Gender in the Gym, Continued

In the never-ending discussion regarding gender identities, displays, and interactions in the strength training space, I thought I’d throw a remark I got in one of the online training logs I keep, along with my response to it.

Originally Posted by [user] View Post
Watched your deadlift vid. Great deadlifting but OMG the crap you have to put up with as a girl at the gym. Crazy. BTW I have the same shorts.

My response:

It…yeah. I actually try not to call the gender card that often, but honestly, sometimes I get guys who treat me really disrespectfully and sometimes it’s done in a way that is condescending and seems to come from such an inferiority complex that I can’t help being inclined to label it as such. Thankfully, that really doesn’t happen too often. 

I think I get a certain amount of guys who think I’m “parading around” in there doing the exhibitionist thing. I could be totally wrong. But I’ve seen and heard the “this is my guy space…I want to have guy time” rhetoric in relation to why some men don’t like women in lifting areas, and I think that over the years I’ve lifted and dealt with some crappy exchanges, some of it has come from that. 

So I’ve really spent a long time trying to not play the victim card. I try not to conflate a LOT of feedback I get from many, many sources that says I stand out in a strength training space because I’m female. I basically train myself to feel that doesn’t exist. But cruise around on s-dog and many lifting sites and tell me that the rhetoric used and discussion of women lifting is without its share of segregating, often delegitimizing attitudes. I certainly am responsible for how I respond to it, and I actually take some pleasure in being somewhat DGAF about it these days. I did not have the mental fortitude to have had this attitude several years ago.

But I hate hearing from women who cannot conceive of feeling welcome or at least equally accepted in spaces like the gym in which I lift right now. When I discuss my lifting with people, particularly those who don’t lift, this is something they bring up constantly–how insanely intimidating and d*uch-y this gym is. Back in my cardio days circa 2005, I think I would have probably cried if I had tried in the to go do some work with weights in the university gym where I was primarily running on treadmills far away from the lifting spaces. 

Again, I can ignore it. But I have to get my lifting done without interfering with anyone else’s lifting/making sure I have adequate space to lift without interference, and this means social interaction is inevitable when a gym is straight up loaded with people. And this stuff is there in many social interactions, even if it’s just eye contact (blegh), no matter how much I might declare myself removed from it. 

But screw it. I do this stuff because I’m good at it. And no one is going to get in the way of that, regardless of their gender, and damned well regardless of what they think of me. 

So there you go. Sometimes, this stuff comes up. I don’t like to focus on it excessively, but it bears some discussion. I’d love for those reading this to post their thoughts and/or experiences on the dynamics of how gender plays out in the weight room.

Having a Sense of Humor About Your Workout

Enter the subject of this entry into the “Things I’m Often Not Very Good At So I Have To Try Really Hard At Them” file. This file is large, by the way. One the most erratic aspects of my training is how well I manage to manage my mind from session to session. Some days are better than others–some days it comes easily, and some days I can barely control my emotions and the thoughts with which they interfere. I work out in a university gym and see and experience some pretty weird/annoying/downright disturbing/again, annoying/periodically assholish-stuff. It has been my mission, particularly over the past few months, to release myself and my training from being affected by these guys–yes, it’s almost ALWAYS guys around me, so I’m going with a gender generalization here–in any way. As I’ve said before and then not followed my own preaching, you control how you react to stimuli. Let’s say you enter the gym on, say, a Monday evening before the spring semester starts (yes! Yes! Last freaking semester of grad school ever! Make it go away!) and apparently everyone else on campus has decided to do the same thing. There is no logical reason you must react to the melee with chagrin, reservations, hyperventilation, cursing, etc. (guess which of these activities I was guilty of this evening. Bonus points if you can tell me WHICH curse words I used. No, the answer is not all of the curse words. Not this time). If you try, and I eventually settled down and did try, you can lift with a circus going on around you. You might even be able to laugh about it.

I’ve been regularly posting video on my Youtube channel with commentary of late.  If you watch this video, you’ll see some of the aforementioned melee. It felt about 50 times worse actually being in it. Also, please subscribe to my Youtube channel because it makes me really happy when I check my email and I get a notification that someone has. I’m serious–no one ever emails me aside from Change.org (please go away Change.org. Please. I have turned into a cynical misanthropist in my old age and I get sick of your springy, nonsensical alerts about someone’s kid’s girl scout leader’s sister’s cousin wanting equal rights to shopping carts for short people or whatever) so it would make me happy. And you can listen to me make fun of myself, which is mostly what I do in my videos. I talk about my lifting a little too.

