One Santa Clara University student is speaking out against a gym dress code — and the bizarre reasons behind it. Grace DiChristina was asked to leave the school’s gym because her shirt fell about an inch above her shorts, as shown in the picture above.
When she asked a supervisor why, she wrote on Facebook, she was given two reasons. One: Her exposed skin put her at risk for contracting methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, a bacterial infection that can live in gyms and locker rooms. Here’s the crazy part, though — you don’t have to bare a tiny sliver of your midriff to contract the infection. MRSA can also be contracted while barefoot in the locker room, or if her exposed legs (should she avoid shorts, as well?), arms (no more tank tops?), hands (hello, gloves!), or face (should gyms start requiring ski masks?) came in contact with the bacteria.
Luckily, the supervisor provided another reason, Grace says: Santa Clara University is a Jesuit school, implying that her gym outfit was a little too sexual for the school.
But if wearing proper clothing is a concern for girls, it must be the same for guys, right? Not true, says Grace. “Muscles tees with long armholes are extremely popular for men. If you walk into Leavey Center, the first thing you see is that the gym is packed with men sweating directly onto the equipment. However, these men feel safe. … Why are women being singled out and punished just because other people can’t follow the rules?” Not only is forcing women to wear “modest” clothing patronizing — it contributes to a culture of sexism that harms women emotionally and physically.
“I do not go to the gym to be sexualized or looked at by other people — I go to improve my health and my self-confidence,” she continued. “Being told to leave the facility because my outfit is inappropriate is more than just annoying; it’s humiliating and degrading. My workouts become much less enjoyable when I have to worry about people looking at my body.”
In her post, Grace calls for a change in the way the university protects students’ health, as well as the way it treats women. “I absolutely agree that MRSA is a serious illness and we should address it. However, shaming women for what they wear to the gym is not the way to prevent it,” she writes. “We could put up flyers showing what symptoms look like and what to do if someone thinks they have it. We could also institute a rule to clean equipment both before and after use. Not sharing towels and wiping down machines are much better ways to prevent MRSA than forcing women to either cover their stomachs or leave.”