Sexism, angry old men and self worth

I experienced the first overt instance of sexism while at the gym yesterday. I’ve been going to the gym for over three years at this point. I’ve occasionally caught guys looking at me, but it was glancing. Overall, the crowds mostly ignore each other unless they’re working in with each other or are already friends/workout buddies. There were a few instances where if I painted the situation one way, it would definitely look like sexism but knowing the whole picture was mostly just friendly people.

But. Monday. Monday was Memorial day, the gym was open from 7am-12pm. I showed up around 7:30 am (I blame my partner for setting me on a 5:30AM wake up alarm or no alarm) and started my workout from New Rules of Lifting for Women. (Stage 4, Workout A, fyi) If you want to read about my own relationship to lifting you can do so here.

About halfway through the workout, I was carrying 42.5 pound dumbbells from the annex (free space-no benches/racks/cages/machines) and an older man who had some language barriers said ‘Strong!’ (I think if the language barriers weren’t there he might have said more). I’m pretty good at reading situations and intentions so I chose to ignore him and keep on with my workout. I don’t have time nor energy to deal with that kind of crap.

Towards the end of the workout, He came up on me as I was planking for 60 seconds. I also had headphones in and was listening to Radical Personal Finance. So I thought he was asking about the squat rack behind me. I said I wasn’t using it. Three to five ish minutes later as I’m on my last plank, he comes up and gets super angry with me, telling me he needs to use the machine I’m using. Long story short, he got very angry because I wouldn’t prioritize his need for this machine because technically I could use a different combination of machines for what I was doing.

That’s not how it works at this gym and it never has. You can politely ask to work in or you can wait. I’ve seen it five million times over. Here’s the really sexist-full part: He tried to commiserate with the two dudebros over my being an irrational woman.

This may be the one time where I’m ok with dudebros saying ‘calm down man’. Because it was literally an angry old man they said it to. THANK YOU DUDEBROS.

Interestingly, this has brought up some mental health accomplishments. I did not for one second question my own worth or my right to occupy space while this was happening, nor did I question it later. While I remain pissed off at this guy if I think about it, I’m not ruminating over my choices and responses. I am not doubting myself and I’m not blaming myself. In fact, I can recognize that this was a culmination of miscommunications and this old man’s sense of entitlement and anger issues.

I’ve noticed that I’ve been more resilient and less likely to always blame myself in negative encounters recently. It thrills me that I am experiencing such an improvement over the last few years and I can only hope it continues. What are your struggles? Have you seen improvement?

5 thoughts on “Sexism, angry old men and self worth

  1. Cede says:

    Until you mentioned it yourself, I hadn’t thought about it but I would have totally questioned my own space and right to be there in that instance. The majority of the time I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing or I’m out of place so I would ask all those same questions you were proud that you hadn’t.

    You’ve definitely given me something to ponder and try and work out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • radiantselfcare says:

      The first time experiencing overt sexism IN A GYM. Not in real life. 🙂 Sadly, outside of gym world it happens much more than I would like. 😦


  2. Eric Garza says:

    Fascinating post on your inner experience. It made me think about my own experiences since starting CrossFit in January. I’ve felt a lot of shame well up when I walk back to the gym’s dry erase board to write my name and workout times and weights. The shame comes up because I consistently perform much worse than and often lift lighter weights than many of the women who work out in my gym. That reminds me of the many times that my dad, childhood coaches, and gym teachers called me ‘sissy’ or similar names that implied my performance was on par with girls. I, like most men, grew up inundated by the notion that men are supposed to be physically superior to women.

    CrossFit has forced me to stare that shame, and the programming that underlies it, in the face every day I go in to work out. I also want the shame to stop, but I want it to stop not because I become physically superior to the women I work out with but rather because I’ve eviscerated from my mind the notion that I should be superior to women.

    I was joking with a friend the other day that while the fitness benefits of CrossFit are great, the fact it forces me to deal with that shame is probably the most useful aspect of it, at least for me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • radiantselfcare says:

      Shame is such a powerful motivator! It’s really difficult to grapple with and find ways to address. I hope you find good ways for you to address!


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