Regression in Fit Culture: A Victoria’s Secret Triumph

Before we get to the junk food that is the content of this particular blog post today (soul-baring confessionals are only something I can dole out periodically, please stay tuned for another semi-emotional-break in two or three weeks’ time), I want to give you an illustration of my current status as a human being who ingests stuff and lifts weights:

putting my artistic talents to good use, right here.
putting my artistic talents to good use, right here.

This is actually on the white board stuck to our fridge right now. And it’s a week old. Because this was drawn in homage to my last carb-loading meal, not tonight’s. Tonight’s was awesome. Do you want to know what I ate? No, no one wants to know what anyone on the Internet eats, as evidenced by the currently-trendy backlash against Instagram photos of food taken by those who then may or may not have eaten it after sharing it with the group of people on the Internet they stalk and by whom they are stalked. I scoff at your censure and raise you a list of what I ate this evening:

From Chili’s:

1 triple appetizer shared with Boyfriend Kyle–except I’m pretty sure I ate more of it. And by “pretty sure” I mean “straight up certain”

1 entire rack of ribs

1 cup of black beans

1 serving of fries

some of Kyle’s onion rings because he apparently couldn’t finish his dinner tonight and it was smaller than mine I WIN AGAIN

1 chocolate chip bar dessert thing a la mode which was goddamn good and I’m not really a dessert person but I happily eat anything with gusto on these carb meal nights right now.

So that was fun. Also, I deadlifted 255 x 6 at 110 lb bodyweight yesterday so no judging. Not that I give a damn if the Internet is judging. I’d be stupid if I expected the Internet not to judge. The Internet is expressly FOR the purpose of judging. Duh.

And I’m about to do some of it myself. Victoria’s Secret, What. The F*ck. Is this:

This is one of many images one runs across on the Internet that inspires a “what is this I don’t even.” I found it on the “Health and Fitness” section of Pinterest. Yes, I’m on Pinterest. I caved. I went over to the dark side. Feminism is falling, and it is at the hands of Pinterest. That is not an argument I’m interested in taking up in today’s post or probably any day’s post, but go ahead and ponder it if you have an interest in the site. I WILL say that Pinterest’s Health and Fitness section is one of the most horrifying “fitness”-focused collections of blithering nonsense I’ve come across on the Internet, ever. And I come across a lot of them, even here, on WordPress. Seriously, go ahead and look around the “fitness” category on WordPress and then come back here telling me you have seen much regarding accurate, insightful lifting theory and discussion.

I’ve wanted to write a blog post regarding Pinterest’s H&F section for a few weeks now. In preparation for this post, I’ve clicked my way over to that section multiple times and after 5-10 minutes of perusing am so depressed that I no longer want to write a blog post at all. So I  don’t think you’re going to get a full-blown discussion of how awful the crap is that people are posting on Pinterest about “taming tummies” and “10 10-minute thigh-jiggle fixes” and general pining for bodies that look the way they look not only because of damn good strength training dedication but also (ding!) genetics predisposing those bodies to have x muscle groups inclined towards development or (ding!) skeletal proportions that the Pinterest user probably doesn’t have and therefore shouldn’t be hoping to emulate because you can’t fix your goddamn bone lengths. You know what I don’t see on Pinterest H&F ever? Anyone posting about a 10 lb PR on a squat or a clean or whatever. There is never anyone posting about actual, quantifiable strength goals on that site. Ever. Ever! I’m just going to give up now. There is no use trying. Actually, I really don’t go on the H&F section that often–read: almost never–so admittedly I have taken a small cross section of what is actually posted there into account. But I am pretty sure I’m right about this one. I’m just right, okay? Obviously.

A big part of weight lifting, but not all of it, and some types of weight lifting more than others, is about increasing your strength. You can lift weights to have a nicer ass all day. Actually, you probably can’t, because at some point you’re going to need to use the bathroom or call your mother back or something. Actually redux, if you’re lifting weights to improve your ass in a relatively uninterrupted fashion all day, you’re probably doing it wrong. An improved ass CAN be a side-effect of lifting, but a truly improved ass is one that’s probably stronger than where it was pre-improvement. So take whatever “Victoria’s Secret Workout omgomgomg” links you’re finding with a massive grain of salt.