It’s a place where Spandex is abundant, and there’s no shortage of sweaty, testosterone-filled men who find it acceptable to relentlessly ogle innocent bystanders.
It’s the gym, and for women, it’s more like the lion’s den.
I’ve been a gym-goer for six years. I’ve held gym memberships at five different gyms, including one in China. All have contained a seemingly endless amount of men ready to give unwarranted fitness advice to women, while staring at them like slabs of meat ready to be graded.
Walking past the weight section in my gym feels a little like walking past the gorilla enclosure at the zoo. Men are grunting, pacing and yelling, and I can feel their eyes burning into me and grading me as I walk by.
I’m uncomfortable. And judging by the demeanor of fellow females at the gym, they’re obviously uncomfortable too.
Some gym etiquette, or should I say respect, needs to be implemented.
I was blasting Lorde in my headphones as I walked to the far corner of the gym to do some dead lifts. I was focused and in the zone. I was on my seventh lift when I noticed a beefy man trying to say something to me in the corner of my eye. Obviously, I couldn’t hear what he was saying. Annoyed about being interrupted, I ripped out my headphones and said, “What?”
The beef-head proceeded to explain what I was doing wrong during my workout, while simultaneously eyeing me up and down. After he finished spewing his free fitness lecture, I asked him if he was a personal trainer. Uh, nope, he wasn’t. The man had no qualifications other than years spent in the gym, which I also had. And even if he did have more fitness knowledge or qualifications, even if he was Jillian Michaels, intruding on my workout is flat out rude and a little demeaning.
Now, not all women are victims here. There are women who strut around the gym in a full face of makeup, primped hair and strategically skimpy gym attire. These women are looking for easy attention from the meatheads, and they’re sure to get it. Those women are just as much, if not more, of a problem as the salivating men. The women who come to the gym to gain some sort of self-esteem boost are not only feeding into the hormone-driven-meat-market environment, but they’re also putting an unrealistic standard on other women who are actually focused on fitness.
The gym should be a place where people can focus on exercise — not a place to focus on how booties look in tight yoga pants.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that the gym will be uncomfortable some days. I’ve learned to accept that men will try and talk with me and other women no matter how hard we try to avoid eye contact. I’ve learned to ignore the awkward stares at specific body parts as I jog on the treadmill. As sucky as it is, many women have learned to deal with these things because what’s the alternative? Stop going to a gym? That’s not going to happen.
But, I’m getting sick of settling for this annoying behavior. Everyone deserves to go to the gym feeling safe and respected.
So here’s my call to action: Men need to treat women with respect. Stop the staring and stop making everyone around you feel like prey waiting to be mauled. Also, be polite and don’t give advice unless you’re asked for it. And women, use the gym as a place to work on fitness — not for a temporary ego boost.
The gym is a shared space. Let’s all act accordingly.