Dear Men At The Gym

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.

So.

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.

Sincerely,

Caronae

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. 🙂

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12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kaztronomic
    Aug 12, 2010 @ 01:11:04

    Hah, well said, girl! I felt the same way when I was lifting heavy — I shooed off more than my share of men with lewd notions who wanted to “help” me.

    I think it’s awesome that you lift! And of course you’re a stunner! But, that’s no excuse for those blockheads to treat you like a piece of meat. Keep lifting, girl, and keep fightin’ those testosterone lunks off. 😀

    Reply

  2. Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga)
    Aug 12, 2010 @ 02:22:36

    I am actually “that woman”. The tall, thin blond. And trust me, I too get my share of stares. They started when I was about 10 yrs old. And I though aging, getting married, having a baby, being pregnant, being seen with a child…that it would stop the male pigs from Just.Staring. No. It has not. They continue to do it and over the years I have made peace with it to it still infuriates and enrages me. I am on both ends of the spectrum with it all…but mostly, i hate it and I hate them. I hate that I am not just left alone. Thus another reason I set up my home gym with a few free weights and balls. And yoga mat. The stripdown version of a gym is better than their leering eyes. shudder.

    Thank you for you comment tonite, and what’s funny…AS I was reading your comment the MINUTE that it came in, I was on another blog, i think healthydiva katie? where you had left a comment and i read that comment and clicked thru to open up your site…at the exact moment your comment to me came in my inbox. it’s like a had a psychic channeling of you 🙂

    Reply

  3. blueeyedheart
    Aug 12, 2010 @ 07:51:53

    Ahh, I’m sorry that you have to deal with that at the gym. It’s probably the primary reason why I stick with mine despite all of the aggravation it causes me… it’s a women’s gym. And that is all I want.

    ❤ ❤

    Reply

  4. Ilana
    Aug 12, 2010 @ 09:55:04

    This is totally why I joined a women’s gym. I get enough staring on the street, I don’t need it when I’m getting my sweat on too!
    But well-written, Caronae! I love reading your writing!!

    Reply

    • caronae
      Aug 12, 2010 @ 10:05:52

      Thanks. 🙂

      Blue eyed Heart and Ilana: Women’s gym=brilliant. Unfortunately, I don’t think there are any near me right now and wouldn’t be able to afford it. But such a good idea for the future!

      Reply

    • julie
      Aug 15, 2010 @ 07:21:29

      Ilana,

      ive been wanting to join a women gym so bad…ure lucky ur in nyc, in SJ……not so much…….not only are the stares awkward, it also sux being the only college aged woman in the gym…not only do nasty men stare, other women also do….it’s not fun to be singled out…another option is working out in the AM b/c the crowd is more diverse/less creepier than the 11pm crowd but im more of a night-person LOL

      Reply

  5. Sonia @ Master of Her Romaine
    Aug 12, 2010 @ 16:47:22

    I know exactly how you feel! After reading Averie’s comment, above… I think we are ALL that woman. Just being…female…is what does it.
    I just hate the way it makes me feel to get those looks! I wish I could wear an “I am in a monogamous relationship with my boyfriend of 4 years” tshirt when I go work out!

    Reply

  6. Anne@ Food Loving Polar Bear
    Aug 15, 2010 @ 12:26:33

    You’re so right with your letter! I hate it when men eye you up at the gym, it’s not a nightclub!

    The only place where I have been at peace is my yoga studio.

    Reply

    • caronae
      Aug 15, 2010 @ 19:36:58

      The yoga studio has absolutely been a peaceful place for me too, free from leering. I don’t feel like I have to look a certain way, be a certain way

      Reply

  7. Melissa
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 00:10:24

    Thank you for posting this…it was really eloquent and truly not feminist at all. I’ll be honest, I quit my membership at the gym here in Salt Lake City because of those stares. I’m not “that” woman, but I’m athletic, blonde, and frankly, I look Mormon, so maybe that’s why the men continued to stare at me while I did my weights and such. It got too much when the stares followed me to the pool though. I have social anxiety to begin with, and it was just overwhelming. If someone admires me for the workouts I do and such, I would so much rather they say something than merely gawk. It’s disheartening…and yes, I feel a bit like a slab of meat haha

    Reply

  8. pen
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 14:06:50

    you are wonderful, caronae! This made me laugh out loud! It is oddly common for men to view the gym as an acceptible place to ogle women…and often I find myself not wanting to wear tight clothes to the gym because of that.

    Then I realize this is their problem, and I’m not going to change my habits because of their objectification of me.

    Reply

  9. Trackback: What’s Up Saturday – 8.14.10 | Say Yes to Salad

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