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September 6, 2009

Prudes in the Locker Room

In the September 2009 issue of Marie Claire, we found an article (in the Health section no less) called "Bare Naked Ladies" that made us roll our eyes and clench our fists in slut-shamey annoyance. And no, it had nothing to do with the rock band.
Put your clothes on already! Lea Goldman gets exercised about public displays of undress in the locker room.
That's right... she's offended by people getting naked in a locker room! We figured there had to be more to the story than just nudity... Apparently we were right. It's not just nudity that bothers Ms. Goldman, but shameless nudity... because everyone know nudity should be shameful.
I nearly lost consciousness at the gym once. It was actually in the faux-teak and terra-cotta-tiled "ladies" lounge of an upscale health club a few blocks from my apartment. I'd decided to shave a few minutes off my morning routine by prepping for work at the gym instead of sprinting home right after Spin class. Big mistake. As I scampered from the shower to my locker, clutching a threadbare gym-issued towel barely wide enough to cover me, I caught sight of a doughy, naked woman, her nipples the size of salami slices, holding aloft a compacct as she carefully plucked her eyebrows. I was so distracted by her brazen nudity -- by the boobs, folds, moles, and thatch -- that I walked right into an open locker door, prompting the kind of woozy spell that, had I been a cartoon character, would have been accompanied by chirping birds.
Wow. Yep, she was so offended by the sight of a woman naked in the locker room that she almost injured herself. (Imagine what would happen if she went to a nude beach - she'd probably have a coronary!) I also noticed that she took care to point out just how unattractive this woman was: doughy... nipples like salami slices... folds... moles... because the sight of an unattractive woman is all the more offensive than that of a thin, "sexy" woman? I mean, how dare these women take off their clothes in... a locker room... designed for showering and changing clothes... um... okay...

[...] the rules of engagement are simple: Get in, do the deed, then get the hell out. Anyone who's ever spied me wriggling into spandex while still clad in workwear can attest to my mastery of the discreet quick-change. On the rare occasion I've been waylaid - fumbling with a new lock, checking my BlackBerry for an important message - I've always made sure I was securely wrapped in a towel or, at the very least, wearing what my old-school Jewish mother still refers to as "foundation garments."

Locker-room peacocks would, no doubt, counter that I'm insecure about my body, that such prudishness is the telltale mark of a chubster. True, I'm no size 4, and I haven't entirely made peace with my fullish figure [...]

But my discomfort in the locker room runs way deeper than mere self-consciousness. The fact is, at age 32, I still find the bare female form pretty foreign. I wasn't raised in one of those "naked homes," where, I imagine, girls pranced around braless and changed with their doors open. My God-fearing, disciplinarian parents valued modesty in their three daughters and raised us to be reserved young ladies who'd sooner wait in an interminable line for a privatefitting room than doff our clothes in a communal one. I didn't even own a bikini until I was 30 [...] It's no wonder, then, that I treat full frontal -- be it in movies or magazines or at the gym -- with the same wonder-tinged-with-alarm that kids reserver for a solar eclipse: Stare too long and risk going blind.

Wow. So because the author is uptight about her body - and women's bodies in general - everyone else who goes into a locker room should also be? (And the implication that you'd have to be a "chubster" in order to have insecurities about your body is also annoying. I know plenty of petite women who have body image issues and plus-size women who feel great about their looks.) It's perfectly okay to not feel comfortable walking around the locker room naked... but that's her issue and it's not fair to put it on anyone who does feel comfortable being nude in semi-public.

If she can't handle looking at naked women, she has two choices: don't go where there are naked women (you know, like a locker room) or just don't look. If she's so offended by naked bodies, then don't stare at them like they're a solar eclipse. Just turn away. You can't be both offended by it and obsessed with it simultaneously.

My gym doesn't expressly prohibit bare-ass grandstanding in the locker room -- most don't, apparently. (A sign inside Crunch Fitness locker rooms cheekily warns its members: "Don't forget to put clothes on before exiting.") It's an implicit courtesy, like wiping down a sweaty eliptical or putting the hand weights back on the rack. An executive at one national chain told me he hasn't heard a single complaint on the matter.

