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The Tank Top Is Our Right As Americans

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The Tank Top Is Our Right As Americans

The American South is in turmoil. Last week, stringer tanks were banned from the University Of Central Florida gym. After hearing the news, I took a long walk along New York City’s East River like I was a 25-year-old white girl who just got dumped. I wasn’t sure where this country was heading. I skipped rocks, tears streaming down my cheek, wondering if this was a place I could raise my future kids. I mean, no tanks? How will people know that I’m not to be messed with? How will women recognize my above average penis size (strong medium!)? How will anyone in need of moving an object — weighing exactly the equivalent of a 45, 35, and 2.5-pound plates on each side of a bar — know that I can assist? I thought about going to the beach this 4th of July Weekend, which falls on a Saturday as God intended, being forced to wear sleeves that went beyond my beautiful traps. Ever had a dream about having your whey protein poured out by Hitler? This was worse.


Allow me to back up a bit. A few months ago, the fight against “manspreading” flared up. The conversation started as, “hey guys, just be aware of how you take up space in public areas” and ended up as “letting your legs fall open next to me is essentially sexual assault.” I became obsessed with this. How did this conversation morph from a semi-jokey, cleverly-named acknowledgment into an actual gender debate? Skinny white guys all over Brooklyn were falling all over themselves to apologize for their own gender, yet I couldn’t find even a thread of legitimacy to the idea. If one schizophrenic on a subway decides to press his thigh against the women next to him and then start masturbating, that does not justify a fight for moral justice. That’s not a manspreading problem; that’s a schizophrenia problem. Outliers don’t prove rules. Extremes shouldn’t drive conversations. Manspreading is an Emily Post faux pas, not a cause for government intervention.

Now we’ve got tank tops on the chopping block. And to that, I say this: I don’t love string tank tops either. I think that’s the fastest way to spot the biggest douchebag in the gym. But, shit, this is AMERICA. Spend time in any other country and you’ll realize why it’s so easy to spot an American. It’s their physique. It’s not necessarily that they’re typically fatter (though that’s definitely a thing), but that they’re just BIGGER. They’re stronger. Bulked up, big thighs, big arms. This is all evidence of a country that values football over soccer, and strength over agility. Tank tops are a celebration of our distinctly American physicality. It’s the one article of clothing that says, “Look at me” and “Get out of my face” at the same time.

Asking to eliminate bicep blinds (what I call sleeves) feels like yet another push to make an argument of general decorum into something far bigger; another overarching argument from a group who’ve never heard the term “pick your battles.” To those of you who are drawing a distinction between string tank tops and regular tank tops, I’ll ask, where’s the line? Will this particular gym break out a pair of calipers every time someone walks in without sleeves? Will they stop me from wearing my high school football t-shirt I cut into a crop top? How will everyone know I went through double sessions? Why even give a shit in the first place? FYI, I’m not overreacting. I thought manspreading was an innocuous internet half-conversation until two guys actually got arrested for it. Now, there are gyms across the country rubbing their chins and wondering if this would be a great way to drum up a little free press in the local paper. Perhaps their clientele would even appreciate it. That is until the next completely harmless thing bothers them.

Annoyance is a bottomless pit. What bothers me most about all these internet conversations of propriety is that you don’t just get what you want in this life. Sometimes war, cancer, and bad traffic happen. Are you incapable of compartmentalizing the guy in the corner in the string tank top screaming his way through squats? Do you not own headphones? Or do you lack the courage to simply ask the guy next to you to close his legs? It is not this country’s job to indulge your vague, everyday annoyances. Fix one thing and another pops up to take its place, because if you’re the type of person who takes time to write about your anger at manspreading, then you lack the perspective to get on with the actual business of living.


By the end of my walk along the river, I had reached downtown. Lady Liberty was off in the distance, reaching her arm to the sky, almost wrestling away from the sleeves those French assholes thought were a good idea. “Unleash me,” she seems to say. I wish I could. That yoked-up babe has seen huddled masses pass her shore, desperate for a new life. If only they knew that freedom meant listening to white people at parties complain about tank tops, they might have turned around.

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Jared Freid (@jtrain56) is a New York City-based comedian who has been featured on MTV’s Failosophy and is the host of The JTrain Podcast presented by TFM.

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