Reily clothing restrictions reinforce harmful body-shaming behavior

Ella Helmuth, Senior Staff Writer

Recently, Reily Student Recreation Center put up signs throughout the gym areas informing students and Reily members of a new dress code, which prohibits uncovered sports bras and other underarm-bearing tops, such as cut-out t-shirts, apparently in the interest of preventing infection. Rather than dictate what Reily patrons should be wearing, Reily staff should promote proper disinfecting practices and encourage students not to share equipment.

According to the Mayo Clinic, MRSA is an infection caused by staph bacteria resistant to many of the drugs used to treat regular staph. It abounds in patients at hospitals going through invasive procedures, but it can also affect healthy people, spreading by skin-to-skin contact, typically within sports teams (specifically wrestling), child-care professionals or people living in crowded conditions.

MRSA is something worth worrying about. It can be a devastating infection and can resist many drugs used to treat it, making it incredibly dangerous. It does sometimes spread in gyms and sports facilities. Reily, however, is not handling concerns about MRSA and other infectious diseases effectively.

There is no medical evidence that exposing one’s armpits causes or encourages the spread of MRSA and other infections that spread in gyms, but there are policies that athletic facilities and those who frequent them can undertake to prevent the spread of infections.

The new dress code affects men, women and everyone outside of the binary, and body shaming and insecurities know no gender. That said, the brunt of enforcement falls on female Reily attendees who are more likely to wear the workout attire the new dress code prohibits. Not only is there no medical reason for this dress code, it is also incredibly inappropriate to dictate the wardrobe choices of women and men on this campus or anywhere else.

Athletic attire can already be a source of insecurity for those who identify as women. Body insecurities and unwelcome comparisons abound in a world in which women are already shuffled away from certain spaces, such as the weight room, and evaluated based on facets of their fitness, like weight.

Instead of encouraging people not to expose their armpits, Reily can encourage them to do things like bringing their own exercise mats and not sharing towels. It can also publicize how to recognize an infection so proper treatment can be obtained. Gym-goers should be taught to watch for rashes or sores that could be signs of infection, red rashes for athlete’s foot, or jock itch and changing bumps that look like insect bites for MRSA and staph.

To ban Reily patrons from wearing revealing workout attire in a fitness environment is absurd. It is a direct affront to confidence and body positivity. Everyone should wear what they please. We’re adults, and sports bras do not cause MRSA. 

This is an opinion article and does not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Ella is a sophomore at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected].

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