Can you even imagine a locker room that had a "no excessive nudity" rule? Seriously, is she kidding... of course, they don't have any prohibitions. It's a locker room! One of the only places in today's society where it is perfectly okay - and in fact, expected - for women to be naked is in a locker room. I also think it's ridiculous to compare wiping down a machine after use to putting your clothes on before you exit the locker room... one is something that's common courtesy, the other is an unspoken rule anywhere outside of a nudist colony (well, it's usually unspoken, heh). But there are no rules, implicit or explicit, about not being naked in the locker room. I'm not at all surprised that no one has ever heard a complaint on the matter... because a complaint on the matter is insane.

These days, I change into my workout gear in the handicap stall of my office bathroom before class, then race home afterward, crimson-faced and still dripping with sweat, to shower. The towels are much plusher at my place, I rationalize, and there's no danger of hydroplaning in my flip-flops on a wet floor. The only gratuitous nudity is my own, and my husband's only complaint is that there's not more of it.
The idea of a woman changing her clothes in the bathroom to avoid being around other women changing their clothes is so sad to me. If it was actually because she was uncomfortable being naked in front of other people, I'd maybe understand it somewhat... but she's changing in the bathroom because she's uncomfortable with other people's nudity. Nudity that she can easily ignore, as she does her own "discreet quick change". But to be honest, I think it's better that she change in the bathroom and shower at home...

Why should the rest of us have to feel shamed by her issues?


¡revulo! said...

This is just sad.

I have body image issues, a mountain of them. I can relate to her changing in the bathroom on a "I don't want other people to see me" lever. When I'm in a locker room, I change in the shower stall. But that has fuck all to do with anybody else being naked. I think it's even a good thing when someone feels good enough to at least change out in the "open" (in being in the locker room counts). *rolls eyes* The writer needs to get a grip.

a rose is a rose said...

why in the great goddess' name is she checking her blackberry in the locker room if she is SO DAMNED UNCOMFORTABLE being in there?

i think she doth protest too much if you get my drift.

Anonymous said...

Having your cellphone or Blackberry on in the locker room is frowned upon. No one wants photos of their bare bums plastered all over facebook or the internet. Not only is this woman a total nut job, she has absolutely no sense of *real* locker room etiquette.

tehfanglyfish said...

My husband says that in the men's locker room, the showers are arranged in a large circle and there aren't any curtains!!! While I don't think I would care to be that exposed (and no curtain sounds like it might get a bit too cold for my liking), I really don't think that particular person would do well in the male locker room. (Because how are you supposed to shower with clothes on? I mean, I get you could do it, but it still wouldn't be as effective, I don't think. Or at the very least, it would be terribly uncomfortable.)

Anonymous said...

the showers at the women's gym on my campus are also a large circle with no curtains. It's quite liberating to realize it's perfectly safe and acceptable to be your imperfect, naked self with other women. Everyone should try it at least once.

Anonymous said...

Someone better warn this woman never to go to Europe, in particular Scandinavia. All change rooms at pools and gyms are with open showers and saunas where women sit naked together without a thought about any body shame. I was in Melbourne (australia) and felt staggered by the women wrestling with their clothes while trying to hold a towel around themselves. Women should be encouraged to feel comfortable about their bodies and those of other women.

Anonymous said...

Despite the fact that I'm a straight female, I've always kind of enjoyed a "Naked locker room" as opposed to a prude locker room. It's kind of liberating and even fun to walk around in the nude in a female locker room. I have no desire to do anything sexual with another female. But ever since Junior High I've enjoyed locker room nudity among other females.

We always showered after gym class in junior high and high school, and it was kind of fun in an innocent way. We would share shampoo or body-wash with each other and it was nice to try new products. And a locker room was the one place to walk around in the nude without it being sexual.

Again, it was all innocent, but fun.

My lack of shyness comes in handy now, too. The showers in the women's locker room at my gym are open group showers like those in schools. If I were uptight I'd have to go to work everyday without showering after my morning workout, which would not sit-well with my boss or co-workers.

I understand that some women may be uncomfortable being nude in front of others. But for someone to have a problem with seeing a brief glimpse of another woman nude, you have to be incredibly uptight. There used to be an old Nun that swam at my gym on weekday mornings, and even she showered in the nude after her swims.


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