Avert your eyes! (Guest post)

I was getting changed for my swim at our local aquatic centre tonight. It was around 8:30pm, when the kids are done their Friday night swim and the adult lap swimmers arrive. There was a group of pre-teen girls with one mom in the change room at the same time as me. They were done changing and were gathering to leave.

I don’t hide my body when changing or showering in a public place. My first week as a varsity athlete at Western University cured me of that. Whatever body shyness I had was gone after experiencing the one big open shower room in Thames Hall!

Likewise tonight, I chose my locker and started stripping down. My bottom half was naked but my top was still covered, when I heard the mom say, “Avert your eyes, girls. That’s proper change room etiquette.”

I turned towards the group to see what she was referring to and suddenly realized she was talking about me.

I didn’t feel offended but I was quite surprised. She was probably trying to be polite and save me the perceived embarrassment of being stared at, not realizing that in that situation, I really don’t care who looks at me.

I pondered the “avert your eyes” comment during my swim, and thought, given the airbrushed perfection that our girls will see in media in their lifetime, wouldn’t we be better to encourage them to gaze upon the reality of the naked adult female bodies in their lives?

When I swim in the morning, I love the attitude of the retiree aquafit women who stride through the change room completely naked. I aspire to have that body confidence when I get to their age.

Cathy is a 54 year-old duathlete based in London, Ontario. When she’s not running and cycling, she’s a sole practitioner CPA and the co-manager of a family unit, aka a wife, and mom of two young adults

6 thoughts on “Avert your eyes! (Guest post)

  1. I have to believe she was trying to encourage etiquette, with your feeling at heart.
    Preteen girls can say very unexpected things….

    I agree. We would all be much better off with a little less modesty and more real bodies.

    1. Yes, I’m sure that’s what she meant, and as I said, I did not take offense. It gave me something to think about during my swim, along the lines of the pressure that girls and young women feel to have perfect, smooth, unblemished bodies when that is all that they see in the media. My body is none of those, by the way. I believe that if they do see the reality of women’s naked bodies along their growing up journey, they will be more likely to reject the media images as the only body reality. I have made a point of letting my own daughter see me naked as she has grown up.

  2. In Montréal one swimming pool has disallowed nudity in the locker room. People are being advised that they must shower with a bathing suit on and must change in a cubicle or toilet stall. This new policy is in preparation for a new pool facility which will have only one nongender specific locker room.
    I would love to hear your feminist opinion on this.

    1. I had not heard of that. I don’t know what my “feminist” opinion is on that but as a human swimmer, I think they better have a huge number of changing and toilet stalls. I see this as a huge logistical logjam in the change room. I hope they will build some bigger ones for those with kids with them. Anyone with active toddlers knows that you can’t leave them on their own outside your toilet stall without them running away. This solution does however, completely negate the “what gender do you identify with and which change room should you go into” challenge. I know that post-secondary residences have also implemented nongender specific bathrooms, presumably for the same reason.

    2. I’ve been to a number of family changing rooms where there are stalls with doors that have a shower and space to change.
      I think this is great. Much easier with kids of varying genders.

  3. It’s have a combination for both. Open locker rm. space plus a few changing stalls where there are showers. It’s just reality that not everyone wants to be completely naked for a long time in front of everyone else.

    Yes, teen girls do have to taught etiquette on what they visually see. But no need to ask them to avert their eyes. There’s nothing “avoid” seeing in a changing rm.

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