Change the Dress Code Policy at Pulse Gym, Mcmaster

Change the Dress Code Policy at Pulse Gym, Mcmaster

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Hailey White started this petition to McMaster University

TLDR; The dress-code policy at McMaster University's gym, Pulse, that requires students to cover their shoulders and midriff should be discredited due to contradicting research studies, and on the basic principle of fairness and inclusivity for all gym-goers.


Last year I was kicked out of Pulse gym at McMaster University for wearing a tank-top. In-between classes, I had decided to go to the gym, but before I was able to get five minutes into a routine, I was approached by an employee and told that I was reported by another student for wearing "inappropriate attire". I hadn't brought any other clothes to wear, so I was asked to leave and escorted out. I was infuriated that instead of being encouraged to use the school gym's facility, I was kicked out for wearing a perfectly reasonable exercise top, one that bare only a little bit of shoulder.

Pulse's sleeveless policy states, "A full shirt with sleeves must be worn. Halter tops, tank tops, shirts bearing midriff or torn shirts are not permitted. Sleeveless unitards must be covered with a full shirt." But they don't explain why. So I did some digging and found a bit of backstory to the now rigorously-enforced dress-code policy.

Pulse staff cited a number of studies that suggested people experienced anxiety based on their perceived appearance and the appearance of others exercising around them.

In an article by The Silhouette, I discovered the following:

"In 1989, Wake Forest University developed “The Measurement of Social Physique Anxiety,” a scale measuring “the degree to which people become anxious when others observe or evaluate their physiques.” The authors found that revealing clothing negatively affected the exerciser’s sense of security. These findings were supported by various studies following it, including ones led by McMaster’s very own Kathleen Martin Ginis, a professor and principal investigator in the Department of Kinesiology. The conclusion based on scientific, reproducible evidence is that people are more secure and more likely to exercise if those around them are dressed in a less revealing way."

However, when Marin-Ginis paired up with Western's kinesiology professor Harry Prapavessis, the results were contradictory to what she previously believed to be true regarding dress-code and social anxiety in the gym. This study attempted to analyze women’s perceptions about themselves while following fitness videos.

They stated that "When women are briefly exposed to television images of thin female models they tend to report increased anger, depression, anxiety and certainly dissatisfaction with their own bodies."

Except, they found that women did not necessarily feel less self-confident simply because of the clothing the fitness leader was wearing, but by comparing themselves to the overall attractiveness of the model.

“It didn’t appear to be anything to do with the clothes that they were wearing in terms of being manipulated, it was more to do with whether they see the model as generally more attractive than them or not, and that’s where the differences appeared,” Prapevessis said.

“It still lends itself to the idea that models with subjectively better appearances [are] likely what makes women feel badly about their own bodies and why they might not want to adhere to exercising with a video like that.”

The root of the problem here seems to be run deeper than a dress-code. If the policy is in place only to appease others' feelings of anxiety and insecurities about their own attractiveness, it becomes less about inclusiveness for all, and more about restricting what regular gym-goers can and cannot wear.

If it’s simply in place to make other people feel comfortable, I’m not sure we should have a dress code at all. I think people should just decide for themselves what they want to wear to the gym and if you don’t want to look, you shouldn’t look. 

I agree that sometimes it can feel nerve-wracking getting in the gym, especially having to see all the other people who are in good shape and who are more experienced than you; however, I don't believe the solution of the problem is to tell those people they have to cover up or stay out.

But tell someone they can't wear a tank-top that bare shoulder or midriff because others might look at them and may feel uncomfortable, sends a message that I'm not sure I want to be a part of while at McMaster.

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