What’s wrong with being confident?

Amy McNeel

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“Excuse me, but crop tops are against the dress code here,” said a female Campus Recreation worker to the girl lifting next to me. “Is there something else you can put on?” 

The girl in question was wearing high waisted leggings and a grey t-shirt that she had tied into a knot. The result: An inch of skin around her waist that showed her belly button. 

As the conversation continued, her face got red and her eyes wandered nervously. “Is this really that bad?” she asked, looking down at the sliver of skin between the hems of her shirt and pants. The worker responded that the Rec Center is cracking down on crop tops and that they are prohibited for “health and safety” reasons.

The girl looked upset and embarrassed. At first, she unknotted the shirt so no skin was showing, but within five minutes she left the gym altogether. 

Later, I saw the same Campus Rec worker talking to a fellow employee. She said something along the lines of, “I did it. I asked someone to change.” The other worker responded with a “Good job” and a high five. A few minutes after that conversation, I saw her ask another girl to change. As a witness, I felt angry and disgusted. 

Telling women to cover up their bodies hardly encourages body love and empowerment. And for health and safety reasons? You’ve got to be kidding me. Is an inch of skin around the waist really that much more dangerous than the skin on the shoulders, thighs and arms? I’m no expert, but I think not. 

As a girl who goes to the gym on the daily, I’m constantly surrounded by big dudes with cutoff shirts that show their nipples. So, Campus Rec Center, are you telling me that male nipples are more acceptable than a little bit of female stomach? Why can’t girls wear crop tops if guys can wear cutoffs? I’m tired of the double standard. 

The Campus Rec dress code states that cutoffs are prohibited. However, I’ve never seen a guy be asked to change, and I don’t see signs that say “No cutoffs” in the entrance to the gym. Instead, I see signs that say “No crop tops.” 

What makes this whole thing even more ridiculous is that Campus Rec is currently co-hosting “Love Your Body Week,” which aims to promote healthy body image in the Grand Valley State University community. 

In a recent Lanthorn article titled “GVSU Recreation to host Love Your Body Week,” Campus Rec Assistant Director of Marketing and Special Events Kayla Cupples says, “As a department, Campus Recreation is looking forward to supporting students and encouraging self-awareness, self-love and positive self-talk in regard to one’s body.”

To me, their efforts to stop girls from wearing crop tops is the opposite of encouraging self-love. Ultimately, showing skin should be a woman’s choice. People go to the gym to reach fitness goals and to feel good about themselves. And now you want to punish them for being confident enough to show some skin? This hypocrisy says a lot more about the GVSU Rec Center than it does about those they humiliate.