Gym dress code faces backlash

Contributed by Charles Egberg, Journalism Student

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An outburst erupted at Winona State University due to proper attire guidelines at the fitness center in the Integrated Wellness Complex.

Posters were hung up Oct. 15, stating that the fitness center has begun implementing attire guidelines.

Students acted fast.

There were phone calls made as well as social media posts. One post received a lot of attention and was later taken off of Facebook.

The posters were then taken down two days later, on Oct. 17.

But not before a protest was planned for Thursday, Oct. 18.

It was to take place on the second floor of the fitness center. A group of students were planning to take over the second floor in whatever they felt comfortable working out in.

The plan was to meet at the gazebo around 4:45 p.m. Then at 4:54 p.m. they would start walking to the fitness center in coats, pants and sweatshirts. Once they got to the second floor, they would take off the extra layers and start working out.

There were four participants in the protest and all wore sports bras, a clear violation to one of the guidelines the fitness center had posted. However, no one approached them, and they were able to finish their workout.

Jennifer Manglos, president of FORGE (Fighting for Our Rights and Gender Equality), expressed concern over the dress code.

“The policing of bodies contributes to rape culture and seeing our school perpetuate that is something we are not okay with and definitely needs to be addressed,” Manglos said.

However, the IWC did not mean for it to be taken that way.

“I know there was some talk about it being a health measure, but then where does that come into play with the maintenance of the equipment and the cleanliness of the equipment, that’s a much more effective way to handle the situation than to try to control what people wear,” Manglos said.

But even after the posters were taken down, there still seemed to be confusion as to why they were hung up in the first place.

According to the IWC’s front desk assistant, Katie Hanson, the rules have always been there.

Yet, when passerby’s look at the poster of what is acceptable and what is not, there are five women and two men shown. There are other pictures of articles of clothing shown, but the actual people shown are in disproportion. One argument made was that women’s attire has more options and that is why more female bodies are on the poster.

In the acceptable column of photos, there are two women shown and zero men. On the non-acceptable portion, there are three women and two men, with the two men, wearing similar shirts.

When someone is found in violation of these guidelines, “no one really gets in trouble,” Hanson said. Whomever is working will have a polite conversation with the person and will inform them that there are guidelines that are posted, and should be kept in mind for next time.

Kate Noelke, IWC director, was able to sit down and speak on this issue. Monday, Oct. 22 at an open forum.

Noelke, along with the other directors of the IWC, were surprised to see the outcome of the posters. They were not expecting to have such a negative reaction, as they were viewing it mostly as a health concern.

There were around 24 people who attended the forum including three IWC directors.

The open forum was held so participants could share their thoughts and opinions on the situation as well as for the directors to explain their side of the story.

The posters were made from compiling and looking at other school’s attire guidelines such as the University of Minnesota and North Dakota State University.

The directors and students involved in these decisions did not realize there would be a surge of complaints as they were looking at it from a sanitary perspective.

The directors stressed that the posters were not to aid or promote gender-based violence, but they did realize as to why it was taken that way.

A complaint that was brought up during the forum was that in the fitness center, they would see people on the basketball court playing ‘shirts vs. skins.’

The fitness center does not include the basketball court. Those are operated by intermural sports.

The fitness center only includes the first-floor weight room, the cardio portion of the second floor and the third-floor track. Although the basketball court is connected to the second floor of the fitness center, there is the potential for different rules as they are funded slightly different and ran by different directors.

The conclusion of the meeting was that the posters were hung up because of a mixture of complaints as well as for sanitary reasons.

However, the directors did acknowledge that the situation was handled poorly and are hoping to keep the student body informed when making further decisions on this issue.