Last updated on Feb 25, 2019
By Jada Butler
Thirteen students protested in the Pratt Recreation Center gym on Sunday, Feb. 17 by wearing sports bras and crop tops while working out. This protest was in response to a female student who said she was kicked out of the center for wearing a sports bra. Madison Hansmeyer, a sophomore musical theater major, had not even started her workout in the weight room on Thursday, Feb. 14, when she was approached by a male personal trainer who was sitting in the office area of the gym, and asked to leave because of her attire.
Hansmeyer took to Instagram after the incident, writing, “Dear @liupost male coach, I have been wearing sports bras to the gym for 3 weeks straight with no problem but please let me know why I got kicked out today for ‘potentially spreading skin diseases’ after taking one step into the gym and not even putting my stuff down, let alone ‘getting my body stuff on all the equipment’ while your basketball teams [sic] balls are hanging out of their shorts and over every piece of workout gear while sweating vodka.”
Hansmeyer went on to describe how she offered to not lay on any equipment and just “run and do arms,” but the coach said he would have to follow her around the gym to make sure she was telling the truth.
“He said it was a health violation, and when I asked why, he couldn’t tell me anything, he couldn’t show me where it said I couldn’t wear my sports bra,” Hansmeyer said. She pointed out the attire of the men working out: tank tops with exposed sides and short shorts. But she said the coach was fumbling to give her a response.
Hansmeyer goes to the gym every day, and said this is the first time she was asked to leave for her attire. This was not the first time she wore a sports bra to the gym. “He [the coach] was the only one who told me to leave,” she said.
Alex Cordova, a junior public relations major and member of the swim team, was present during the encounter with Hansmeyer, and said that wasn’t exactly how it happened.
Cordova said Hansmeyer’s outfit was not appropriate for the public space. “She was wearing a green sports bra that was more for show than for working out, and black high waisted shorts, but they didn’t cover her butt well,” she said.
The gym is open to students, faculty, staff and the community (for a membership fee). Cordova said the coach was telling Hansmeyer that she couldn’t lay on the equipment in her attire because she’d be susceptible to receiving and spreading germs. “Why would you even want to expose your body to those kind of germs,” Cordova said. According to the office of campus recreation, shirts should cover the full chest and back to prevent ringworm, MRSA, staph and other infections.
Cordova said the rule applies to all gym visitors; even men who wear ripped t-shirts or tank tops are told to go and change.
The Pratt Recreation Center has no dress code listed under the policies section of its website. The Student Handbook, available online, also does not list a dress code for any campus facility. Signs posted on the walls in the gym advise students to spray and wipe down the equipment when they finish using it, put weights back on the racks, and that proper attire is required.
After visiting the Pratt Recreation Center on Saturday, Feb. 16, The Pioneer found signs posted on both sides of the door to the workout room. Proper attire, according to the sign, means athletic wear such as sweats, athletic shorts, full-length t-shirts and tank tops; no midriffs or backs exposed. Proper footwear is required, meaning closed toe, clean athletic shoes or sneakers only; no flip flops allowed. Hansmeyer said the sign was not there when she went to the gym Friday. Student workers at Pratt said the policy began in the beginning of the fall 2018 semester.
Dean of Students, Michael Berthel, learned of the incident after Hansmeyer’s Instagram post. He is meeting with Hansmeyer later in the week. “Maintaining the health and safety of LIU students is the most important job we have. Policies are implemented utilizing best practices, health and safety guidelines, and overall student experience. My door is always open for students to discuss concerns regarding a policy or any concern they may have at the university.”
This incident is not the first time a female student has been told her gym attire is not appropriate. Lee Metaxa Rozenfeld, a sophomore musical theater major, said something similar happened to her in early September. “I was on the bicycle for about five minutes when [a] girl who worked there came up to me and said her boss told her to tell me, which I thought it was strange he didn’t tell me himself, that I can’t wear my outfit in the gym because it was inappropriate,” she said.
Rozenfeld was dressed in a crop top and high waisted leggings which covered most of her lower stomach and her entire chest area; very little skin was showing. She had to leave and change her shirt. “It was very uncomfortable because everyone who was around me heard it,” she added.
Rozenfeld said she never had a chance to talk about her encounter with anyone aside from the female students in her department who’ve had similar experiences. She said she doesn’t see the problem with how they dress and noted that women cover what needs to be covered, but they still sweat a lot when working out. “Sometimes guys are shirtless and wear short shorts, so what’s the difference,” she said.
The same scenario happened to Stephanie Jeker, a sophomore theater major, in the fall 2018 semester. Before she could walk into the gym, she was stopped by a male personal trainer and told to put a shirt on. When she told him that she didn’t have one, he gave her a clean t-shirt they had in the office for her to use.
Jeker said she wore a sports bra
that day because it gets very hot
in the gym. “Not wearing a shirt over a sports bra wasn’t a rule,” she said. She noted that men in the gym workout shirtless or wear muscle shirts that expose “their whole body basically.”
Jeker didn’t stay very long after because she felt uncomfortable. “I was very confused and angry, because it’s the gym. It’s ridiculous that we can’t wear something that we’re comfortable in and that we can work out in when it gets hot in the gym. It’s not for any different reason,” she said.
But some students find the dress code reasonable. Michaela Fox, a junior musical theater major, is often at Pratt throughout the week. She said the sign on the front door has not always been there, but that it shows a common rule for most gyms to promote modesty and respect – for both men and women.
Fox said the rule should be enforced equally among men and women, and doesn’t believe that the policy is sexist. “Men can’t workout shirtless either,” she said. “Either enforce it for everyone or don’t at all.”