Sleeveless dresses ‘demeaning’ to women on TV, says former Canada PM

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A brouhaha has erupted over comments made online by Canada’s former prime minister Kim Campbell -- the only woman to have ever held the post -- admonishing women news anchors who appear sleeveless on-air.

Campbell, who was prime minister from June to November 1993, triggered the debate with a tweet that read: “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,” she said. “Bare arms undermine credibility and gravitas!” Critics lashed out in response to the tweet, saying the focus should be on women’s abilities, not their attire, and that women should wear whatever they find comfortable and helps them feel confident.

One pointed out that former US first lady Michelle Obama often wore sleeveless outfits, while another noted that Campbell herself posed for a provocative photograph when she was attorney general in 1990. In the art photo she appeared with bare shoulders, holding up a lawyer’s gown in front of her body to give the impression she was naked.

“I firmly believe in the right of Canadians to bare arms,” said Conservative MP Michelle Rempel. “I don’t feel demeaned. All due respect to Cda’s 1st female PM, but that comment is stuck in the 50s. Don’t tell me what to wear, no TV exec has,” echoed Canadian broadcast journalist Farah Nasser.

In her comments, Campbell cited a recent essay by American speaking coach Nick Morgan who said in a blog post: “If you show up in front of us with skin exposed, we’re going to think about your body.” However, Morgan’s fashion advice was aimed at both men and women.

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