Bellies and Butts, you may not enter.

A recent sign at the Bongerd gym stating that crop tops are not allowed has sparked big discussions amongst Wageningen students since Monday. A Facebook post about the sign has led to hundreds of people debating the issue. While for many, it is clear that this sign is sexist, sexualised women’s bodies and that everyone should be allowed to wear what they want, others feel the no crop tops rule makes sense to ensure people “don’t sweat all over the place” or to create a space where people don’t feel insecure because of other people’s bodies.

What could the Bongerd have been thinking when they decided to put this sign up? One of the explanations given by Henri ten Klooster, head of the sports centre, is that seven years ago, some female students felt intimidated by male students working out in front of the mirror in tank tops, and so the gym banned tank tops; when they added crop tops to the mix is unclear. Cause and effect? Preventing a group of people to wear what they want because a small group of people were showing off years ago just doesn’t seem logical to many. Another argument by the Bongerd is that they want to create a space where students feel safe and positive about their bodies, not ashamed by the bodies of others. But as several people pointed out on Facebook, “3 more cm of fabric are not going to make someone suddenly unattractive or shapeless”. Instead, many are arguing that everyone should be able to wear what they want, and gyms should promote body positivity.

“3 more cm of fabric are not going to make someone suddenly unattractive or shapeless”

The no crop top sign was quite clearly targeting women, who most often wear crop tops. Numerous women have been asked to leave the gym because their bellies were showing, while men next door could carry on with their workout in tank tops. Though officially, the Bongerd does not allow men to train in singlets, it appears that this rule is not so strictly enforced. Either way, the ‘Checklist to enter the fitness room’ of the Bongerd says nothing about crop tops; it only mentions everyone should wear “proper sports clothes”. But who should have the power to decide what proper clothing is? 

We all want the same thing: for the gym to be a safe space for EVERYONE

ten Klooster wants the Bongerd to be a place where “everybody must feel safe in the fitness room and the rest of the SCB accommodation, regardless if you are thick, thin, old, young, employee, student, religious or not religious”. And really, that’s what we all want, right? For the Bongerd to be a safe space for everyone. What’s clear is that the gym won’t achieve this by inventing new rules that discriminate some gym-goers and not others. On a positive note, the Bongerd is very open for discussions and admits the no crop top sign was clumsy. They will be speaking to some involved students and Let’s talk about YES about this on Monday. Will this crop top rule be maintained? The coming weeks will tell.

Do you have something to say about this subject? Can you think of ways in which the Bongerd could be made a safe space for everyone? Please send your thoughts to The Jester (thejester.wageningen@gmail.com) and/or to Let’s Talk About YES (consentwageningen@gmail.com). We’ll be collecting your thoughts and taking them with us to further discussions with the gym.

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