Cal Dining: no ‘shirt,’ no service

2 cents on 2 sides

On my first day working at Cal Dining my freshman year, my manager explained in a condescending, matter-of-fact tone that if someone was wearing too little clothing, I should refuse to serve them.

Aside from specifying that every customer must wear shoes, tops and bottoms, however, my manager never explicitly discussed what exactly she meant by “too little clothing.” She never gave a measurement for how long is “long enough” (that’s what she said) for a top or what even constitutes a top. Additionally, these dress codes cannot be found on the Cal Dining website.

The manager claimed that the policy applied to both genders, but it is evident that women are specifically targeted by this rule because women’s clothing is generally more revealing. It is exclusively women’s clothing that incorporates designs such as a low scoop necks or exposed midriff, which could potentially be considered too showy.

Without set metrics for determining what is considered too little, the rule allowed for subjective interpretations, giving leeway to slutshame women and not allow them to eat in a cafeteria they paid to get into.

Not to mention, the manager did not give me a comprehensive reason for why the rule exists aside from health concerns. Yet, something tells me that her dress-related concerns go beyond the fear that the lukewarm soup would burn the bare bosoms of a girl in a leopard print bodysuit.

The dining hall staff somehow granted themselves the right to Big Brother the students’ outfits, going beyond their job description.

Though in my semester of working at Cal Dining I’ve never had to personally turn away someone for not wearing “appropriate” attire to the cafeteria, I’ve heard the staff making snarky remarks about the customers’ clothing.

“Why does she have to come in looking so sexy?” a staff member commented to the manager.

Once, as a consequence, my friend was degraded into explaining to the manager why she was wearing a sports bra and running shorts to dinner, as if she wasn’t an independent adult with freedom to make decisions on her wear.

Eventually, I quit after a semester of their sexist nonsense. But even when I stopped working with these judgemental assholes, I still witnessed instances of the dining halls flexing their prejudices and unchecked powers.

After a sorority invite, my friend, who was dressed in a crop top and shorts, was refused late night at Crossroads when she got to the front of the line. She showed no signs of being drunk — not seemingly more than the rest of the group, at least.

Despite the fact that my friend had on shoes, shorts and a crop top, the manager explained to her that she was not dressed appropriately for the dining halls. The manager’s refusal to serve a “dressed” girl gave no other interpretation besides the fact that she thought my friend looked too slutty. “Health concerns” was clearly just a cheap way to disguise a sexist rule.

The managers of both dining halls have disregarded health concerns and merely used the dress code as an excuse to project their misogyny and their distaste for “sluttily” dressed women. 

What’s even more unfair is that students weren’t informed coming into college that they were expected to be in attire conservative enough for church in order to eat mediocre orange chicken at 10 p.m. The dining halls shouldn’t be able to create sexist rules that violate someone’s freedom of choice, much less implement them without a warning.

With these dining hall rules in place, many women cluelessly walked into slutshaming and are unnecessarily disrespected.

We’re taught equality and anti-sexist values in class only to have them be challenged hours later in a dining hall. The fact that their bosoms would even elicit this level of butthurt and slutshaming among managers says a lot about the lack of consideration taken when hiring university staff. Without a staff in place that is respectful of students, the university easily compromises the safe space and equality it strives to provide.

After escaping K-12 dress codes and their family jumping down their throats about their wear, the last thing students want is to be told what to wear in college and be denied food when they don’t comply. Saying that such rules should not be in place would be an understatement.

The managers shouldn’t expect us to be cognizant of their distaste of our bellybuttons when we get dressed in the mornings. And we certainly shouldn’t have to keep them in mind every time we go shopping at Westfield.

The managers’ issues with revealing clothing should remain their own, not a burden upon the whole student body. So let us feast in peace.

Catherine Straus writes the Thursday blog on taking two sides. Contact her at [email protected].