“How To Hide your Upper Arms” — the title of a post I read recently! It made me sad and then mad.
I’m not into maximum exposure at all times. Probably like many of you, I think that covering can be just as attractive as lots of skin, if not more so. For God’s sake though, hide my arms? When Nora Ephron said she felt bad about her neck, she didn’t say that meant forever after hiding her neck with turtlenecks, did she?
The desire to hide what has changed so drastically over the years is understandable.
It’s understandable, and I won’t judge another woman for doing what she thinks makes her more attractive. I will question it, though. Doesn’t hiding guarantee one’s invisibility? Doesn’t it say I want to look unlike myself and like another group of people — in this case, a younger group?
Whether it’s cultural and religious beliefs that result in hiding what can amount to the whole self, or the attitude towards aging that results in us wanting to hide arms, legs, or necks, I have to question it.
This is a real and distressing problem, because if we’re meant to be invisible, who else is: older men, the disabled, overweight people, women in head scarves?
There are people who would rather not look at and acknowledge others, who would in essence like to keep others in a place of non-personhood.
Isn’t that, for example, what discouraging dreadlocks and other “natural” hairstyles in the workplace is about?
“I don’t like it, you make me uncomfortable, it’s not the norm, therefore you should hide.” Isn’t that what we’re saying when we discourage others from making themselves visible in the way they are comfortable?
You’ve heard of the body positivity (or body acceptance) movement?
It’s fundamentally a backlash against the extremes of fashion, advertising, and marketing. The world that says you must be thin and look as much like a model as you can, period. While a backlash is, by definition, extreme in its opposition to something, and so is not a perfect answer to the initial problem, this movement really just asks us to be adults.
It’s a movement lead by models, mothers, doctors, self-help gurus, and other women who have seen how destructive a world in which you’re supposed to “look like this, but not that” is. No more hiding, say the leaders of this movement!
Two of my favorite projects are Body Image Movement (started by Taryn Brumfitt, a former Australian body builder) and All Woman Project (started by Charli Howard, a model). Both of them are the kind of women you’d love to have as friends.
They’re neither self-righteous nor apologetic in their advocacy and support for visibility.
Brumfitt has traveled the world spreading the movement and promoting her autobiographical film, Embrace. Charli Howard and her collaborators show, better than I’ve ever seen done, the beauty of true diversity. I think we have a lot to learn from them. Thoughts?