As It Happens

Ottawa woman 'humiliated' after gym says her breasts are too large for tanktop

Jenna Vecchio says the Movati gym in Orléans discriminated against her when a gym supervisor told her that her chest was too large for her tank top.
Jenna Vecchio says a female supervisor at an Ottawa gym told her that her chest was too large for her tank top. (Jenna Vecchio)

A woman from Ottawa says she was humiliated after employees at her gym asked her to change her clothes because her chest was too large for her tank top.

The last thing any woman wants to do when they're working out is have a conversation about their chest size.- Jenna Vecchio

"I was approached during my workout on the floor and she informed me they had three complaints about my tank top and the way my chest appeared in it," Jenna Vecchio tells As It Happens guest host Helen Mann.

Vecchio says she had just started her workout on an elliptical machine at Movati Athletic with her husband when a female supervisor approached her about her attire.

"They expected me to return to the gym covered up in a T-shirt," says Vecchio,  "I said 'absolutely not, I will not be returning to your gym covered up in a T-shirt. Other members were wearing a tank top, I should be allowed to wear a tank top too!'"

The gym had a member etiquette policy which stated members were to wear "appropriate athletic attire that is modest," but after Vecchio's complaint, the policy has been changed to wearing a T-shirt only.

"I certainly thought it was appropriate athletic attire, I purchased it in the athletic section. It's an appropriate athletic tank top to wear in the gym," says Vecchio. She calls the gym's response body-shaming.

After the incident, Vecchio detailed her experience with photos of what she was wearing on Facebook. Her post then went viral.

In a statement Movati says it is standing behind its staff. Gym owners say the images Vecchio posted on her Facebook page are more modest than what she wore at the gym. The gym also says they conducted a thorough investigation and Vecchio was "dressed inconsistently with our code of conduct."

Vecchio is perplexed by their response. 

"I'm not sure how I could wear that tanktop any other way?"

For its part, Movati's social media is being flooded with people who are supporting Vecchio.

"No one seems to think it's ok that a woman's chest could be so offensive that you're asking to change your attire. My chest was covered," says Vecchio. She adds, "the last thing any woman wants to do when they're working out is have a conversation about their chest size."

Vecchio has cancelled her membership at Movati and moved to a GoodLife Fitness gym. She says she used to workout at a GoodLife in Halifax without incident. She also says she has contacted a human rights lawyer to see about her next steps.

Movati Athletic's full statement

At Movati Athletic, we strive daily to create an atmosphere where all our members feel welcome comfortable and healthy. We ask all members to be respectful of each other when in the gym including wearing modest athletic attire and appropriate shoes, limiting cell phone usage and keeping the facility clean. It is important to us that all members have a positive experience at Movati particularly as we have members of various ages, varying levels of fitness and from different cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds. Our main goal is supporting all our members in the pursuit of a healthy and a positive lifestyle.

While it may not have been intentional, Ms. Vecchio's attire was not as modest as she has suggested via the images she shared recently on Facebook and through media interviews, and caused multiple members to feel uncomfortable and voice their concerns to our staff. Following Ms. Vecchio's own social media postings on this matter, we conducted a thorough investigation which included first-hand accounts from members and other staff, and a follow-up meeting with Jenna herself, who seemed to leave the facility feeling as though she had expressed her position. Upon conclusion of our interviews, we stand by the original decision that confirms that Ms. Vecchio was dressed inconsistently with our code of conduct. The Movati staff never indicated Ms. Vecchio's style of shirt was not appropriate – it was the lack of coverage that was the issue as she exercised adjacent to other members. While in no way did we mean to embarrass Ms. Vecchio, we did feel it necessary to address the situation with her due to member discomfort. Although our staff were professional and discreet in their approach, and followed our process of not asking a member to leave or conclude a workout, she and her husband chose to escalate the matter publicly.

While it is unfortunate that Ms. Vecchio felt she had a negative experience, it was certainly not Movati's intent. Our complete focus is a positive, respectful and healthy environment for all members as they pursue their fitness and wellness goals.