By Kate Southwood
This article is exclusive to the online Edition 3 of VARSITY Newspaper.
Controversy surrounding womxn’s gym wear has emerged in recent years. The basic argument presents two options of clothing that womxn can wear to the gym: baggy sweatpants and loose t-shirts, or skin-tight leggings and sports bras. While these two options are not exhaustive, for the sake of argument they bring up interesting points.
There is a growing concern that wearing tight-fitting clothing and exposing so much of their bodies in typically male-dominated spaces is counter-revolutionary to the struggle which took place for womxn to enter that space in the first place, as dressing in such a revealing manner only serves the male gaze.
This fear of serving the male gaze has led to some womxn calling for only one end of the spectrum of gym wear to be worn: sweatpants, baggy shirts, and other non-revealing items, as they do not serve the male gaze.
This idea is flawed. On the one hand, many womxn feel empowered by wearing tights and showing off their bodies, especially in spaces like gyms which are where they worked so hard to get their bodies looking like that to begin with. But there are many womxn who feel empowered by being covered up and unexposed, so they wear baggy, unrevealing gym wear, because that’s where their comfort level is.
On the flip side, many womxn would feel incredibly uncomfortable wearing sweatpants and baggy t-shirts while working out – these get in the way and make you feel hotter and sweatier than necessary. Womxn might also feel uncomfortable with wearing tight-fitting gym wear if they are unhappy with their bodies (which is incredibly likely in a gym setting), or if they feel that they are receiving unwelcome attention. If womxn are feeling uncomfortable in any way, then they definitely aren’t going to feel empowered.
These arguments present extremes, and realistically most womxn find a combination of these two types of clothing – whatever makes them feel most comfortable is what is going to make them feel most empowered. Whether it be tights and a baggy t-shirt, sweatpants and a sports bra, or any other combination, womxn should be free to choose whatever makes them feel most empowered at the gym.
A gym is an incredibly intimidating space, and the feminist choice of gym wear should be whatever womxn feel most comfortable in, as an individual. A blanket ruling will not work. The clothing choice should be about personal comfort, not about what men’s reaction to it might be.