Former prime minister Kim Campbell testifies before the Oliphant Commission in Ottawa, Wednesday, April 29 2009. Campbell is admonishing female news anchors who wear sleeveless dresses on the air, calling the bare-armed attire “demeaning.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

Kim Campbell says sleeveless dresses ‘demeaning’ for TV broadcasters

TORONTO — Kim Campbell is admonishing female news anchors who wear sleeveless dresses on the air, calling the bare-armed attire “demeaning.”

The former prime minister tweeted her displeasure with the fashion choice on Tuesday morning by saying “bare arms undermine credibility and gravitas.”

She faced quick criticism and one tweeter pointed out that former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama frequently wore sleeveless dresses.

Campbell replied that she was specifically referring to female broadcasters.

She pointed to an essay by U.S. speaking coach Nick Morgan for back-up, who asserts in a blog post that “if you show up in front of us with skin exposed, we’re going to think about your body.”

He also takes issue with men who wear an “expensive, cool-looking casual T-shirt” for an important speech.

On her verified Twitter account, Campbell said: “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 (Morgan’s blog post) suggests that I am right. Bare arms undermine credibility and gravitas!”

Her position elicited dozens of replies, most of them in protest.

“Please be joking, Kim,” tweeted one user.

Another pointed out that Canada’s first and only female prime minister — who was in office from June 25, 1993 to Oct. 24, 1993 — once bared her shoulders for a provocative black and white photo in 1993 in which she held up a suit of lawyer’s robes in front of her body, as if naked.

Again, Campbell replied she wasn’t presenting the news at the time.

“Photo was art — juxtaposition of bare shoulders (femininity) and legal robes — (male dominated power structure),” she tweeted.

The controversy harkens back to a similar uproar over female attire on the now-defunct Sun News Network.

That flap erupted soon after the right-wing all-news network debuted in April 2011, with National Post columnist Tasha Kheiriddin deriding the network’s female journalists for dressing like cocktail hostesses in “low cut, sleeveless” attire.

At the time, Luiza Ch. Savage of Maclean’s magazine also called the all-news network “Skank TV” in a tweet that was eventually retracted.

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