Monday, September 11, 2017

The things women deal with

I wasn't sure if I was going to write all of this out and publish it on my blog, then I read this article on Huff Post (shared on their Facebook page), and it inspired me to speak out.  Speaking out is even more important now then it has ever been since Title IX provisions are going to be rolled back. While the scope of Title IX is relatively narrow (i.e., only applies to colleges and universities that receive federal funding), it is a huge step towards silencing women.

I am a member at a local gym.  I really do like this particular gym.  The owners care about the business, are frequently around, and reinvest profits back into the facility and equipment.  It really is a great place.  They have a good amount of staffed hours, but members also have 24/7 access using a scan card.  I'd also rate the gym female friendly because I haven't experienced some of the overt sexism that I've experienced in other gyms throughout my life.

On Saturday I went to the gym during unstaffed hours.  This is typical for me on the weekends. When I arrived, there was one woman on a treadmill, and a father/son combo playing catch on one of the turf fields.  Everybody was minding their own business and respecting each other's space. Eventually, all three of those people finished what they were doing and left, leaving me there alone.  It was a little bit eerie, but not a big deal.  There are plenty of security cameras.  I moved where I was working out to a place where I had a direct line of sight to the main entrance, where I could see anyone coming in and where they would also be able to see me.

It wasn't long before I see a car pulling up and a 50-something appearing man can himself in.  Being a woman has taught me to be cautious and aware in any situation where I am alone with an unknown male, so I was a little bit on edge, but not too bad, because after all, he had just as much right to be there as I did.  Anyway, the man walked in, put his things down in the lounge area, and walked over to the stereo system and changed the channel.  He didn't bother to ask me if I was listening or if I minded if he changed it.  This put me a little more on edge because he clearly saw me and clearly didn't care if I was listening.  It put him in a position of power over me and made me feel like I belonged there less than he did.  I tried to shake it off and continued with my workout.

Next thing I know, this man (who I've never seen before in my life) starts working out within 10 feet of me without a single word.  The gym is literally 30,000 square feet and there are two other areas with the exact equipment that I was using that he could have chosen.  But he didn't.  This put me over the edge.  I grabbed my keys and bolted, not even taking the time to re-rack the weights I was using.

Did the man intend to hurt me?  I doubt it.  The gym has a ton of security cameras, is located in a plaza that has security patrols about every 20 minutes, and is across the road from a police station. He would have been incredibly stupid to try something.  Did the man intend to intimidate me?  This question is harder to answer.  I don't think there was necessarily intent, but there was definitely an air of superiority and entitlement present in his actions that led to me being intimidated enough to leave.  The music wasn't as big of a deal.  It's proper gym etiquette (and basic human decency) to ask the only other person in the building if they mind if it's changed, but not the end of the world.  And honestly, I would have told him that I didn't mind if it was changed.  As for working out directly beside me, this one is a little harder to explain away. I really can't think of any reason he would do this, other than to make me uncomfortable.

I got home and was talking about what happened with hubs and I realized that he truly, genuinely didn't get it.  I think that part of this is because as a man (a white man at that) he's very rarely, if ever, been put in a situation where he felt that his personal safety was at risk.  On the other hand, women, including me, have dealt with this crap since we were young girls.  And we're so used to it that we are hyper aware in all situations and usually don't say anything when something happens because it happens so often.

I'm fine now.  I was uncomfortable and intimidated in the moment, but now I'm just pissed.  This has all got to stop because it is not ok.

So I guess the moral of the story for women is to use your voice.  Speak out.  Change can't happen if half of the population doesn't even know there is a problem.  And if any men happen to be reading this, the moral of the story for you is to listen to the experiences of the women you love and work to change your own behavior as a result.


  1. Title IX is far from perfect, but it's needed. Too many people are still hurt by those that cross the line and it is very overdue for being reigned in. Given all that has recently happened with Charlottesville, it clear more than ever we need these oversights.

    I'm so glad you're okay. What an asshole.

  2. I'm really sorry that you - and so many women, including me - have to go through experiences like this. You're right that many people - mainly men - just don't get it. It's why I roll my eyes when people talk about not needing feminism any more.

    Coming from the other side of the world though, I don't really understand the Title IX thing. Surely sexual assaults are sexual assaults, whether they occur on the street or in the workplace or on a campus? Why are campus assaults treated differently in the US? Why don't police investigate these things on campuses, rather than the university officials? It's as if female college students don't count as much as any other citizen? I don't get it. And I've been meaning to ask US friends about this every time I hear this issue is raised. So thanks for giving me the opportunity to finally ask.

  3. Sorry to hear about your experience. That would put any woman on edge. You're right that men just don't get it as they don't need to fear for their safety as much as we do or constantly be so aware of our surroundings. I'm going to talk to my husband tonight about what women have to put up with to see how much he is aware of. It reminds me of the hastag, #yesAllWomen a few years ago and the everydaysexism website full of stories from women.

  4. I don't blame you for leaving -- I would have done the same thing, and I think most women would. Better to be safe. And you're right that this is something that the vast majority of men never give a thought to. It's just not in their realm of experience. We clearly still have a long, LONG way to go (and we've gone at least two steps back (or more) with Trump & Co. in charge, sadly...).

  5. Yes, so sad about rolling back Title IX. I feel like everything is going backwards. I so relate to your statement that your husband just didn't get it -- I have that conversation all the time with mine about how nice it must be to just walk to your car and not feel like you need to have your keys in your hand, preferably sticking out between your fingers so you could use them as a makeshift weapon in case someone decided to try to assault you. I'm sorry you felt unsafe, and I think spidey sense is real and you were right to bolt. Even if nothing happened in the end, who wants to take that chance? And clearly he was giving off "Me Big Man" vibes with the music change and personal space invasion. What a terrible experience, if only because it is a reminder of a vulnerability that most men don't have to worry about. How infuriating.

  6. I think it's super important to listen to that spidey sense you have, the way you did. He was an oaf at the least, and nothing good can come of interacting with one.

    Except I also agree with you about speaking up -- if your spidey sense tells you that's OK. Oafs (nonviolent ones) need to know they don't own All The Space.

    (The violent ones need to know, too, but not from you. Or me.)

  7. I'm sorry that this happened to you. I would have been intimidated as well.

  8. This same thing happens to me at my gym, regularly. Always the same guy, who will work out right next to me in a totally empty gym. One time he started waving his arms on the treadmill right next to me, almost clocking me in the face. I yelled at him, and told him to stop doing that and he acted like I was crazy. He seems to spend hours at the gym, and is annoyed if anyone else is in "his" private space. I don't know what to do about it - it doesn't seem like he is breaking any rules, other than social etiquette. Thanks for writing this - it is intimidating!

  9. The Huff Post piece is spot on, thanks for sharing it. It's made me question ways where I perhaps "just deal with it" because I've accepted "the way things are". Time to take another look at my perspectives and actions.......

    Regarding your gym scenario, I'd have felt very suspicious and uncomfortable too.