Today’s Happy Note: Saw a beautiful pink and blue sunset during my evening run.
Workout: Three easy miles with 4×100 strides and about 40 minutes of full-body strength training.
This is an open letter. To certain members of my lovely NYSC gym. Members of the XY chromosome variety. Members who are more likely to have a rather higher concentration of testosterone.
Dear Fellow Gymgoers (of the mostly male type):
Hi there! My name is Caronae. I am a twenty year old woman living in the wonderful city of NY. I am about to start my senior year of college. I also work in an archive and for a non-profit.
I am kinda geeky. I love books, poems, writing essays, and history. I like learning new things about the world and the ways people relate to one another. I like going to class, most of the time. I am a pretty good thinker.
Other likes: running, yoga, peanut butter, movies, laughing with friends, massages, smoothies, blogging, swimming, cooking, baking, muffins, human rights, and social justice. My favorite TV shows all involve hot doctors. I like flowers and trees and am generally pretty girly.
Of course, you do not know any of these things about me, which is fine. Most of the people I encounter in a typical day don’t know these things. But, because you have presumed a certain level of intimacy with my body, I thought maybe you might want to learn a little bit about the rest of me. Let me explain.
Boys: I am not a piece of meat. I am a woman who has a body. I have thoughts and feelings and dreams. I have virtues and flaws. I may have a somewhat ample chest and slightly curvy hips. I may have long, feminine hair. And maybe you find all of these things attractive, when scoping out a potential mate. Maybe.
But. I am not at the gym for your viewing pleasure. I know that the cardio area tends to be mostly female and the weights area, well, mostly male. I know that when a woman crosses this line it might be a little scary for you. I have entered your domain. I have entered the land of grunting, lifting, and sweaty barbells. But I have some important news for you: I have as much of a right to be there as you do. And I also have a right to get my lift on free of your wandering eyes, I’m pretty sure.
I have never quite understood why men stare hungrily at my body. I am young, I suppose. I have a certain type of figure. I think that it is socially acceptable for men to be with — to date, to love, to marry — thin women. I am not saying this is the only acceptable sort of union. But the idea of the thin, beautiful woman as the ideal partner has certainly pervaded our system of social conditioning. And I am not that woman. I am kind of the opposite.
I am not disparaging my body or my looks at all. What I am saying, rather, is that my body has a very distinct appeal to men — one that is only free to surface in the completely public, mostly male sphere: places like the weight room at the gym. Men are socially confined and encouraged to be with women who have a certain look. But biologically, let’s face it: curves mean something. I think males are hardwired to see something, hungrily, in females who look like me. But that doesn’t give them free license to constantly visually exploit me.
It’s so simple. Just. Stop. Staring. If you want to say “hey, great job!” or “you’re looking really strong today” or “how about we get coffee sometime” that would be lovely. I would love to engage with you on an intellectual (or at least verbal) level. I would love to hear about your hobbies and your work and your feelings. But until you stop staring and we start having meaningful interactions that don’t leave me feeling ashamed and exploited, none of this can happen.
So this is a plea of sorts. I know that I am not the only woman who feels this way. And perhaps there are some men who feel exploited as well. I don’t know what the answer is, really. All I can say is this: when you stare long and hard directly at my chest (and yes, I know you are not looking deeply into my eyes — I know perfectly well where my head is and it is not that far down), it isn’t good for either of us. You perpetuate the stereotype of the crude, promiscuous male. And you make me feel like crap. So please: stop.
I hope that didn’t come across as all feminist-ranty. I just feel like it is my basic right to have a calm workout at the gym in which I don’t have to be on the lookout for wandering eyes every five and a half seconds. If you have thoughts on this issue, I would love to hear them! I know I cannot possibly be the only woman who experiences this unfortunate phenomenon.
Tomorrow is going to be a crazy day. I might now be in. But I shall be back in blogland in full force next week! Promise. 🙂