Woman lectured over her gym outfit

Elise Solé

A university has been forced to apologise to a student who was lectured for wearing a “distracting” crop top to her school gym.

On November 22, senior MacKenzie Parsons posted a Facebook photo of her gym outfit: high-waisted leggings and a crop-top.

Today, at the St. Thomas University gym (J.B. O’Keefe fitness center) I was told that my crop top was ‘distracting’ and that starting in January they will have zero tolerance for crop tops and that this was just my warning for now,” she wrote. 

“But yet men are allowed to wear anything they wish. My workout should not, in my opinion, be compromised because I am deemed distracting.”

Canadian college student MacKenzie Parsons says she was dress-coded for her crop top at the St. Thomas University gym. (Photo: Facebook/MacKenzie Parsons)

The university has since said the comments were totally inappropriate.

“It was totally inappropriate for the gym employee to speak to the student about her outfit and we apologised to her in person on Tuesday,” Jeffrey Carleton, associate vice-president of St. Thomas University in Fredericton, Canada, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

“We take full responsibility for any embarrassment this caused.”

MacKenzie told her followers she was quitting the gym after what happened.

As a woman, we are always taught what’s appropriate to wear and what’s not, while men can wear anything and everything and get nothing said to them,” she wrote.

“…This is why women feel that they are to blame in trials, because if they dress a certain way that is looked at as ‘inappropriate’ they’re the problem. I should be able to wear what I want to the gym and feel comfortable without being patronised and kicked out because of a piece of clothing. I’m not there to distract those around me, I’m there to work out and work on myself.”

Photo: Facebook

In fact, the school fitness centre doesn’t even have a dress code and one that fairly addresses all genders will finalise in December.

Apparently this wasn’t the first time MacKenzie has been approached by a staff member at the same gym. Back in September, a female employee told her to leave the gym because she wasn’t wearing a T-shirt over her sports bra.

“After that happened, I looked for the dress code in the lobby at the gym,” she told CBC. “There’s no dress code in the lobby, there’s no dress code online on their website, on their Facebook page, it’s nowhere to be found.”

Stock image of woman wearing a crop top at a gym. Photo: Getty

Jeffrey Carleton said MacKenzie did the right thing by taking the issue to Facebook, allowing the university to issue a public apology and make its campus, which is 75 percent female, welcoming for everyone.

“We will do everything we can to make sure the student feels comfortable returning to the school gym,” he tells  Yahoo Lifestyle.

Christia Brown, P.h.D., a professor of developmental psychology and author of  Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue , tells Yahoo Lifestyle the word “distracting” suggests that girls should not question or disturb the male gaze. 

“Schools often use this word to shield girls from sexual harassment, but that’s paternalistic within itself,” she says. “It suggests that girls need protecting from themselves.”  

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