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Most women 'stressed' by changing in public


March 16, 2012 - Washington

The experience of changing in a locker room, the acts of disrobing, dressing, showering and being n*ked in front of others, can be extremely discomfiting for a number of women, according to a new study.

It's a complex experience as women are faced with an awareness of their bodies different than in any other space.

"I walk into the change room and pace anxiously up and down the rows of lockers. I look for an empty aisle, hoping for some semblance of privacy. I don't like to change in front of others, it makes me uneasy. Perhaps I'm uptight. Or maybe I have what experts would call 'body issues.' But either way changing in public cause me stress."

So begins a new study looking at women's experiences of changing in a public change rooms.

Author Marianne Clark, a doctoral student in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta, said it was her own experience as a dancer and frequent user of fitness facilities and therefore of public dressing rooms and change rooms that led her to explore how other women felt.

"Using these facilities, I've always felt an unarticulated discomfort," said Clark.

The act of undressing and being n*ked, and particularly where there is the potential to be observed by others, can be daunting, as much of the way we think about ourselves and our self-confidence is wrapped up in our notion of ourselves as fully clothed.

Undressing in front of others, can, according to Clark, "disrupt" our experience of ourselves, because it reveals an intimate self we don't usually freely display.

Clark said in talking to other women about their experiences in these spaces,

"They all had a story and it usually involved a time when there was another person involved."

One woman described being pre-occupied walking into the gym, then suddenly becoming aware of the presence of others in the change room and being reluctant to reveal her more intimate self.

"I angle my body this way and that as I undress and dress in the locker room. I look down to button my pants, I see my small br**ts, my protruding stomach, no longer held in, contained and covered by my control top nylons and stylish skirt," she said.

"This n*ked me is almost unfamiliar to me, so different than who I am all day, when I march around and am busy and efficient and in charge. But now, as I stand practically n*ked in the change room, no one can see that part of me, all there is to see is my body."

Not every woman feels this sense of discomfort. Some found the experience of being surrounded by many other women's bodies together after a workout comforting.

"I like the time in the change room after a workout," said one participant.

"I like being in a space where my body is just a body among other bodies. I know people might see me n*ked or partly n*ked but it doesn't bother me, this is who I am, this is my body, this is how I am in the world.

"I like being around all these other women of all shapes and sizes, it makes me feel connected to who I am, and somehow close to them," she added.

ANI

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