Allow me to enter the culture wars for a moment. What’s the deal with Michelle Obama’s arms? I have no problem with her arms, which are lovely and strong, but rather the public’s reaction to them. Her bare shoulders and curved biceps have the entire country asking: How toned is too toned for women?
Let’s put aside that this wouldn’t even be an issue were she a man, or the “etiquette” question of wearing sleeveless outfits to presidential functions. I’m more interested in the idea of female strength, appearance and how they have been totally divorced from health and well being.
The Chicago Tribune calls it “a national mini-fetish over women’s buff arms.” I’m wondering where, in the whole maelstrom of commentary, is it about how we feel? Fitness is different for everyone. Ideally, it’s about feeling good in your body, not making some sort of social statement. The notion that we “should” hate our arms or that even most women hate their arms is insulting. (I really like my arms. They do a lot for me.) I’ve read about women who lift weights but don’t want to look like they lift weights, which is absurd. This fear of looking “too buff” is unfounded but seems to be generally shared by many women, as if by doing regular strength training you could end up looking like a female body builder.
We all like to look presentable, fashionable, even. But in the end, we work out, stay active, strength train for no one but ourselves. The same goes for Ms. Obama. Her trips to the gym aren’t anyone’s business but her own and I believe that the only agenda she has in keeping her arms toned is her own personal health.
“Toned arms suggest strength, and strength suggests confidence,” adds the Tribune. “Just a little work offers big rewards; the same cannot be said of other body parts. Toned arms, meanwhile, suggest the other body parts are doing fine.
In the end, adds the Tribune. “Sometimes a bare arm is just a bare arm.”
I couldn’t agree more.