About a year ago, I shared a post I wrote about feeling the “male gaze” at my local Planet Fitness. I hadn’t had any particularly bad occurrences since then, aside from the obvious stares. The other night, I had a very different, rattling experience that is messing with my outlook on toxic masculinity.
Here’s the setup.
I needed to start my second superset of three moves that all take place on the “jungle gym” equipment in the back of the facility – tricep dips, a lunge thing with one cable, then a free-standing banded thing.
Someone was using both cables and the dip arm thing, so I did my burn-out while waiting. Before that person was done, someone came over, wanting both of the cables. He was told that I was next in line for one of the cables. I specified that I would only be using one of them.
The actual event.
I went over, set up the cable, but did my dips first. As I was doing the lunge to RDL on the cable, the man waiting for the cables was standing uncomfortably close to me. I finished with my set, took as earbud out and said, “This is going to be another ten minutes,” indicating that he should go do something else in the meantime and not stand in my personal space.
His response was, “What, are you using all four things?” but with lots of attitude. This set off something inside of me.
I snapped back at him, and he kept calling me “crazy” and “nuts” and insisting that I told him that I only had to do one set on the single cable I was using.
We went back and forth for a few minutes. I definitely called him some unsavory names and called him out on his condescension, but he could only gaslight me and call me crazy in return.
My mother and boyfriend came over once they saw that I was in a heated argument, and that’s when this man started using physical intimidation. He had his hands in my face and kept walking toward me.
My thought process initially had been that he was trying to make me so uncomfortable that I would leave the cable machine because in his mind, he was doing a real workout, but I wasn’t. And I’m 98% sure this is the case. I don’t stand for that kind of mentality, so I stood up for myself. Sure, I took it a little far and implied that he puts certain body parts in his mouth, but what he did was way worse.
This continued until a PF off-duty worker came over and talked the man down. He could see that this man was unreasonable and got him to leave me alone for the rest of my workout.
This was a traumatizing event, and it’s been hard for me to stop thinking about it.
The man yelling at me wasn’t alone, he had his equally tall son with him. It would have been really easy for them to harm me in any way – physically or mentally. This situation made me think about how I have to walk to my car and drive home alone quite often from the gym.
It sucks that I’m thinking about how it might be helpful to bite my tongue or hold back in future situations in order to protect myself, in the same way we, as a society, tell women to watch what they drink and what they wear to stay safe. Why are we placing the blame on the victims of toxic masculinity rather than teaching men how they should act in social situations?
When we left the gym, I mentioned the event to the person behind the front counter. The best advice he gave me was to “find him” if the situation ever arises again.
I’m definitely not known as a friendly face at the gym; I make it known that I’m there to do my workout and get out. However, I have not ever gotten into a shouting match with anyone.
This man invaded my space and insulted me, but the problem is bigger than the man himself.
We, as a society, treat women like they are delicate, smaller, and not worthy of occupying the same spaces as men. This is something that constantly frustrates me, but it’s also fueling the fire within me. I want to make this part of my life’s work. Through policy-making at every level (even at a local gym), we can change the way the world treats women.
Please speak up when you see injustice. Please vote for candidates who support equal rights. Please use your position in society to support groups who promote these agendas.