I’ll fess right up: I’m not terribly fond of my arms. I lift weights every week based on a regimen created for me by a personal trainer, and there’s loads of muscle in there. Seriously, just ask me to flex. But there’s also loads of jiggle. And although I don’t want to be, I’m self-conscious about it. And I generally dress to keep them covered.
But it’s summer in Minnesota and that means it can get hot. Also nastily humid. Ya know, that sticky, icky, clingy environmental moisture that makes you feel like a giant dog tongue has just licked your whole body, clothing included? And under these circumstances, 3/4 sleeves become implements of torture.
And the fact of the matter is that my arm-related self-consciousness is centered on a recently developed, socially generated expectation that – in addition to slender legs, a flat belly, and lush breasts – all women should have toned arms. Absolutely jiggle-free, rock-solid, sculpted and toned arms. Similar to the ones seen on Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Biel, and other celebs who have live-in personal trainers and whose job it is to look a very specific way. Like all body-related mandates, this is unreasonable, shaming, and downright awful. I know this inside my brain. And it angers me endlessly and I want to fight back. Unfortunately my emotional self still kicks and screams when I pull on a tank top, wailing at the size, the jiggle, the uneven skin tone of my exposed arms. It then becomes an internal battle of wills: Shirk the imposed body mandates and feel exposed and self-conscious, or give in, cover up, and attempt to relax?
I try to bear in mind that sleeveless garments can be more flattering than short-sleeved ones, and go that route when it’s sweltering. And if it’s cool enough, I do 3/4 or cuff my long sleeves. But other days, days when my outrage manages to squelch my insecurity, I just force myself to remember this important mantra: All women have the right to bare arms, regardless of size, shape, or tone. The vast majority of us HAVE arms, many of us are forced to deal with heat and humidity at some point in the calendar year, and we should not allow restrictive social norms about how our bodies “should” look to shame us into dressing in clothing that makes us feel hot and miserable. Arms come in all shapes and sizes. Flattering them can certainly be a priority, but covering them up on a miserably hot day and risking heat rash in the name of hiding a little jiggle? No way. Not OK, not reasonable, not necessary.
I used to be incredibly self-conscious about my belly, and I still dress to downplay it. But friends, I have come to have a real and deep affection for it as a natural, biological, lovely, and defining part of my physical self. It took years of work, but I got there. So I have faith that my arm-battle will end because I want it to end. And I know what my ultimate conclusion should be: I have the right to bare arms. And so do we all.
Image courtesy sean dreilinger
This is a refreshed and revived post from the archive.