The sun is shining and the crocuses are peeking out at me.
It portends spring which means summer is around the corner. I love summer as it means I can wear sleeveless tops and dresses.
Even though I am well into my sixties, I take pride in the fact my arms still look good without the requisite turkey-gobble underarms which come with age.
All those breast strokes in the pool, Zumba toning with weights and Pilates one-hundreds are paying off.
Or are they?
Having just celebrated International Women’s Day at the Surrey Board of Trade’s luncheon with hundreds of talented, intelligent and philanthropic women, my love of bare arms was called into question by the keynote speaker.
In her keynote address, the Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell, an ardent feminist and the first and only female Prime Minister of Canada, made reference to her recent tweet which caused a Twitter storm.
“I am struck by how many women on television news wear sleeveless dresses – often when sitting with suited men.” she tweeted. “I have always felt it was demeaning to the women and this suggests that I am right. Bare arms undermine credibility and gravitas.”
Whoa! Did she really say that?
I noticed she was covered from head to toe in a sloppy, unflattering black outfit.
Did I really say that?
Who cares what she is wearing… she was the first female Prime Minister of Canada at age 46 for goodness sake. Before that, she had two careers; one as a social scientist and the other as a lawyer. She has spent much of her life breaking barriers for women and battling against stereotypes! She is highly intelligent and was recently honoured as a Global Woman of Vision. And her husband is a much younger man!
But where does she get off making a comment like the sleeveless one.
“Don’t shoot the messenger!” she implored. “It wasn’t about gender.” She explained her comment was borne out of scientific research from Harvard University and echoed by Toronto’s media lobbying group, Informed Opinion.
In an unconscious, hard-wired mind/body framing view, when people see exposed skin, they see someone vulnerable, emotional and more of a threat. Covered-up men are seen as being more cognitive and cerebral and therefore more credible.
This creates a power imbalance so women are encouraged to cover up to maximize credibility.
A local city councilor once commented disparagingly on a television meteorologist’s obvious pregnancy and her choice of clothing.
What gives us the right to criticize?
And women are the worst critics.
Just ask the luncheon’s emcee, Tamara Taggart, co-anchor of CTV’s News at Six. She said her sartorially dapper male co-anchor has never received one email commenting on his hair or attire. She, on the other hand, has received hundreds, many critical of her appearance.
Even I commented to myself that she looked unkempt standing up at the podium, having rushed from Vancouver where she had spent the morning in Parent/Teacher conferences and knowing she had to go to work that evening.
She said that as she has risen in the ranks as a media personality, her friends have diminished.
Why are women so hard on women?
I am guilty as charged.
Ladies, we need to change this behaviour and support each other.
On the heels of the #Me Too tsunami, we need to change this culture of cattiness and celebrate the accomplishments of women.
Campbell would agree. “When we celebrate women, it allows women to take their rightful place besides men in a healthy society.”
Just don’t do it with bare arms.