Sun | Jan 16, 2022

Letter of the Day | Women who bare arms

Published:Thursday | December 9, 2021 | 12:07 AM


There have been some rumblings online and in the media about Rihanna’s attire in Barbados where she was designated a national hero. Media personality Fae Ellington described Rihanna’s dress as ‘most inappropriate’ for the occasion and received some backlash online. Many saw nothing wrong with the attire. People’s National Party activist and blogger Kyrstal Tomlinson was quick to draw parallels to the dress code for women entering state buildings, describing the strict code as ‘backward’. I think we can agree that a code of conduct for behaviour or attire reinforces discipline, uniformity and standards, but this should also be practical, considering we also have a tropical climate.

A few years ago, MP Lisa Hanna was scolded for wearing a cap sleeve black dress to Parliament. Some school uniforms for girls, especially in Catholic high schools, require the length to be close to the ankles to conform with strict codes of dressing. Much of the criticism levelled at Rihanna is steeped in colonialism where the perception of the ultimate authority is a foreign monarchy. Rihanna wore a formal evening gown without sleeves to one of two events. At the first event it was announced that she would become a national hero. The next day she was formally presented with the official insignia and she wore a two-piece white mini dress suit, which included a blazer jacket. I saw nothing wrong with the attire. Rihanna is not a state person, nor a politician, she is who she is, a young mega pop star who is known for her sense of style. I’m sure she knew her image would be beamed around the globe, which gave her country some extra publicity.

We often get caught up with pettiness, which is probably why Jamaica is yet to become a republic. We live in a modern era where women don’t have to be fully covered to look or feel empowered or decent. Former USA First Lady Michelle Obama channelled the sleeveless look many times at formal events, ignoring criticisms from those who took offence. Strong, confident, secure women aren’t afraid to wear bold styles, baring arms and skin moderately, as they wish. So while some are busy picking apart Rihanna’s attire, Barbados is moving forward, charting a new course as a more modern and progressive country, which also boasts one of the highest GDP per capita and literacy rates in the entire Caribbean.