IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Was Slut-Shamed At The Gym For My "Too-Short" Shorts

My entire life, I’ve been taught to be ashamed of my body. Well, I’m not.

Jul 25, 2014 at 2:00pm | Leave a comment

I’m pretty new to working out at a gym, but I’d like to think I know the basics: Wipe down your equipment before/after use, don’t laugh when someone farts during yoga and adhere to the dress code. Apparently dress codes are up for interpretation.
 
I recently bought a pair of black stretchy yoga pants-esque shorts because you know, it’s hot. I live in the Northeast and it’s July. The first time I wore them, nobody said anything. Then I went out and ran errands in those shorts. Still nothing.
 
Two days later, I was back at the gym. I brought my best friend along using a guest pass I got in the mail. I was on the elliptical pretending to watch CNN (but really listening to my werk bitch playlist) when I was approached by a woman I’d never seen before. I asked her if something was wrong. She told me to get off of the elliptical because she needed to talk to me in her office.
 
In hindsight, I should’ve realized that something was about to happen because everyone was staring at me. It felt like getting called to the principal’s office. She shooed a few employees out of her office and turned to me, arms crossed.
 
“I’m the director. Your shorts are too short,” She berated, “You’re embarrassing yourself. Next time you come in, I want to see you in something longer.”
 
I am not new to this sort of talk. I went to Catholic school, I have a somewhat conservative mom and I am a petite girl with, well, a lot of ass (seriously, I’m convinced that all my food goes there). Sometimes things ride up when I’m running. 
 
I felt my face flush. Embarrassing myself? Who did this woman think she was, assuming that I was embarrassed because of the way I was dressed? How dare she. I wanted to say, “I wore those shorts two days ago with no complaints! Even that weird guy at the front desk who always has something to say didn’t say anything!”
 
image

The shorts in question

 
I want to say I schooled her on slut-shaming and rape culture. I want to say I stood up for myself and told her to get bent. I want to say that I told her that she was the only person who seemed to have a problem with the way I was dressed and that I didn’t care what she thought. I want to say that I told her I wasn’t embarrassed, that she should have been embarrassed for interrupting my workout and trying to tell me how to live my life. I want to say that I told her that I was appropriately dressed according to the gym’s dress code and that she needed to mind her own business, Ms. I-Am-The-Director. But I did none of those things. Instead, I walked out without saying a word.
 
I told my best friend as I got back onto the elliptical what happened. He made a disgusted face and told me that my shorts were fine.
 
“Do you want to leave?” my best friend asked.
 
“No way,” I said, “I’m going to finish my workout. I hope nobody has a heart attack from my shorts.”
 
So, we finished working out. The entire rest of the time we were there, gym employees circled the area we were in constantly. Usually they stay behind the desk, but apparently my shorts and I were high risk or something. I’m sure they wanted me to leave, but I wasn’t backing down. We even went in the hot tub when we were finished, where I wore a bikini. Nobody said anything about the length of my bathing suit bottom, though.
 
But the whole time I was bothered because at 23, I never thought I’d be getting dragged into the office of an authority figure to get berated about my clothing choices. And it was from another woman, who talked to me like I was a child. Should I have been embarrassed? I don’t know. I wasn’t and I’m still not. I wanted to be comfortable and it’s hard for me to find gym clothes that fit me.
 
My entire life, I’ve been taught to be ashamed of my body. I developed early and the message was clear: Hide yourself. You should be ashamed of what you have. Well, I’m not.
 
I don’t think anyone should be ashamed of their body. Everyone should be comfortable at the gym. I don’t take into consideration what other people will think of my attire when I go to the gym or anywhere for that matter. I go to the gym and work out for myself.
 
I felt targeted and discriminated against because my gym is one of those expensive, upscale places. A lot of the patrons are older people from the wealthier towns near me. There’s lots of Lululemon and neon sports bras at my gym and nobody bats an eye. I'm always the youngest in group exercise classes by at least 15 years. I’ve lost count of the amount of dirty looks I get during those classes because of my tattoos.
 
So I want to say this to the woman who shamed me: I am not embarrassed by my body nor will I ever be. I was adhering to the dress code and I’m not sorry.