By: Kourtney Meldrum
You load up the squat rack, throw another weight on each side, and set yourself up for a heavy lift. You feel strong. That is, until you look in the mirror and see the guy behind you is watching your ass every time you squat. Chances are, he’s not admiring your strength.
If you’re a gym goer, you’ve experienced this in one way or another and it’s FRUSTRATING. Believe me, I’ve been there.
You go to the gym for yourself. It’s your getaway to work hard, and work on you. You’re not there to gawk at others physiques.
Okay, maybe you’ve glanced at some nice arms, you’re human after all. But that doesn’t mean you partake in full on stare sessions that make others feel uncomfortable, you’re not a creep.
The competitive masculine energy that many gyms produce creates an atmosphere where women feel less than. According to research, which appeared in Cosmopolitan Body, 14 percent of women polled are intimidated by men at the gym who creep on them at the gym.
8 percent of the women surveyed said they would feel comfortable asking someone how long they’ll be using the equipment and an overwhelming 84 percent would rather to move on to a different machine. A lot of women don’t feel safe or confident in the gym.
For me, the gym felt like a safe space but I started to realize that it was becoming invaded by more uncomfortable moments where I caught guys checking me out, and even interrupting my workout to hit on me.
At the worst, there was one man who repeatedly made me feel so uncomfortable I would leave the gym without completing my workout. I was working out late at night, in a small gym, in a nice area of the city. Both me and this man worked out regularly during those same hours.
It began with him watching me on the stairclimber. Uncomfortable, but I could deal with it. I began taking my workouts to the studio space and he would stand in front of the glass door and watch me. Okay, not cool.
Eventually he gathered some courage and talked to me. I’ll spare you the details of the excruciatingly awkward conversation, but the gist of it was that he’d noticed me around the gym a lot and been talking to everyone he knew about me. UHM, can we talk about next level creep?
He made the space where I felt safe and confident feel toxic. There was more than one occasion where I felt so uncomfortable that I’d leave the gym if we were the only two there. I’d get in my car, and cry the entire way home.
The whole situation really shook me. This man used his male dominance to take over a space that was not his. Time and time again this happens to women at the gym.
Females are not any different from males in that they’re at the gym to get a good workout in. They are not there to be stared at. Just because they might wear tight spandex does NOT mean that they are asking for your attention. Just because they are there does NOT mean they want you to ask them out or that you have the right to interrupt their workout.
By coming up and talking to someone who doesn’t want to be disrupted, you’re interfering with their workout. You might think that what you have to say is a compliment, but in a lot of circumstances it will feel like objectification and a threat to safety.
I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t talk to women at the gym. Be friendly, be respectful, and think hard about how your actions may come across.
It goes back to basic principles. Treat others at the gym (and in life) how you want to be treated. If you wouldn’t be okay with someone interrupting your workout to hit on you, or creeping on you maybe thing twice about doing that. After all, most of us are there to pick up weights, not dates.