By Marion Givhan
It really does feel like a commandment. Whether or not you are a boy or a girl, the laminated sign behind the front desk warns everyone that shirts must be worn at all times while in Fowler center. I did not even notice this sign during my first few weeks as a student. I only learned about it when my friend and I were working out together, and I took off my shirt. I wore a sports bra and yoga pants that would have been acceptable at a YMCA in rural Alabama, but my friend had to warn me that taking off my shirt wasn’t allowed.
She had her own experience with this. Around eight, one night, when no one else was in the workout room, she was on the elliptical and decided to take off her shirt. She was then wearing a sports bra and a tennis skirt. Minutes later, a women came downstairs, tapped urgently on her shoulder, and told her, “You have to put your shirt on, or you have to leave.”
My frustration at hearing this story fueled my workout, and suddenly I was very aware of the thickness of the shirt on my body.
According to Jane Hawkins, an office manager, Fowler is a “public facility, and people should wear clothes in it.” She considers sports bras to be underwear and therefore not real clothing, and guys may only go shirtless if playing shirts vs. skins basketball during practice. No mention was made if the same rule applied for girls.
Despite the fact it applies to both men and women, Hawkins also said that the main culprits and complainers are women. I believe this is due to the general acceptance of sports bras (and usually very loose, tank tops over them) as appropriate work out gear. Because of this, the confidence I feel when wearing a sports bra and shorts, I do not agree with this policy.
To start, I feel comfortable with the idea of seeing shirtless people. In most public places, it would be considered odd or inappropriate, but out of all places, it should not be a weird concept at a gym. While discussing this with one of my assistant proctors, Claire Burgess (C’17), she said, “It’s ridiculous that I can run outside in a sports bra, but not run on a treadmill in a sports bra.” Truth! And the same people who would see you exercising at Fowler, would see you running on campus, so why the distinction?
Another reason Fowler has this rule focuses on cleanliness. Granted, I would not want to sit down at one of the weight machines after someone has used it, sweat on it, and not cleaned it. However, two solutions would solve this: one, people who use the machines should also use towels to separate their bare backs from the seats, and two, people should be considerate and clean the machines.