Gym dress codes create a problematic double standard

Originally Posted on The Triangle via UWIRE

Photograph by Leanne Chin for The Triangle.
Being asked to leave a public place because of what you are wearing is not only embarrassing, but it can make a person feel insecure. Drexel constantly promotes inclusivity and diversity, allowing each and every student to feel safe and comfortable. However, they do not always practice what they preach.
It is not uncommon for women to feel anxiety or fear mistreatment for what they wear at the gym. An article from Fitness Magazine brought up several fears that individuals, specifically women, feel when working out.
“Sixty-five percent of women actually avoid the gym over fear of being judged, according to a survey of 1,000 people across the U.S. by Fitrated, a platform for gym equipment reviews. By comparison, only 36 percent of men felt that way,” the article stated.
Immediately, I became aware that the statistics suggested an existing double standard — women have to be more cautious of what they wear to the gym in order to avoid comments and criticisms.
A very close friend of mine had an incident at the gym that not only infuriated her but also evoked many different questions and emotions for me. While working out on the StairMaster at the Recreation Center in the middle of the day, an employee of the gym interrupted her workout and told her she needed to leave with little to no explanation.
The employee attempted to argue that my friend was not dressed appropriately and was in violation of one of the rules. My friend was wearing a black T-shirt that rested about an inch above her waistline. Her torso was visible only when her hands were lifted up but not while she was working out on the steps. After arguing with the employee for 10 minutes, she was no longer being asked to leave but would be forced to leave unless she changed. Angry and confused, she proceeded to walk down to the information desk where she asked for a manager.
Initially beating around the bush, the manager finally suggested that she was being asked to leave because her exposed midriff was a risk for the possible spread of mumps. She was unable to provide any evidence to support her claims, which seemed to be more like opinions. She said that there was a new policy being implemented for sanitary reasons, and again asked my friend to leave if she did not change her clothing. With no solid answer, my friend stormed out of the gym and walked home. She did not get to finish her workout and was unable to get a plausible explanation for why she was publicly embarrassed.
The only statement that the Recreation Center section of the Drexel website states in regards to dress code is: “Shirts and closed toed shoes must be worn at all times; exposed torso (front and/or back) and cut-off shirts with gaps larger than three (3) inches are not permitted.” My friend did not have a gap larger than three inches of her torso exposed. This then brings up the argument as to why the rules are enforced for certain individuals and not others. I know from my own experience, as well as those of many other people, that everyday at the Rec Center both males and females have at least three, if not more, inches of their torsos exposed while they work out. The men at the gym always wear cut-off T-shirts with their entire sides visible. Not once since I have been a student here did I, or anyone else I know, ever witness one of them being asked to leave or change their shirts. Even more, I have also witnessed females walk out of the gym in multi-colored sports bras with tied up shirts exposing six or seven inches of their stomach without a single word being said to them. Certain individuals are discriminated against at the gym on this campus and there is no good explanation as to why.
If the Rec Center is enforcing a new policy for dress code, that is completely fine. The employees and administration have every right to take precautions for sanitary purposes or whatever other reason they feel when determining the rules and regulations of the gym. However, the problem lies with how they are and are not implementing these new rules. If new rules are set in place, the website needs to be updated. A sign or flyer should be visibly displayed somewhere in the gym for people to see. This does not seem to be the case though, because the rules are not being enforced campus-wide. When I asked around in my classes and personal social circle, several other girls mentioned that they have experienced something similar to this situation. The employees seem to be individually targeting certain students, usually female, for what they are wearing.
There is a double standard at the Rec Center on this campus. If women are being asked to leave the gym because of what they wear, unhealthy habits may result. I know personally that since hearing this, I have become more aware and put more thought into my gym attire. My friend and other females I know no longer feel comfortable working out because after being targeted because they fear public embarrassment and employees paying more attention. My male friends, however, never have these problems. They are able to carelessly work out, not have to worry about the repercussions of being objectified or embarrassed for how they are dressed.
Overall, the idea of dress code is contradictory, attempting to prevent distractions, but inadvertently causes more attention. This practice of putting women under speculation while they work out can lead to self-consciousness and fear of going to the gym. Drexel’s recreational facilities must make a change in their approach to gym attire for the sake of not just young women, but the university’s community as a whole.

Read more here: https://www.thetriangle.org/opinion/gym-dress-codes-create-a-problematic-double-standard/
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