Planet Fitness members may be surprised to hear that recently, according to thegrio.com, a woman by the name of Tiffany Austin was kicked out of the Richmond, Calif. establishment because her outfit bared her arms and flat stomach. She was supposedly “intimidating” other members with her physique.
The Planet Fitness motto has always been easy to remember, claiming through and through that the establishment is a “Judgment Free Zone,” and in my experience, this idea of a judgment free environment has been accurate. This article, however, reminded me that a gym is a gym, men are male, women are female, and there are stereotypes that still exist, even in judgment free” zones.
The HufifingtonPost.com posted a video in 2012 from Jay Diaz’s mini series “The Flip Side” that depicted women and men swapping roles at the gym. Although this video is two years old, the stereotypes are still accurate today. In the video, women discuss their 5,000 calorie diets, down protein shakes, lift heavy barbells, run fast and take a Yoga class to pick up dudes. Men discuss their earning of froyo with chocolate sauce to celebrate a job well done, check their hair in the weight room mirror, chat on the phone on the treadmill and even take up pole dancing.
Watch the video; you will laugh, but take a second to realize how precise these roles are portrayed. Though it may have been true that society’s focus on women was for them to be thin, this ideal has recently begun to rapidly evolve. Women now are focused on becoming fit.
No more treadmill-huggers in this millennia; women are starting to embrace the weightlifting realm, breaking down the barrier between men and their weight rooms and women and their cardio routines. We aren’t exactly chanting “anything you can do I can do better,” but rather that anything you can do, we can do too.
As far as cardio goes, classes like Zumba are predominantly filled with women, but that doesn’t mean that women only exercise in “feminine ways,” and it certainly doesn’t mean that men aren’t welcome to join in! I know for myself, when I go to the gym I expect a hard workout-I’ll run for a few miles or go on the elliptical as a warm up, but will almost always hit the weights or do some kind of strength exercise as well. My femininity has nothing to do with my performance at the gym, just like a man’s masculinity should have nothing to do with his wanting to do some old (or new!) fashioned cardio.
I consider it unfair that Austin was told to first put a shirt on over her tank top and then eventually had to leave the building because her body is toned and her muscles are “intimidating” to others. Men rarely come to the gym in anything but tank tops, showing off their protruding arm muscles and pecks. However, you will never hear of an establishment asking a male to leave the building because others trying to enjoy their workout are distracted by his intimidating body.
Despite the fact that the ideal image of a man’s body has not changed, we still expect them to be handsome, muscle-bound, manly-men. Women’s focus is a new horizon lined with strong arms and calves, toned stomachs and the ability to kick ass. We earn our muscles just as men do, by working out and working hard.
So don’t be surprised the next time you’re in the gym and the weight room is a little less spacious and a little more estrogen-filled. Gender roles exist in so many unnecessary atmospheres; it is up to us to prevent them from getting in the way of a good workout as well.