After she walks past him his head immediately turns to watch her walk away, and she hears a faint mumble under his breath.
According to statista.com, in 2019 there was an estimated 64% of people who have memberships at fitness centers. Over half of the United States spends time at a gym at some point during their week. Meaning both men and women go work out in some way and with this comes interaction between the opposite sexes. Though the question is not who goes to the gym, but what happens at the gym.
Working out requires some sort of attire. Men usually wear shorts or athletic leggings and a t-shirt or tank top. For women, this outfit usually looks like leggings and a cropped t-shirt or sports bra. Both attires equip each gender for a great workout but the response to these outfits are not the same. Men are rarely ever criticized for what they wear, however, it is all too frequent that a woman is condemned for what she wears.
Many women have felt uncomfortable or degraded while working out at a fitness center. For some, debasing comments are made by numerous men such as “look at her butt” or “her body could be better” or even “I wish I could smash that.” Listening to these comments makes a woman feel devalued and displeased with herself. She is left questioning why she should respect herself when others don’t.
Therefore, is it the woman’s fault these things are being said about her? Many people would say “They just think you’re attractive” or “It’s not a big deal” or “Don’t be dramatic this doesn’t always happen” or “It’s just gym talk.” However, this situation does happen more than a person would think.
GolfSupport conducted a survey of 1,438 women and found 78% were afraid of being harassed at the gym. In 2019 another research conducted by FitRated found almost 75% of the 890 women they surveyed had experienced an uncomfortable interaction at the gym. Nearly all of respondents in this study weren’t a fan of being stared at or flirted with while exercising. Harassment, snark comments, and constant staring happens at the gym but it just might not be happening to you.
Others also tell women when they’re harassed “Well maybe she should dress more conservatively and that wouldn’t happen to her.” What constitutes a conservative workout outfit? Obligation to change your outfit based on someone else’s actions does not seem to constitute as an accurate solution. Not to mention the benefits of wearing compression shorts or leggings. Benefits range from comfort to better muscle oxygenation. Medium.com says there are also five other advantages to wearing leggings while working out including: reduced muscle fatigue and soreness, stain prevention, improved perceived exertion, increased power and better jumping ability and of course comfort. Knowing these outfits can contribute to improving someone’s workout seems to provide enough evidence that women shouldn’t be asked to change their outfits, and neither should men.
Dressing in “normal” workout clothes doesn’t seem to help or have a positive effect. Maybe it’s just because “That’s just the way guys think.” Maybe it’s the fact the respect someone deserves should be exactly the respect you expect to receive.
Ultimately, it is up to oneself to decide how to go about “gym talk.” Join in or stay quiet? Add on or leave it alone? Contribute to the conversation or ultimately change the conversation? The time to make a difference starts now.