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LengLeng

Thai muay thai gym dress code for women

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I wonder how people feel about gendered dress codes in Thai muay thai gyms?.As a resident in Thailand I've been to several gyms, both more fitness inspired and fight camps focused on foreign customer and fight gyms focusing on Thai fighters. In my experience there is definitely a much more tolerant attitude towards women training in tights, sports-bras, hot pants etc in any kind of gym where the foreigner is the main customer. But, as pointed out many times before by Sylvie, fighter gyms focused on the Thai fighter seem to have an unspoken dress code when it comes to women. It's this Thai thing where no one says anything, but you just feel it.

My approach has always been to err on the safe side until I figure things out. Especially at my current gym which focuses on its Thai stadium fighters and foreigners are a side-business. ...and there are barely any other women training there. 

However, the gym gets a lot of temporary visitors and many times Western women who train in sports-bra and/or no undershorts etc. I can feel there is some sort of reaction towards it among the trainers and fighters, but usually the women themselves cannot be bothered (which I sort of envy).   

The thing is, I think these unspoken dress code rules are stupid and limiting and even though I do not want to lead the sports bra revolt, I am kind of grateful for when visitors come and DGAF. As I hope this will mean that tolerance will grow and at one point this is not at all a thing anymore. I also would feel so shitty telling another woman how to dress based on my perception of what I think is ok. 

I am interested in hearing other people's experience about these things. Do you care at all? Would you advise visitors how to dress? 

 

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Btw well aware this might be a topic for the women's roundtable, but despite several emails I get no access to it. Which also mean I cannot tell whether this has already been discussed or not. I also believe this is a topic men should be able to have access to and learn from as most of the times, men are so blissfully unaware of shit women have to deal with. 

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9 minutes ago, LengLeng said:

I am interested in hearing other people's experience about these things. Do you care at all? Would you advise visitors how to dress? 

I've noticed a change in what the female fighters in Chiang Mai wear to fight in, now versus when I was living there 5 years ago. Chiang Mai is a more conservative area of Thailand and when I was living there, a lot of the fighters wore T-shirts, so even a tank-top was kind of exposed. Now almost all the women fight in long sports bras, kind of crop-top length with no sleeves. Thai women wear their shorts higher, so only a little torso is exposed, but it's a big change to my eyes. And it's very prevalent. I couldn't say where that change has come from, whether it's influenced by more western women training and fighting up in Chiang Mai or not. Because it's the norm now, there's no gasping on an individual basis (because it's so common), but the way these fighters are photographed and promoted on the Thai-language pages is definitely not lacking the male gaze.

I also see the exact same breakdown that you do, in terms of fitness vs fighter gyms. Part of this is, of course, class as well. Middle-class and Hi-So women training Muay Thai are almost always in tights and some kind of put together outfit, but rarely are their shorts too short, lacking undershorts, or just a sports bra. Not at least in what I've seen. My gym is not only a fighter's gym, but it's a family space. Occasionally we get women whose butt cheeks are literally hanging out the bottom of their shorts, or the shorts go see-through when they get wet and you can see their underwear. In general these women are not acting as though they're looking for attention. It's truly just what they're comfortable with from their own cultures. In general, at my gym, these women are working hard and are earnest in their training, and their DGAF attitude is quite literally not even being aware of the attention they are garnering. Further, because my gym only has me as a comparison, they only know that Sylvie dresses like this or that, not what "women" dress like in the space. I've seen it where there are 3 of us, one takes her shirt off to just be in the sports bra and the 3rd woman sees this as permission, or a sign that this is acceptable, and takes hers off as well. For the most part, at my gym, the men are well-behaved and don't make their notice obvious - although they do note it to each other in ongoing discussions that these women aren't aware of because they don't understand Thai. 

I've changed how I dress over the years. Emma commented on her last visit to my gym that I was wearing a mesh shirt, which I never would have done in the years she's known me prior. On a scale of revealing, this is pretty low. But it's still a step away from complete conservative dress. I'm with you in that I wish I could just throw caution (and reality) to the wind and wear whatever feels good in that moment, either because it's so fucking hot or because it makes me feel confident to wear it. But I still believe that the advantage to carefully not sexualizing my presence in the gym is a huge advantage in every way. And Thai culture sexualizes clothing at a line pretty far from where it becomes shocking to the west. I'm quite sure that the shirt I wear upon entering the gym is appropriate, but once it's wet and clinging to me, it's a whole other thing. So there's a kind of Catch 22 in that you have to wear SOMETHING and you can't give it so much thought that it's constraining you, but you should give it some thought. And, like I said about the 3 women in the gym where one dresses this way and one dresses another, in any given gym, there's a temperature reading you can take to what's normal among the women there at any given time. There is power and safety in numbers.

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3 minutes ago, LengLeng said:

Btw well aware this might be a topic for the women's roundtable, but despite several emails I get no access to it. Which also mean I cannot tell whether this has already been discussed or not. I also believe this is a topic men should be able to have access to and learn from as most of the times, men are so blissfully unaware of shit women have to deal with. 

give me a minute, we'll look into the Women's Only access problem.

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Thanks so much for sharing your views. I was not aware of the development in Chiang Mai. I guess it is a positive thing, however, if space is made for women but on the condition it is to also please the male gaze I guess well it is a half victory. Peuh. I fought against a Thai girl who had exactly that kind of top you mention, no sleeves and shows part of the stomach. I find it very pretty J.

I do not necessarily need to train without a shirt, especially considering my gym is not the cleanest ever, but the annoying thing is wearing a sweat-soaked shirt so I have to bring several and so on. But it is mainly the feeling of not being free to do what guys can do that annoys me.

There is also this thing where different body types are being sexualised to different degrees. A skinny, non-curvy body might not catch much attention whereas the a bit chubbier busty ones will do. I am pretty muscular and although definitely female in West not so much in Thailand and probably the guys won’t care that much. But I am already hyper aware of all the other things that makes me different that it just feels unnecessary to add to it.

But I feel that this is definitely a case of self-censoring. So I would therefore never advise a visitor who is only temporary there about how her outfit might be perceived as it would probably only feel like shaming, she would get annoyed, and if she is only at the gym for a brief period of time she would not notice anything either. But at the same time I would hate for thai men in these more conservative gyms to start thinking all western (because it is mainly western) gir;s are easy or skimpy or whatever, when they do not even consider their outfit or why it would be inappropriate. I have noticed that most Japanese, Korean and Chinese women will wear tights but always shorts on top of tights. It took me a while to figure out why, but I guess to make them less revealing…(this is all very anecdotal of course). 

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