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UPEI apologizes after student’s workout wardrobe put under the microscope at gym

Kylee Graham says in a Facebook post she wore this to the UPEI gym the day she was criticized.
Kylee Graham says in a Facebook post she wore this to the UPEI gym the day she was criticized. - Contributed

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Kylee Graham’s recent visit to UPEI’s Chi-Wan Young Sports Centre left her reeling.  

The 22-year-old UPEI student wore a cropped workout shirt to the gym just like she usually does.

“It’s more comfortable for me than wearing two layers or loose, long clothes that can move around and get in the way when working out,” said Graham, who is studying her first year at the Atlantic Veterinary College.

As Graham walked into the gym recently she was stopped by an employee who told her that her outfit violated their dress code. Graham was presented with a binder showing her women were not allowed to wear sports bras alone, open back shirts or low-cut shirts with a sports bra underneath.

“I told her this isn’t a sports bra as you couldn’t even see my belly button,” Graham said in a Facebook post.In a PDF describing the footwear and clothing guidelines for the gym it says clothing must cover the rib cage, but the graphic depicting guidelines makes no mention of sports bras.

The staff then told her it was fine for today but added: “If a man came in here and was wearing a shirt cut so low on the sides you could see his nipples, I would tell him the same thing.”

Graham worked out, but as she was leaving, the employee approached her. Graham said the worker said she decided with her co-workers the outfit was OK.

In her Facebook post, Graham writes the staff then told her “…we are trying to find a happy medium where girls can still workout with men.”

Graham believes UPEI Athletics and Recreation staff are worried women could be distracting to men. “I am so angry that this is something that was implemented just over a year ago. UPEI Athletics & Recreation should be ashamed how they are trying to control and are sexualizing female bodies in such a direct way, how they are making it harder for women to live an active lifestyle and the clear double standards set for women. This is not okay,” Graham concludes her post.

UPEI Athletics and Recreation became aware of the Facebook post early Wednesday. Director Chris Huggan said the student staff member apologized the day of the incident and he has reached out to Graham.

Gym clothing guidelines came into effect in February with the consultation of students, staff and community members. There were no guidelines prior to February.

“The main purpose is so everyone can feel comfortable, safe, inclusive and ultimately they have a positive experience in our fitness centre,” Huggan said.

He wasn’t there to see what was worn by Graham at the gym but based on what he saw on her Facebook post said what she was wearing was acceptable.

“It’s challenging sometimes. We have a lot of confidence in our student staff and try to train them. These are guidelines and in this situation she (the staff) wasn’t sure if what the girl was wearing was in the guidelines.”

This is the first time the issue has been brought to his attention.

The gym understands people want to be comfortable working out and is sensitive to what people want to wear, Huggan said.

Tony Davis is a reporter for both The Guardian and The Cadre. This story appears in both publications.

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