I love going to the gym. These are words I thought I would never utter. Pre-gym life, I scoffed at those who "pumped iron" on a regular basis.
Talk of TRX and protein drinks caused this frozen look to appear on m face as my brain quickly zoned out, thinking of anything else in the world except the actual conversation I was expected to participate in.
All this changed last October, due to a combination of factors; I had just turned 24, I had put on a bit of weight - nothing massive, but I had more jiggle than I was comfortable with - and a growing awareness that I should probably start taking care of myself a bit better.
So I joined my local gym and surprisingly, took to it like a duck to water. The benefits to both my body and mind have been incredible and I have incorporated a regular routine with ease and enthusiasm.
However. There is a blight on my new found gym life (think #ThugLife but with sweaty faces). That blight, is men.
I hasten to point out, not all men. There are many guys in the gym who do their thing without feeling the need to behave in the ways I'm about to outline. My beef is with some men - not everyone who has a penis.
Over the course of the last 9 months, I have encountered some real d*cks as I work out. There was the guy who felt it necessary to say "Nice arse, love" as I bounced about on a cross-trainer. There's the guy who openly spent 10 minutes staring at my moving chest as he exercised on the machine next to me. There was the overly muscly idiot who stood behind me, in front of a mirror as I lifted weights, and eyeballed my arse with such obviousness, that I turned around and called him out on it. When I did, he just grunted "Yeah", without a stroke of shame, causing me to respond by calling him an arsehole.
They were "the lads" in the jacuzzi with me, which I use after most sessions, who thought it was hilarious to make masturbation jokes at my expense as I sat in the bubbled water with my eyes closed in order to not have to look at any of their stupid faces.
This week, there was the middle-aged Hoff wannbee who felt it necessary to make orgasm noises as he worked out next to me and after each grunt, would make eye-contact as I uncomfortably tried to ignore his stare.
Men are not animals. They have cognitive working brains which enables them to function as humans - just like females. So why is it that I can manage to refrain from saying "Nice package you've got going on there in your lycra" without receiving the same courtesy?
Upon sharing these stories with various people, there was a trend I noticed in the reactions - females were disgusted and encouraged me to say something to the manager; males found most of it entertaining. There was a little bit of non-outraged "That's not right" said in a monotone at some of the incidents (in particular, the jacuzzi one), but for the most part, the response was laughter. Or I was encouraged to take the attention as a compliment.
Fucking seriously? Firstly, this is the 2015. I don't need some grubby "compliment" from a guy who probably whacks off to some dodgy porn every night to feel good about myself. I'm doing just fine, thanks. I do not seek validation of my own self-worth from about my appearance from strangers.
Funnily enough, leery comments from men don't put a smile on my face with a "Oh gee, thanks!" bedazzlement because basically, why the hell would I care what you think of my appearance? I'm not at the gym to get the attention of guys, I'm there so I can take care of my body and not feel guilty when I've a rib-eye steak.
Every time it surprises me, yet it is not surprising that such things still occur. While the new wave of feminism is spreading the message of equality in a more modern manner - it's not about bra burning, it's simply about treating people the same - there seems to be a gap in consciousenss with some men about how it is and isn't okay to treat women.
Men and women should be paid the same amount if they're doing the same job - but what's wrong with catcalling a woman on a street? Females being labeled as the weaker sex is an outdated idea - but mansplaining is totally fine because, you know, women need men to explain stuff to them.
And on it goes. This s something I've talked about with various males in my life and while some of them are sympathetic to it, they don't really get it. I'm not saying that they can't - but it is hard to understand that which they've never had to experience. They live in a world mainly run by men, for men. They've grown up in a society that tells them it's okay, nay, expected, for them to act this way. There are times when I'm recounting an experience that made me feel uncomfortable, I can almost hear them mentally thinking "So?". One time, I was told that this is a part of being a woman.
In the case of incidents in the gym, you may be wondering why I haven't said something to the manager. This is for two reasons: one, I can handle myself. I've a voice I'm not afraid to use and the cop on to know that sometimes, the best thing to do is just try ignore these twats and keep doing my own thing. The second reason is because the manager is not going to be able to address the real problem here: which is these guys attitudes to women. Reprimanding them is not going to make them realise they're behaving inappropriately.
The solution to such a thing is a lot bigger than what can be achieved by a slap on the wrist that would probably have the men saying that they're being victimised or that they were only having a laugh and I need to get a sense of humour.
Instead, I'll handle it as I always have - calling it as I see it. The biggest battles are won by individuals who fight in whatever way they can on a day-to-day basis.