On campus, 500 metres is all it takes to change what is deemed appropriate and inappropriate for female students to wear. The space between Isaac’s Bar & Grill and The Zone somehow affects how much skin I, along with other women, are permitted to show. If women are allowed into the campus bar wearing scantily clad outfits on Thursday night, we should also be able to wear what we want to The Zone.
Dress codes have been a hot topic over the last few decades, as female empowerment movements have picked up unstoppable momentum. Both elementary and high schools faced backlash about the relationship between dress codes and sexualizing young girls. Enforcing dress codes resulted in many women criticizing the suggested correlation between a spaghetti strap tank top or cut off shorts and male student’s ability to pay attention in class. I was disappointed to see that even on Brock’s campus, I found myself asking similar questions.
According to The Zone’s dress code that can be found online, “a full shirt with sleeves must be worn. No half-shirt or bra tops are permitted. Tank/unitard aerobic wear is permitted provided the midriff is not exposed and the shirt is not low cut.” To add to my frustration, this policy contradicts itself by requiring a “full shirt with sleeves,” but then goes on to permit tank tops as long as the midriff and bust are covered. This specificity allows for male gym-goers to wear cut off tees, exposing their sides, while females are stuck wearing much more clothing up top. One, sometimes two sports bras, plus a policy-abiding top can get uncomfortable and sweaty quickly. The Zone claims that this policy is to “keep The Zone clean, organized and safe.” Similar to the weak connection I see in elementary and high schools between revealing clothing and male students’ ability to learn, I struggle to see the relationship between the cleanliness, organization and safety of The Zone and the cut of my shirt. Dress codes are valuable when in regard to safety. For example, I understand the need for running shoes and secure clothes but I do not comprehend the correlation between safety and the amount of skin a patron is showing.
While I haven’t seen any obvious policing of the dress code along gendered lines, the way it is constructed opens the door for an unfair double standard between men and women.
Many may assume women want to wear bra-tops to the gym for male attention or to get the perfect gym selfies, but in reality, I want to wear what is most comfortable, breathable and practical during a workout. My hometown gym permits bra-tops and cropped long sleeves that I, along with lots of other female gym-goers, wear because they are lightweight, flexible and overall great to workout in. They are also fashionable, especially after a boom in two-piece workout outfits that encourages females to feel confident in their workout gear. All gym-goers should feel comfortable, safe and confident in whatever they choose to wear. If I am permitted to wear what makes me feel confident going to the campus bar, I should certainly be allowed to do the same when going to The Zone.
To add fuel to the fire, just steps away from The Zone is Isaac’s, a BUSU-run pub where female clubgoers regularly wear just about anything, from lingerie tops to mini skirts. There is no dress code readily available on the website for Isaac’s, unlike The Zone, where the dress code is very easy to find. This level of accessibility to dress code policy speaks to each establishment’s commitment to enforcing and advertising their expectations to patrons. I believe that if Brock allows campus establishments to permit young women to wear whatever they want while clubbing, they should be able to wear whatever they want to the gym as long as it does not hinder anyone’s safety. This contrast in dress code expectations begs the question: why can a dress code be enforced in some places, but not exist in others despite being on the same university campus?
Women should be allowed to wear whatever they want and express themselves through clothes whether in class, at the bar or in the gym. As adults, we should be able to make our own outfit decisions, whether we’re hitting the weights or the dance floor.