Yea...I Workout // Adrian Kunemund
Photo by Elinor Carucci; found on realsimple.com
Every week, multiple times a week, I enter a battle ground of sorts...the gym. It's a place where woman come to get strong, skinny, toned, or just to feel good about themselves. As a feminist, it can be a value laden act, a process of weighing options, and strategizing.
It starts with what to wear. A lot of the workout clothes today are tight yoga pants that, if of affordable quality, are often see through from certain angles or positions. I admit, I love yoga pants, they are comfortable and easy to maneuver in, however when I go to the gym, I don't want to be stared at...this leads me to choose a shirt I can lift weights in AND that is about two sizes too big, covering everything. I feel pressure to send the clear message that I am not there to pick up a date or be checked out constantly, I am there to stay healthy and manage the stress that comes with graduate school. Yet, I would probably be more comfortable in a tank top.
Upon arrival to the gym I find myself sticking mostly to the treadmill these days. Why? Every time I go to the weight room I am met with stereotypes and assumptions about my knowledge and ability. I should let you know that I was an athlete throughout high school, I have taken strength training courses, and even at one point had a personal trainer. I have a 'vague' idea of how to lift weights, yet somehow a man always feels the need to "help me with my form" or ask if I know what "reps" are...its infuriating. It's also quite uncomfortable because then there are the before and after stares. The before stares assessing my ability and form; the after stares glaring at me in disapproval after I proclaim that no, I in fact do not need help. And as soon as one guy leaves soon or later another comes along. Its distracting and I lose count of how many curls I just did. I give up.
Then there is the explaining to other people about why I even go to the gym. When its mentioned there is the typical "oh you look great, you don't need to work out." The statement is meant to be consoling perhaps, but the assumption of my reasons for going still stings. Sometimes, I find myself pre-justifying my habits.."I'm going to hit the gym...I'm not trying to lose weight though, I just want to be healthy." As cliché as it sounds, it's not about getting skinny, I more interested in being healthy and strong. However, it seems unfair to feel the need to explain such a personal habit to well everyone.. it's my body, it's my business. Yet, the feminist in me feels the need to state that I am not giving in to the body shaming or striving for that unrealistic model/Barbie body. I haven't bought it to the unrealistic standards set by the media! I swear! And I do want to look fit, I want abs and muscle, I want to lift more than I could last month...where is the line between buying into the oppression and striving to be strong and meet my own personal goals.
I am about to go to the gym now, when my coworker asked me what I was doing with the rest of my night..I lied...it just felt easier.
Written by Adrian Kunemund