In a tweet on Feb. 13, former Prime Minister of Canada Kim Campbell made a comment about television news anchors and their choice or wardrobe. “Bare arms undermine credibility and gravitas,” she said in the social media post, referring to female broadcasters who choose to wear sleeveless outfits.
I am struck by how many women on television news wear sleeveless dresses- often when sitting with suited men. I have always felt it was demeaning to the women and this suggests that I am right. Bare arms undermine credibility and gravitas! https://t.co/plBRrrtqKV
— Kim Campbell (@AKimCampbell) February 13, 2018
The article Campbell references is a blog post written by Dr. Nick Morgan, a speaking coach, on his own private website. According to Morgan, a sleeveless outfit for women or a casual looking t-shirt for men will mean people won’t think you are as smart as you are. “We humans are pretty simple creatures,” he writes. “If you show up in front of us with skin exposed, we’re going to think about your body. If you’re wearing lots of clothing, we’re going to think about your mind.”
The blog post goes on to suggest people should spend “real money” at “a high-end fashionista place” prior to an interview or speaking engagement. Morgan mentions a study that compares photographs of naked and half-naked women and asks people about how competent they think they are. Ironically, the article was then tweeted out by Informed Opinions, a handle that aims “to ensure diverse women’s perspectives and priorities are equitably integrated into Canadian society.” That is how Canada’s former PM found the piece.
Let us first address the research — wearing a sleeveless dress is different than wearing a bra and nothing else. Therefore, I don’t think the study referenced in the original article provides enough context for the statement made by both Morgan and Campbell. To do so proves that society objectifies women to such a degree that showing shoulders or your arm is essentially equal to a woman being stark naked while presenting the news. Most people would agree this is a ridiculous statement.
The public response to Campbell’s support of this statement was mixed. While it is true that most women are judged 60 per cent by how they look rather than what they say, that way of thinking is not something that should be perpetuated.
What interested me the most was the response from television stylists, who actually urge women to lose the traditional blazer or pantsuit for something more personal. There were others who argued that blazers and long-sleeve shirts were more professional, but the general consensus was that clothing wasn’t an indicator or success or capability. Here are some examples of the response:
This article is not only ridiculous claptrap about how “showing skin makes people think about your body” (?) but is also classist AF. I am a stylist for women on the news and the fight to get them our of a blazer is real. Please stop policing women’s choices.
— LVL (@LeahVanLoon) February 13, 2018
I train people for TV appearances and always recommend both women and men wear long sleeves and formal clothes for credibilty in interviews. That being said, news anchors and some politicians already have that credibilty, so clothes matter less.
— Christine Hearn (@LilleVenn) February 13, 2018
I worked at Sun News Network, with sleeves and without. I’m proud of my work there. And continue to take pride in my work today, at @globalnewsto both in sleeves and without.
— Caryn Lieberman (@caryn_lieberman) February 13, 2018
I am a lawyer, which has some of the most antiquated traditions of any profession. And guess what? I wear sleeveless shirts to the office year-round, because MY SHIRT SLEEVES DID NOT GO TO LAW SCHOOL. You know who cares? No one. You’ve dated yourself here and should be ashamed.
— JaysLadyA (@JaysLadyA) February 13, 2018
Featured Image: Kim Campbell poses nude behind robes in this Barbara Woodley photograph from 1990. (Barbara Woodley/Courtesy Museum of Civilization)
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