CARSA dress code story draws mixed reactions

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A Martlet article about a stricter dress code at CARSA has inspired lively and mixed responses on social media.

News outlets like the Times Colonist, the Vancouver Sun, and CBC Victoria all reported the story of Luiza, a UVic alumna who was asked to change out of her shorts as they were deemed to violate a new CARSA dress code that forbade the “gluteal fold.”

A photo of CARSA’s divisive new dress code. Photo provided by Luiza and edited for formatting

While most outlets seized the opportunity for anatomy puns (“No butts about it,” read the Times Colonist; “Ill-fitted gym attendees asked to butt out,” said a Saanich News headline), plenty of people responded to the story — either in defence of the gym or Luiza, or recounting their own negative experiences at UVic gyms.

Erika McCor is a UVic alumna and a friend of Luiza. McCor defended Luiza online after the incident, and spoke to the Martlet about her own dress code encounters with UVic gym staff.

“I was just wearing pants, like leggings, full-length leggings, and a tank top. And I was told that I needed to put on a t-shirt or leave,” McCor said.

Tank tops are now allowed in CARSA, but McCor says strict dress codes in general have a negative effect on the women who have to follow them.

“It makes you feel like your body is there for viewing pleasure, so cover it up so people don’t view you,” she said. “It just makes you feel uncomfortable in your own body.”

The majority of public response came via Facebook comments. Commenting on the Times Colonist’s Facebook page, Karl Johanson spoke to a similar theme as McCor.

“Their body, their right to chose [sic] what to wear,” Johanson wrote. “What century do some people think it is?”

“It’s 2017 — stop trying to tell women how to dress,” agreed Marc Shouten in the comment section of the Vancouver Sun article about the story.

“Why is it that women are always asked to cover up?” asked Pangl James on CBC Victoria’s Facebook page. “Maybe men need to be told to keep their eyes to themselves. If they don’t like it, quit gawking.”

Some commenters didn’t say whether or not they agreed with the code, but maintained it was CARSA’s right to have whatever dress code they wanted.

“Their gym, their rules,” Bill Sanderson wrote on the Times Colonist Facebook post. “Go somewhere else if you don’t agree. Easy.”

“I’m not sure why anyone is making a big deal out of a clothing rule,” agreed Louise Peters on the Saanich News’ Facebook post. “There are rules about not wearing street shoes in most gyms, there are rules about what to wear on a tennis court, squash courts have shoe rules . . . most sports do have clothing rules.”

But the majority of comments on Luiza’s story — particularly in the comments of articles that showed the photo of what she was wearing — expressed some form of sympathy.

“Assuming the photo taken reflects the outfit worn, I’m surprised that anyone would’ve found “Luiza’s” workout shorts as “too short”,” wrote Chad Stroomer on the Martlet website. “This isn’t a case of being deliberately provocative, like showing up to a gym in a bikini or something. In fact the outfit looks entirely typical of the kind worn by any number of women I see daily biking into work or jogging on the weekend.”

“There is nothing wrong with her shorts. I have seen shorter in gyms and skimpier outfits,” commented Lori Schafer on the CBC Victoria Facebook page. “The staff should be ashamed for dealing with it in front of others, they should have taken her into an office, or some where private, instead of embarrassing her.”

And while most people thought the language of “gluteal fold” was a bit unclear (“Wtf is a gluteal fold,” asked Matt Rissling on the CBC Victoria Facebook page), one commenter thought CARSA didn’t go far enough.

“As always happens in these stultifying moments, the language also suffers,” wrote Bunyip Fanshaw on the Vancouver Sun website. “What is a “gluteal fold” compared with the magnificent “callipygian cleft” extolled by Lou Gottlieb of The Limelighters [sic]?”

What indeed.

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