The Return of the Upper Arm

First published on Trespass 19/11/2009

So I’ve just been eyeing Rihanna’s cellulite over a morning cup of tea. I didn’t seek it out, really, it was just part of my daily ingestion of sensationalism over at The Daily Mail. Anyway, that’s all by the by, because as interesting as my cellulite-watch justifications are, there’s something a little more interesting that’s happening and I want to know if you’re all noticing it too.

There has been a lot of noise, for quite some time, about the whole body image thing. So much noise, in fact, I daresay those two words make everyone want to cover their ears and scream. And fair enough. But whilst all that noise has been happening, something else has too. I can’t help but notice that, rather quietly, arms have crept back into the realm of acceptability. With a little bit of thigh and stomach on the side. But let’s start with the arms.

For so long, arms have been banished to the Naughty Fat Corner. Arms were less okay than, say, the casual flash of one’s most intimate area. But now, now I can’t help but notice upper arms are making a comeback, sliding silently back onto screen and into magazines with little more than a relieved sigh at losing the taboo tag. Britney Spears has upper arms that move when she does. So does Tyra Banks and Kelly Clarkson and Mariah Carey. Kelly Osbourne is dancing about the stage with her arms on one of America’s highest rated programs. Hilary Duff has arms and legs and so does Jordin Sparks.

Joining the upper arms, a little shyly and with a modest blush, are legs. Thighs. The Kardashian sisters have thighs. And they’re three of America’s most famous women right now (a fact which deserves more attention at a later date). Rihanna has thighs. So does Blake Lively (lovely, long thighs, but they’re there nevertheless) and Beyonce and Leona Lewis and Bones’ Emily Deschanel and Greek’s Spencer Grammer.

It seems to me, that whilst all this hoo ha has been going on about body image, an ever so quiet revolution is taking place. It’s a small one, and with every two steps forward, there’s a stupid magazine article waiting to kick it two steps back, but it is undeniably happening.

Baby steps my friends, it’s all about baby steps. We’re nowhere near where we need to be in our attitudes towards what constitutes femininity and beauty, but I think the pendulum is starting to swing. Body parts that were once starved/blasted/sliced/shamed/photoshopped off, are reappearing in the public domain as normal and accepted. And that’s precisely what we need to have happen. The change won’t come about because one indie magazine runs Beth Ditto in her birthday suit on the cover (however bold that move was). It won’t come about from lauding an extreme body type whilst bashing another. It will come about through the steady reintroduction of body shapes and sizes into our daily media diet. And that, on some scale, appears to be happening. Thank God.

 

Hilary Duff image credit

Rihanna image credit

 

4 Replies to “The Return of the Upper Arm”

  1. I think I first noticed this quiet transformation when Beyonce wasn’t called fat for having curves – real curves, not like the so-called curvy Victoria’s Secret models. That’s just taking the p*ss. But then Madonna get ridiculed in the press for her amazing arms, so I suspect it has more to do with the woman rather than an acceptance of different body types. Beyonce is so popular, which magazine would be game enough to say she’s not perfect? Magazine perfect, that is, whereas there are a lot of young women who think Madonna should just fade away into the background because, you know, she’s old. Which is ridiculous, and shows how far we’ve still got to go. But yes, you’re right, baby steps. After all, it took a very long time for pregnant bellies to be acceptable, so I think we’ll get there in the end.

    1. Ooh just flicked across to Australian Idol final and hello Ricki Lee’s thighs. Okay, minor celebrity, but widely watched program and complete comfort in her limbs. Baby steps, baby steps.

  2. Hilary looks so beautiful here! Remember when she got all scary-skinny and it made her jaw all protruding and horse-like? God I hope she never returns to this. Ever.

  3. It’s extremely unfortunate that women are constantly scrutinized about their weight, but you are right – with editors taking baby steps to normalise images of girls who are not skin and bones, it will happen. Hurrah for arms making a comeback!

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