Gym sexism in 2015

I have joined about six gyms in six years. I moved in with my partner Nathan four months ago and we decided it’s finally time to join the local gym. We absolutely loved our old gym however we prefer a gym which is close to home (rather than just being close to work) so that we can train together and on the weekend.

Now last night was possibly the most interesting experience I have had joining a gym and I wasn’t going to write about it but it’s a little shocking and entertaining so here goes.

A senior male gym employee, whom I have named Bob, gave Nathan and I a tour of the gym. We started in the cardio section and Bob described the quality of the equipment and pointed out the ellipticals and spin bikes. He commented that he wouldn’t really know how some of it works as he doesn’t do cardio. A nice joke and no alarm bells ringing yet.

Bob then quickly showed us the pin loaded machines and functional training zone. Bob commented that there were two smith machines. The smith machine in this area has a lighter bar and is recommended for the ladies and the smith machine in the powerlifting room is recommended for men. Ok subtle sexism. You haven’t even asked me what type of training I want to do.

Bob then continues to a small room which is used for stretching and says ladies like to work out in there for privacy. 

I am feeling a little annoyed by now.

We then moved to the powerlifting area which contains a really good range of free weights. Suddenly female gym members/ladies are not mentioned at all and it’s all our guys like this, and guys use this for….

Now I was a bit put off by this all and if there was another gym exactly the same without him there, I would have signed up there instead. But the issue is, there isn’t.

It obviously rattled Nathan a bit too as we drived home separately and the first thing we said to each other at the front door was he was a bit of a dick wasn’t he and we compared him to a charming ex-housemate of mine who was a power tripper.

But the following really pissed me off.

When we went back to the gym later that night I couldn’t get inside because my key fob wasn’t working properly. Nathan let me in but I made a mental note to call them the next day during staffed hours so that I could get in the next time I wanted to train.

But get this…Bob called Nathan apologising for the error with MY key fob.

This isn’t the 1950’s. I am an independent woman.

I signed up for a membership in my own name, using my own phone number and my own money. At least have the respect to call me directly. I am the customer.

I will exercise in any part of the gym I feel like doing whatever exercises I want.

I don’t have “girl strength” or want to “hide my body away” from men or women whilst I train. I want to have the same opportunities as the male members, using the same equipment, doing the same exercises, whether it be lifting or cardio.

It was my original intention to write a more educational piece to teach upcoming personal trainers and gym managers how to treat their customers and members eg. use gender neutral language, never assume someones fitness ability or likes based on their looks etc. But you know what, this was a clear case of gender discrimination and I have written it as such.

Things that Bob could have said that would have been less sexist

  • We have two smith machines and this one is lighter so our female members do prefer to use it but each to their own.
  • This room has stretching equipment and lighter dumbbell and barbells. Also a lot of people who prefer some privacy use it.
  • This is the power lifting area and we offer a large range of equipment and barbells so our members can do a variety of exercises.

I do not feel that Bob’s comments were so bad that I need to avoid him at the gym or anything like that. I have an annual membership so I will come across him again assuming I go during the day. But I don’t have any respect for Bob. Initially I just put it to him being old school or whatever, but that’s an excuse, he is such a [fill in the blank].

Please feel comfortable sharing your own gym sexism encounters in the comments below or contact me privately if you would like to educate others with your experience/s.

Until next time



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