The gym is NOT a meat market
“You’re pretty flexible.”
That’s the line I got last night as I stretched in the common cool-down area of my gym after my workout. The comment, which had to be repeated by the smirking male next to me because, of course, I had not been making eye contact with him and I was listening to my iPod, as I was trying pointedly to avoid interaction. Similar instances occur almost every time I go to the gym (“What are you training for?” “Wow, you seem pretty strong, I’ve never seen a chick do that,” are some of the more entertaining ones). Very rarely do women approach me, and very rarely do the naive and unnecessarily optimistic men who approach me have anything constructive or legitimate to bring to table – like asking me how to perform a movement. The gym, unfortunately, is just another micro-universe where men have long ruled, and thus think they continue to rule, understanding the gym environment as their own personal playground and the women within it as their own personal playthings. Many men (who range from lecherous to simply clueless) seem to think there’s nothing wrong with interrupting a woman in the middle of a set or a hard workout, despite the fact that she is listening to music, working out alone, or is openly scowling at anyone who tries to interrupt her. Just like we are constantly bombarded on the street – men in cars whistling, hissing, blaring their horn, shouting disgusting come-ons to which no woman could possibly respond positively – men, in almost every situation imaginable, seem to really believe that women should be grateful for their attention. Wait, you don’t want a complete stranger to compliment the way you fill out your yoga pants while you’re sweating through some squats? What are you, a bitch? Or an angry lesbian at the very least!
There’s a great video online, a satirical look at what the gym would be like if the sexes reversed their stereotypical roles. And while some of the classic “female” gym behaviors irritated me (chronic cardio, gossiping) seeing the women act like the stereotypical male (overt touching, leering, and general obnoxious behavior, walking around like puffed up gorillas in heat) is a sadly comical look at just another way we are bombarded by the male gaze every day, and how truly ridiculous it is when looked at objectively. No wonder so many of us stick our music in our ears, put on our “gym scowl” and stare only at the barbell in front of us, often times even shutting down the rare genuine attempts at human interaction because we’re so conditioned to being harassed.
It’s a reality of life: Even the subtlest smile or contact with a man in the gym is like an open invitation to flirtation – but no one got jacked on flirtation alone. Boys, keep the one-liners for the club – we have no time for you.