Is a sports bra underwear?
I only ask because I thought it was, and I thought that, as underwear, it would normally be covered. I also thought that it was inappropriate to wear underwear uncovered in a family-friendly place like a community gym.
Apparently, I am not only considered to be wrong about this, but I have also been accused of body-shaming.
All this came about because a woman in Edmonton was asked to cover up her sports bra in a community gym, and she was surprised to have been asked. She was so surprised, in fact, that she brought the issue to the attention of the local CBC TV station, and they published an article about it online. The article included a picture of her wearing her sports bra, so now we all know how good she looks.
The CBC asked, on Twitter, what readers thought and I had a brief exchange with another person that went like this:
Me: Underwear gets covered. Bikinis are for beaches. The community gym is for the community.
Other person: A gym is a horrible place for physical body shaming of any kind.
Me: Body shaming??
Other person: telling people their body offends others. As long as its not sexual. Which it is not.
Me: No body offends. Just saying different social circumstances require diff clothes.
I stopped following the discussion after that because I went to bed, but it was still on my mind the next morning. I probably sounded very judgemental in my first comment and so the other person assumed all sorts of things about me on that basis.
What is and is not appropriate clothing at the gym doesn’t bother me a whole lot, and I don’t really care what the woman in question wears, but it really surprised me to be accused of body shaming. I wasn’t thinking about the woman’s body because I was thinking about social norms around clothing.
That probably goes back to the expectations I learned as a child, and in those days in England there were all kinds of unspoken rules about clothes that a person was supposed to learn and practise. There were rules about gloves and hats, handbags and shoes, and how long a hemline should be. Obviously, most of those rules have gone or changed, but there are still some things that I thought we all agreed upon.
Even though we symbolically burned our bras back in the 60s, most women still wear them for practical reasons. Unless we are Madonna, we don’t wear them as outer clothing, though. They are still underwear, even if they are covered only by a flimsy camisole or a tank top.
But, this seems to be another rule that has been challenged so that expectations have changed. I know women who run marathons often do so wearing a sports bra without covering it up, but to my mind there is a distinction between that activity and workouts at a community gym. I don’t know why; it just seemed like a different category of public engagement.
Anyway, I don’t mind being wrong about whether a sports bra is or is not underwear. I don’t care enough. I do mind being accused of body shaming, though. That could not have been further from my mind. In fact, as an overweight older woman, I have had my share of condescending and/or patronizing looks from others at the gym, so there is no way I would even remotely consider shaming anyone else.
Or, am I missing something? Am I somehow unconsciously shaming another person just by saying I think their bra should be covered up? I suppose that’s possible, but I don’t think so. I don’t want them to cover up their body so much as I want them to cover up their bra! I’m not body-shaming; I’m just a fuddy-duddy. Now, you kids get off of my lawn!