on her arms," wrote one woman.

"Heavy up top," a man said.

"She kind of looked like she was pregnant, a little bit," one man told FOX 2.

"It was fitting," another woman said. "But I thought she looked nice. I didn't see anything wrong with it."

"They should focus more on what she's talking about, not what she's wearing," one man said.

One woman said, "She needs a dress that fits" as a man replied with "oh it fits."

"Michelle Obama had to deal with that too and it was sad," said one woman.

"I think it's sad we even have to have this discussion at all," another said.

More comments said her dress is "not at all appropriate" and she "looks ridiculous."

"I probably would've worn something different," a man told FOX 2. "You've got to wear a suit, right?"

"She's the governor of our state. Wear a business suit," a woman said.

Some Facebook users also asked if her breasts are real with posts asking what size they are. One man said "nice rack," and another saying "She's showing off her cans. Why not? You got it? Share it."

"Social media now. I don't think they have anything else to do," a woman told FOX 2.

"I think it happens more with women than men," another said.

"Nobody would be saying anything if it were Governor Snyder right?" one woman said.

"Definitely not. We live in a sexist world," another answered.

What does an expert have to say about all of this? Doctor Annmarie Cano said for female leaders clothing options can be a blessing and a curse.

"The blessing is that there’s many different options," Cano said. "From suits to dresses, at the same time it means there is no particular uniform people are used to seeing when they see a woman leader like they see with a male leader. And so when there's something to critique, it's a way of diminishing women's accomplishments."

Cano also says there still appears to be an undercurrent, a bias, or even a mistrust of women in leadership. She says call out those commenters. As some people's responses -- could have been -- almost -- automatic.

"It gives people an 'Aha' moment - I can't believe I just said that,'" she said.

As it's easier to comment these days -- hiding behind a keyboard. Cano says she's noticing a shift and she feels optimistic.

"We see a pattern, why is it happening and what can we do about it," Cano said. "Those are all hopeful signs for me."

After the story aired, Governor Whitmer posted a statement via a series of tweets: