School dress codes are a touchy topic. Typically, these puzzling, sexist, and/or simply annoying edicts about what can and can't be worn in an academic setting affect schoolchildren, not higher education students. But Sarah Villafañe, a student at the College of Charleston in the US, encountered issues with her choice of clothes at her on-campus gym recently, as Yahoo Style reported. Villafañe went to work out in the South Carolina college's gym in a pair of leggings and a slightly cropped tank top, shown left, which, as she notes in a Facebook post about the incident, she "bought specifically to work out in."
The issues began from the moment she walked in: The gym's staffers asked the student to put on a different shirt, because of her tank top's abbreviated length (which shows two or three inches of midriff). "Obviously I didn't bring an extra shirt to the gym and wasn't about to wear my flannel while working out," she writes. The college student then continued her workout even though she was "pretty pissed off" about being asked to change; she was questioned twice more about her outfit, told she needed to "wear a whole shirt" and then asked by the college gym's manager to leave.
As for the gym's dress code (and why, exactly, a shorter top is such an issue), signage by the facility's entrance indicates that " T-shirts, running shoes, sneakers, shorts, or pants" are among the acceptable "athletic attire" required (in addition to footwear being a nonnegotiable), per a local ABC affiliate. So, what's the problem with a bare belly button and a couple inches' worth of exposed abs? Midriff-baring shirts are apparently prohibited in order to prevent the spread of disease, because of a statement issued by the National Athletic Trainers Association about infectious diseases festering in athletic environments, as Mike Robertson, the College of Charleston's senior director of media, told Yahoo Style. (However, shorter shirt hems aren't addressed at all in the aforementioned gym dress code.)
"Why can't I work out in this outfit?" Villafañe writes in her Facebook post. "Is my belly button distracting to the general 85% male demographic that your gym serves?" The sexist implications of pre-college dress codes and uniform mandates, which, more often than not, affect female students much more than their male counterparts. The same could be said for a gym's rules regarding belly button exposure. Whether we're talking about middle school uniform policies, or "appropriate" gym attire, it's about time we stop policing women's bodies and how they're clothed.