Dress code policies in educational environments are often innately sexist in their restrictions. The rules tend to over-police what female students may wear, dictating the length of their skirts and the thickness of their straps. As a result, there have been many incidents in which female students have been reprimanded or sent home for outfits which were totally modest and inoffensive.
Sarah Villafañe, a sophomore at College of Charleston, was actually forced to leave the college’s gym for wearing an athletic top, as gym management felt that she needed more “coverage.” However, Villafañe’s top was a totally standard form of athletic wear, and it’s baffling that she was forced to leave for wearing what many would consider proper workout attire.
Villafañe posted a photo of the offending outfit in question to Facebook, and it’s obvious that, though her midriff is exposed, the top is far from being salacious or indecent.
Her Facebook post reads:
So I just got kicked out of the College of Charleston student gym for wearing this outfit. Like not allowed to work out. Not allowed to because of THIS OUTFIT THAT I BOUGHT SPECIFICALLY TO WORK OUT IN.
I’ve worn this same outfit all day. Went to 3 classes and spoke personally with each of my professors today and they didn’t have a problem. But when I walked into the gym they asked me to put on a different shirt. Obviously I didn’t bring an extra shirt to the gym and wasn’t about to wear my flannel while working out. So I just said mhm ok and went about my work out pretty pissed off that they even asked me to change.
Then, when I’m in the BACK CORNER of the gym doing abs on the floor, another staff member comes up and asks me to “put my shirt back on.” I said “I have a shirt on.” They say “no that’s not a shirt. You have to wear a whole shirt” I say “how is this not a shirt?” And she says “You need full coverage. If you have a problem, we always have our boss here.” I laughed and said “Alright bring him over here if he has a problem.”
A few minutes later while I’m doing more workouts on the floor, the “boss” comes up. He says “I’m gonna need you to put a shirt on.” Again, I tell them “I am wearing a shirt.” He says “I need you to put on a shirt or I’m gonna have to ask you to leave.” I said “But I HAVE A SHIRT ON.” He says “Are you gonna put a shirt on?” And I said “Well if this isn’t a shirt… no. I’m not gonna put a shirt on.”
WTF COFC. I bought this outfit to work out in because it’s COMFORTABLE. What is the issue? Why can’t I work out in this outfit? Is my belly button distracting to the general 85% male demographic that your gym serves? I’m forced to leave, WHY? Honestly I’m so floored that I just got kicked out for this. DO BETTER COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON.
Villafañe later posted an addendum, saying that the gym’s written dress code does not say anything about “coverage,” and simply states that “athletic wear must be worn.”
The gym has since said that they kicked me out for “sanitary concerns.” However, they never made those sanitary concerns clear when they asked me to change. They told me I need “more coverage” and nothing more. Not to mention, their website has no written dress code anyway. The dress code at the front of the gym simply says “Athletic wear must be worn.” I would say that what I’m wearing (whether you believe it’s a sports bra or a crop top) is completely normal and considered athletic wear.
College of Charleston spokesperson, Mike Robertson, tells TODAY that the gym is concerned with students contracting possible diseases or infections via exposed skin.
“Because of this possibility, the College of Charleston and many other colleges and universities follow best practices that require people in the gym to wear a full shirt while working out in order to minimize skin exposure to possible infectious agents,” he says.
Villafañe isn’t buying this excuse though, and believes that the motivations behind the unspoken dress code are much more gendered in nature.
“Many people have told me that they have seen girls wearing similar outfits to mine in the [College of Charleston] gym, as well as men wearing muscle tees that expose their midriffs,” she tells TODAY. “It is interesting to me that the men I have seen wearing jeans in the gym … were not bothered or kicked out for not abiding by the dress code rules.”