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?