Vanessa Alvarez

The Wellness Center staff says the new rules target both men and women as their marketing appears to use images with different genders to illustrate the new “dos and don’ts.”  

“These pictures include gender neutral options, feminine options, and masculine options that will no longer be accepted when exercising in the wellness center,” Director of Wellness Alicia Rossow said. “The professional staff understand the inconvenience of this ‘new normal’ but we do hope that our marketing and communication tactics have been well received by all genders, races, and religions.”

The decision to implement this dress code was done at the discretion of the professional staff at the Wellness Center. 

Amongst the many changes on campus leading up the Fall semester, FSC’s Wellness Center added a new dress code to the long list of rules students must adapt to. 

The list of rules appears to primarily target women by prohibiting open back tops, crop tops, cut offs and stringers and partial tank tops. Full coverage tops and t-shirts, standard tank tops and approved cut offs are on the list of approved attire for individuals at the Wellness Center. According to a graphic provided to athletic teams, “all policies are enforced for our patrons and staff’s safety.” 

“The Fitness Coordinator and the Assistant Director of Wellness-Fitness can make educated suggestions but the Director of Wellness and the Athletic Director have the final say-so,” Rossow said. 

The graphic provided by the Wellness Center also states the new HWC Apparel Policy is “due to COVID-19” which I find to be rather perplexing.

“In order to minimize the transition of different germs, our dress code needed to be amplified. The equipment gets cleaned often; however it’s always good to take other precautions,” Rossow said. “In this case, minimizing skin-to-equipment contact can minimize individuals leaving behind unwanted germs on different pieces of equipment that might be missed when cleaning.”

According to the Center of Disease Control, COVID-19 is spread through contact with an already infected person which has no correlation with an individual’s attire. So, what made the Wellness Center really take these actions, and are they appropriate? 

Last I checked, there was no link between COVID and shoulder, torso or back exposure. Clothing was made to cover our bodies, not our faces which is the main location where COVID is contracted. 

See, these new restrictions remind me of a common theme within private schools where administrations take the liberty to restrict what women can wear. Similar to most situations, one rule is thrown in against men to make it “fair,” however, once again, this dress code goes to prove the undying patriarchal mentality ruling the private school system.  

The Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg has an article featured on their website detailing the so-called “benefits” of uniforms. Much of the rules surround equality amongst students and unity within the school including “less peer pressure on how to look” and “always modest and appropriate for the school environment.” 

It is no lie that private schools do quite a “good” job at keeping women covered with rules forbidding any exposure, especially the classic “no-shoulder” rules. I attended private schools for nearly sixteen years and have the rules memorized like the back of my hand: three-finger length sleeves, the iconic finger-tip length rule, no crop tops and so on. 

The Wellness Center has a list featured on FSC’s official website detailing the dress code policies currently enforced. The code is not as detailed as the marketing graphics provided to athletes as the only “clothing related rule” is “Patrons must minimally wear a shirt that does not have an arm hole that is larger than one fist below the armpit and covers the midriff. Shorts and pants must be worn at the waist.”

Schools seem to shy away from the true reasoning behind dress codes because students and parents will have a point-blank excuse to call these rules sexist. As we have seen time and time again, institutions love regulating what women can and cannot do, however, men seem to slide by with no implications. 

So, why regulate what women can wear to the gym? Many gym-goers have one common goal in mind in terms of clothing and that is to make sure they are comfortable, able to move and of course, breathe. Clothing to fit these needs is not a one-fits-all concept. Additionally, many like to match their clothing to the activity they are participating in. 

When selecting an outfit to go to the gym, junior Gianna Delmante says “I try to find a legging and tee shirt or appropriate tank top that matches decently well because looking good in the gym helps build confidence and motivate my workout.” 

While it may seem immature or useless to waste energy on frustrations toward a dress code implemented by the school’s gym, I think it is more than just a new set of rules students are expected to follow. I think it is a continuation of a prejudiced rule designed hundreds of years ago to restrict women from self-expression and in this case, comfort and convenience. 

One would think the individuals who make these rules would pick up on the fact that, as adults, we know how to appropriately dress ourselves. Additionally, that as women, we do not expose our shoulders or backs to be objectified, which is exactly what schools do to women whether or not it is intentional. 

If this dress code was implemented to protect students from COVID, will the Wellness Center dispose of it once we return to normalcy? My one hope is that they will, so students can go on enjoy their time at the gym without being overly concerned about what they are wearing. At the end of the day, does it really matter what our students are wearing to the gym? 

I hope in the future, institutions like FSC consider the implications of dress codes and the restrictions they continue to place on individuals and their freedom of expression. In the meantime, however, it is important to comply with the Wellness Center’s approach at keeping students safe and healthy during 2020. 


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