I go to the gym on campus 4-5 times a week. Lately, it's been pretty packed because the new year just started and everyone's resolution is to get in shape. More people means more opportunity to witness more inappropriate comments, touching, and harassment. Based on my observations within the last week, it's gotten out of hand. I feel a bit embarrassed to be on a campus where I feel the need to express my frustration with this topic, nevertheless, here we are.
I have seen all kinds of men approach women near me trying to "help" them with form or technique.
Their intention to hit on them is masked with an intention to help them. Always. I've never seen a guy genuinely want to help a woman at the gym, they are always after something more. That being said, I'm sure there are some men who might actually just want to help, I'm just saying I've never seen one personally. Conversations I've observed go something like this:
Man: "Hey make sure when you squat you get really low to make sure you're really toning the muscles you want to work."
Woman: "OK, thanks?"
Man: "Try it."
Woman: "Uh, OK…" *squats really low while the man intently surveys her butt*
Man: "No, no. Try THIS." *proceeds to TOUCH the woman in order to show her exactly what he WANTS to see*
This usually continues with some sort of inquiry about a possible boyfriend followed by the suggestion of a date. Sorry to break it to you guys, but the last thing we want at the gym is to find a date. We're really just trying to better our fitness here. The example above was something I truly witnessed three days ago and it was one of many in the past few years. It made me extremely uncomfortable and I wasn't even the one being bothered. The woman was visibly uncomfortable with the interaction as well. The part that gets me the most is the physical touch.
Hear me loud and clear: DO NOT TOUCH PEOPLE AT THE GYM!
For the love of God, I feel like I shouldn't have to be saying this. Women don't need help. If they want help, they will ask for it, I promise. I don't know where this idiotic idea came from that women are damsels and need male assistance to function, but it needs to disappear.
I've also heard an obscene amount of catcalls at the gym. It mainly happens within a group of guys — I imagine these men believe that catcalling a woman in front of their friends shows some kind of dominance and is impressive. They want to show off to their buddies.
First of all, that's gross, find some new friends. Second of all, women want to feel safe at the gym. We are very vulnerable when we work out. We're sweating, our faces sometimes look funny when something gets challenging, and we usually don't smell too great.
I can't speak for everyone, but I feel a little more exposed than usual at the gym. Don't make it worse by commenting on our bodies just to make yourself feel bigger.
Even when it's under your breath, I can still hear you. It baffles me how many times I've seen a woman walk away while a group male eyes follow her and one of them murmurs something extremely inappropriate. I might look like I'm minding my own business, but trust me, I can still hear you. Stop that!
When I'm at the gym, I want to focus, do my workout, and leave. I don't mean to speak for the rest of the female population, but based on what I've seen that's generally what we all intend to do when we exercise. The gym is not a bar, it's not a party, and it's not Tinder. Leave the flirting for somewhere else. If anything, the least you can do is wait for your person of interest to start to exit the gym and then kindly ask them out. Do not bother us in the middle of our work out. Do not comment on our bodies. Do not stare at us. Most importantly, do NOT touch us.
Lastly, if you feel unsafe or consistently uncomfortable due to a specific person at the gym, tell someone at the front desk. They are there to help you. It shouldn't be happening in the first place, but telling someone may help stop future occurrences. I don't mean to suggest that men are the only ones who are inappropriate at the gym. In fact, there are probably some women who might need a reminder as well about all this. I directed this mostly toward men only because it seems from my personal observations that they are the ones in the problematic picture here. Also, please keep in mind that this isn't directed toward the general male population. Most of you guys are completely cordial and unproblematic at the gym. Thank you for that. This article is for the men who make women feel uncomfortable at the gym.
You know who you are. Do better.