The right to bare arms...


So, did armpits recently become a private part? Shoulders? Arms?

This past Friday on The Social, there was a discussion about professional dress codes after a female reporter was denied entry to the Speaker's Lobby by Congress because her sleeveless dress was not considered 'appropriate attire'. Some find sleeveless clothing inappropriate (though I seriously think this is dramatic in today's day and age and in Western society). Others find this preposterous (obviously this is my camp). And on the show, Cynthia proposed it may even be just another way to control women (certainly plausible).

As we well know, particularly those of us who have ever been teenage girls, this debate is not restricted to the professional arena. Schools are also known to enforce prohibitive dress codes. But apparently these days, schools aren't waiting until junior high or high school to rain on the fashion parade. My 4-year-old daughter was told by her junior kindergarten teacher that sleeveless shirts are not allowed (now, I'm not sure if this rule applies to both boys and girls - but I'm assuming it does, or I'll be forced to kick up a bigger fuss than is probably possible via a blog post!).

I had bought my daughter a super cute sleeveless yoga shirt for days when the weather is hot. But the other day when I tried to put her in it, she told me she couldn't wear it because the last time she did, her teacher said it was against the rules and that she isn't allowed to show her armpits. My husband and I were gobsmacked. It's not like we live in Saudi Arabia (just saying). And it's obvious that my daughter is confused by the lack of consensus on this 'rule' among the adults in her life. She always asks whether she's allowed to wear it (& other sleeveless items of clothing that form part of her wardrobe) at home or on the weekend when we go out. I feel so annoyed at the surprise and confusion on her face when we say 'of course you can', because she's trying to work out right from wrong, and her teachers (whom we've told her she should listen to) have put it in her head that she's doing something wrong when she shows her arms (or armpits, whatever).

As was noted on The Social, successful, professional women of great respect and integrity are regularly seen wearing sleeveless tops, dresses and suits. The prime example of Michelle Obama, often found wearing a classy sleeveless dress, was given on the show. In my life, another example was my mother. And in my daughter's life, of course there's me. I'm offended and disturbed by the notion that a woman, or a girl for that matter (especially a girl in fact!), should not have the 'right to bare arms'. It sends a judgmental and discriminatory message. What's more, it not only inappropriately attempts to sexualize perfectly sensible women's attire, but also victimizes young girls by applying that sexualization to them.

I haven't blogged in an age, and I was enjoying a lazy afternoon getting my nails done at Yonge and Eglinton when I caught this bit on The Social. But hearing this discussion brought me right back to the appalled disbelief I felt when my poor beautiful young daughter told me about the absurd restriction put on her in the freedom of a public school. So I had to write - for our right to bare arms. And for the record, that is my daughter in the image above, proudly baring hers!

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