Kim Campbell poses nude behind robes in this iconic Barbara Woodley photograph from 1990. Image credit: Barbara Woodley/Courtesy Museum of Civilization

Opinion: Seriously Kim? We have the right to bare arms

A Princeton reporter reacts after a former Canadian prime minister says women should cover up on TV

Full disclosure.

This opinion is being written by a female journalist sporting a camisole.

If you could see me, you could see my arms. Shoulders and the remnants of a collar bone are visible as well.

Still taking me seriously?

Or are you moved to distraction by the birthmark covering my scapula.

Many people think it looks like Lake Michigan.

Working as a print journalist is not the same as being a television reporter, of course.

No one cares what a newspaperwoman looks like; how she styles her hair and applies her make up, how old she is or what she wears.

After all, what could those physical superficialities possibility have to do with delivering the news?

History going back as far as Tuesday shows us that when it comes to being on camera, a lot.

Related: Kim Campbell says female broadcasters should not bare arms

Canada’s first and so far only female Prime Minister Kim Campbell stunned and confused the country this week when she took to Twitter to criticize the attire of some women broadcasters.

“I am struck by how many women on television news wear sleeveless dresses – often when sitting with suited men,” she said. “I have always felt it was demeaning to the women…Bare arms undermine credibility and gravitas!”

It begs that weighty question: how many whys are there in hypocrisy?

Campbell led the country for 132 days in 1993, and before that she was justice minister.

During that period she posed for a portrait composed by Vancouver photographer Barbara Woodley. In the well-known photo, Campbell appears to be naked behind a set of lawyer’s robes that she is holding towards the camera.

The image was meant to portray the law as shielding women, but it resonated in many ways.

Feminists embraced the idea of a woman holding power while at the same time expressing her femininity.

Yes we work with men, and we will sit beside men. We will even lead men. But for the love of Donna Karan don’t make us dress like them.

Pauline Frederick was a pioneer in the world of television news. She wore a lot of pearls.

Still, in 1949 and after a print and radio career that included writing for the New York Times, traveling as a war correspondent and covering the Nuremberg trials, she became the first woman to ever work full-time for a US television network, ABC.

Barbara Walters was the first woman to co-anchor a newscast in 1976 and before that she was the co-host of NBC’s Today Show. Appearing on that program for the first time, as a “Today Girl,” she also wore pearls…AND a sleeveless dress.

Carole Simpson, Connie Chung, Katie Couric, María Elena Salinas, Judy Woodruff, Gwen Ifill and many others battled like hell for success in a field dominated by men. And holy crap they did it while wearing heels and sometimes even pink.


To suggest a woman demeans her gender or her profession by not wearing sleeves implies we would all be taken so seriously if we only zipped up in snowsuits for the work day.

Women, as was so elegantly demonstrated by Kim Campbell a quarter of a century ago, do not need to look like men in order to achieve.

It sure makes a person wonder though, if there was really anything inside of that robe of her’s, all along.

Andrea DeMeer is the publisher and editor of the Similkameen Spotlight in Princeton, B.C.

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