Dictating a Doremus dress code?

Yejean Kim

One of the most prevalent media issues today is school dress codes. Administrators and defenders of such dress codes often insist that only students wearing clothing that is considered “disruptive, distracting, or unsafe” are asked to change or leave; what is troublesome is that a large proportion of these students are female.

I remember archaic rules such as the “fingertip” rule, in which shorts or skirts were not permitted unless they reached a student’s fingertips. If someone had told me during my senior year of high school that I’d still be dealing with these kinds of rules as a senior in college, I would have laughed in their face, but now that it’s actually happening I don’t really feel like laughing.

Recently, a slew of female students has been asked to leave the fitness center for “inappropriate attire,” a troublesome trend when considering the implications of such a designation.

What makes gym attire “inappropriate?” The obvious answer would be clothing that is “unsafe.” So, for example, clothing that is excessively loose and could get caught in a machine should not be permitted. The same goes with clothing that inhibits proper movement. Unfortunately for females, we also have to worry about another unsafe element: our bodies.

Although ostensibly everyone goes to the fitness center for the same reason—to work out—this recent trend of kicking girls out for attire that is too revealing shows that girls actually go to the gym for a different reason altogether: to not be distracting to men.

I’ve always been of the opinion that if someone notices what every Dick, Harry, and Sally is wearing to the gym they’re either a future performance wear designer or just really into brightly colored spandex. In fact, I’m pretty sure the gym is the one place where it is completely socially acceptable to be utterly self-absorbed. However, I will concede that there are the few, the chosen, who really stand out because of what they’re wearing.

For example, one of my most heinous memories of W&L was in the fitness center circa sophomore year, when I was in the middle of awkward mirror eye-contact with a boy who was doing some bicep curls. When he bent over to pick up a dumbbell his bro tank slipped a little more than intended. He was so embarrassed that he scurried away with at least a couple more sets to go, the poor thing.

His attire consisted of one of those slit down-to-there bro tanks that, incidentally, are now banned from the fitness center. However, if snap stories are any indication, guys are still going to the fitness center in those tanks and still not getting kicked out.

Meanwhile, girls are getting the boot for wearing tops with scant cutouts that don’t show nearly as much skin. What does this say about the supposed objectivity of this dress code?

Girls, and W&L students in general, have more to worry about than what they’re wearing to the gym. Policing what we wear because it makes the policer “uncomfortable” or is supposedly “distracting,” says, like many baseless accusations, so much more about the accuser than the accused.