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Weight Discrimination

Weight Discrimination

My university might be discriminatory. This is no surprise though – I go to Kennesaw State University. You probably saw a video circulating Twitter a few years ago depicting a white academic advisor harassing a black student who was there to get advising from her. She said him just sitting there was “threatening” her. What a joke. We also have been on the news for our new and newly resigned university president – Sam Olens. You know, the one who was handed the job instead of the Board of Regents doing a national search for a president. Throughout the whole process, professors, faculty, and students alike all protested his appointment, but, you know, why listen to the student and faculty body, who know the campus culture and who would fit in as a president, right? He resigned recently amid numerous scandals. The most important of these was when he allegedly told the athletic department to change the game-day football proceedings because some African-American cheerleaders kneeled on the field during the national anthem in protest of police brutality. We had sit-ins and protests on the Campus Green regarding the barring of the cheerleaders to exercise their First Amendment right to peaceful protest. When the cheerleaders continually asked to meet and discuss the matter with him, he allegedly dodged their attempts. There may have also been some suspicious activity in regards to a Title IV case. Sometimes, going to Kennesaw State almost feels like living in the Civil Rights Era. The cheerleaders even ended up being known as the “Kennesaw Five,” around campus. Like I said, Civil Rights Era-type happenings.

Unfortunately, I have a story about discrimination to add to the list.

A few weeks ago, my Monday started off as regular as ever. I woke up at 5:30 to get to the campus gym by 6:00. Swiped my card for entrance. Put my jacket in a locker. Filled my water bottle. Set up the bench press. When I was about to begin my workout, one of the female workers came up to me and said “I don’t know if you know, but you’re not allowed to wear crop tops and sports bras here at the gym. I’m just gonna let you get your workout in though and act like I didn’t see it, but I’m just telling you for future reference.” I was wearing a black Victoria’s Secret Sports and high-waisted workout leggings. At most I was showing an inch of skin in my midsection, maybe an inch and a half in my back area. Still, I thanked her for that information since she provided it in a helpful manner and proceeded with my workout.

Not even thirty seconds later, another employee, this time a male, was walking towards me. He had obviously seen my encounter with the female employee, but decided that interrupting me rudely in the middle of a rep was acceptable. The first words he barked were, “Do you have something to cover up with?”

I retorted, “I have a sweat jacket but I’m not putting it on and risking myself overheating in this hot gym.”

“Well, you can’t wear that.”

“I’m aware, I’ve been told, and I won’t wear it again.” I started my repetitions again.

  He just stands there glaring at me. Then, again interrupting my workout, he said, “Well the next time you wear that here I’m going to have to kick you out. I work here every morning so I’d catch it.”

Over my dead body. “And I come to the gym nearly every morning and have never seen you.”

I decided to ignore him and his domineering tone, because I was wasting precious time with this nonsense. I restarted my workout for a third time with him just standing and glaring at me. Eventually, he finally walked back to do, you know, his job.

Now, before we get into the nitty gritty and discrimination aspect of this, I’d like to disclaim that I don’t give a rat’s butt about a dress code. I’m fine with not wearing a crop top at the gym. But what I do care about is when that rule isn’t applied equally across the board.

My high school had a pretty strict dress code. When wearing leggings and yoga pants became popular, my awesome principal, who was hip with the times and trends, had a meeting in the auditorium to address how the trend would impact our dress code. At first, he allowed us to wear them with a shirt long enough to cover our butts. While I don’t particularly agree with limiting what women wear because we will become a “distraction” to boys (and basically inferring that boys can’t control themselves), I can somewhat understand my principal’s point. During the weeks we were test-driving the trend, my principal noticed that the shirts were getting shorter and shorter, and that some teachers were allowing skinner students to get away with wearing leggings because “they looked like pants” while larger students would get dress-coded in no time. Once he caught wind, we had another meeting, where he said no one would be allowed to wear leggings as pants. While there was some moaning and groaning, at least he applied the rule across the board instead of just letting it slide for some people and not for others.

At my campus gym, I’ve seen plenty of stick-thin, blonde-hair-blue-eyed white girls wearing much more revealing sports bras, cropped shirts, and muscle tees, showing inches and inches of skin. Yet whenever I see those same girls in the gym every week, they’re not being told they “can’t wear that” or that they’re “going to get kicked out.” Hmm.

Another disclaimer: some people might think I’m going to talk about how I was discriminated against for my race. I don’t think it’s a race issue as all, or the first kind of discrimination, which is intentional, direct discriminatory treatment against a protected class. My experience was the lesser known and lesser talked about form of discrimination, which is disparate impact: “often referred to as unintentional discrimination, disparate impact occurs when policies, practices, rules or other systems that appear to be neutral result in a disproportionate impact on a protected group.”

I do have to mention the only downfall in my claim and analysis, though. As of now, weight discrimination technically doesn’t fall under the “protected class” aspect of disparate impact discrimination, unless the person’s weight is such that it makes it a disability. That being said, I think everyone can agree that singling out certain people in relation to their body weight is pretty crappy.

So the question I pose to my university’s recreation department is this: Why was I singled out? Why is it that if I wear a sports bra to the gym, I get threatened with the “I’ll kick you out next time,” while skinny girls could walk around with their left tit out and have nothing happen to them? Why are your own employees included in the girls I’ve seen wearing sports bras and crops in the gym? Wearing no shirt, for males, is also prohibited according to their “rules.” Why can I walk near the basketball courts and see at least two games of shirts versus skins going on at any given time? Why was I singled out?

Instead of, you know, finding the weights that people misplace around the gym, or checking equipment to make sure it’s all functioning, or unlocking all the lockers that people have locked shut and can’t be opened without the master keys, they would rather police my body and what I decide to wear to the gym. And they choose to do this by applying a policy differently to me, a curvier girl, rather than someone who’s stick thin.

I’ll probably never get an answer, though. KSU is good for using silence and not responding.

Write you little lovelies later,

XO Ky M.

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