ARC clothing policy values female appearance over comfort

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Uneven enforcement of an unjustified rule restricting women’s clothing choice is disappointing—but not surprising. 

An Athletics and Recreation Centre (ARC) employee recently told a young woman her workout attire was “indecent” due to an inch of midriff showing between her sports bra and high-waisted pants. 

She was asked to leave the gym and change after the employee deemed her outfit unsuitable according to the standards of the ARC’s clothing policy.

Though this rule isn’t new, its enforcement has been irregular and subjective. While women often report being singled out, no men have reported the rule being applied to them. 

When a clothing policy transparently addresses health and safety within the gym—such as requiring gym shoes to be worn—it's clearly justified. But an unfairly gendered rule that publicly shames women and restricts their comfort when exercising is unacceptable. 

Regardless of gender, exercise is hot and sweaty, and sports clothing massively impacts athletic movement. If a woman is more physically comfortable exercising in a sports bra, it has no bearing on anyone else’s workout. 

This policy’s arbitrary enforcement holds women accountable to a standard men aren’t even asked to consider. 

People exercise to feel strong and confident, and the shameful implications of being told to cover your physical progress stay with you beyond the gym. 

When a person’s appearance is deemed indecent, it can harm their self-esteem—especially when they’re publicly called out. In an adult gym, it’s inappropriate to apply a dress code with no clear goal or purpose. 

There are legitimate reasons to wear a sports bra, all related to comfort and athleticism. Instead of asking men to respect women’s physicality, this rule asks women to cover up. It stigmatizes their bodies in a place that should feel safe. 

The policy sexualizes women rather than presenting them as people seeking physical health and strength. 

It’s another reminder that it often doesn’t matter what a woman does—it matters how men think she looks while doing it. 

The policy isn’t only disheartening for its content, but for its unequal enforcement. If the rule can’t be applied to all genders revealing their bodies, it shouldn’t be enforced at all. 

Men in loose tank tops and women in sports bras don’t harm the safety of others exercising while at the gym. Until the ARC can prove they do, the rule serves no real purpose.

If people in revealing fitness attire cause others to feel uncomfortable, the ARC could dedicate a section of the gym or certain hours for those who are uncomfortable to exercise. Otherwise, this policy impacts all students.

As gym-goers grow increasingly frustrated by the rule, the ARC should survey students to gauge their consensual opinion and then determine its course of action.  

Until it can prove it prioritizes physical health over sexist body policing, the ARC discourages women on campus from exercising comfortably and freely. 

—Journal Editorial Board

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