This past month has presented me with plenty of inspiration for a blog post. It was, as per usual, incredibly difficult for me to narrow down what to share. However, despite the volume of vulnerable, queer, fitness-related experiences I’ve found myself in there is one moment that feels heavier than the rest. As most of my uncomfortable gym situations begin, this moment was initiated by a male person approaching me mid-workout.
Allow me to paint this picture more clearly. By ‘mid-workout’, I mean a headphones-on-full-blast-sweating-through-my-tank-top-unaware-of-the-rest-of-the-world state of mind.
Now, I have very few objections to interacting with others at the gym. Developing an open, positive community within the gym environment can remove social barriers that hinder the enthusiastic participation of everyone wishing to pursue an active lifestyle. However, this was not one of those interactions. I retrieved my dumbbells from the ground, stood upright, and proceeded to perform my bicep curls.
Simultaneously, this male person positioned himself about 4 feet behind me, and continued to dance his eyes between the back of my legs and making direct eye contact with me via the mirror that stood in-front of both of us. I have a horrible tendency to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, regardless of how clearly their behavior should be reprimanded. Therefore, using said mirror, I quizzically raised my eyebrows at the male person, hoping he may just be looking for someone to spot him on a lift, or perhaps was wondering which direction the washrooms may be. It must be at this point that you are wondering if I moonlight as a comedian…because, yes, these innocent wishes about his intentions were dead wrong.
His response to my quizzical eyebrow raise was to begin speaking, despite the music blasting from my headphones. I set my weights back down, turned to face him, and slid a headphone back.
“Sorry, I didn’t catch that.”
“Uh, I was just like wondering if you like compete, or like yeah.”
“Yeah, in like physique stuff.”
“No, I do not. I’m just a gym rat.”
It was at this point that he began this disturbing soliloquy:
“That’s cool. You should do physique competitions; you have great definition. I was like worried to ask you because so many girls get so offended when I try to chat with them. But, I could just like tell from your form that you know how to work out, and like I knew your vibe was different. Honestly, you’re just so focused, most girls like look at me with like ‘hungry eyes’, but you just are doing your thing. It’s cool, you know?”
When I tell you that I have heard this well-rehearsed chaos on hundreds of occasions, I say so with little exaggeration. Now, a piece of unsolicited advice, if you redirect the topic of conversation onto them, you quickly fade into the background of a wonderfully self-centered dialogue regarding their macro-intake or something equally as unimportant. Which is exactly what I did, and exactly what he did. Fortunately, this led to a perfect opportunity for a swift ending to the conversation, and my ability to slip my headphones back on (my gym version of a “Do Not Disturb” sign).
It is not my intention that this post comes across as scathing, rant-ish, or a generalization of male people in fitness. Rather, I’m hoping that we can let out a big collective chuckle at the absurdity of this moment.
First, the mental image of me participating in the hyper-feminine culture of physique modelling is absolutely comical for anyone who knows me well.
Second, the fact that this person had the audacity to paint himself as a victim when approaching women at the gym and them being “offended” shows so little self-awareness it made me question how this individual managed to think so highly of himself… while clearly having no idea of who he truly is.
Third, and my personal favourite part of all of this, my lack of “hungry eyes” played no role in him recognizing that I truly, sincerely have little to no interest in gazing at men.
Finally, bold of him to refer to me as a ‘girl’.
Regardless of all the technical issues of his little plan, the most curious part was that he could not recognize the hypocritical nature of his actions. My feminist training began running wild. The Madonna-Whore Dichotomy, suffering under a male gaze, r*pe culture and the idealization of ‘the chase’, etc. Luckily, I snapped out of my trance just in time to realize that “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor was playing through my headphones. I picked up my dumbbells, mentally wished all non-conformists a ‘Happy Pride Month’, and purposefully moved those weights with horrible form.
Bio: Hi! I’m Bret and I hail from Guelph, ON, where I completed my undergraduate degree in Philosophy. I am currently working towards an MA in Philosophy at Western University, and enjoy engaging in feminist theory, ethics, as well as gender and sexuality studies. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to be taught by both Sam and Tracy, and I am excited to join the Fit is a Feminist Issue community! When my nose isn’t in a book, I can be found in coffee shops, at the gym, or taking on car repairs that are far beyond my capabilities.