October 8, 2021 | OPINION | By Finn Mott | Illustration by Sydney Morris
It should be every person’s right to go to the gym so they can improve their physical health with a sense of comfort, ease, and belonging. However, this is sadly not the case in most gyms around the world, including the gym right here at Colorado College.
When I tell people I like to work out, I often get the same response: “I am afraid to go to the gym to lift weights because it is all men.” People also admit they want to go to the gym more often. Despite this, because they feel uncomfortable or unwelcome, they often still do not. This problem is dramatically exemplified for women, particularly relating to lifting weights.
When I walk into the Adam F. Press Fitness Center, one thing consistently shocks me, that being how segregated each floor of the gym is by gender. Typically, on the top floor, which is mainly used for cardio, I see over 90% women, and on the bottom floor, typically used for weightlifting, I see a majority of men. This disparity is very disturbing.
Why are we still treating gender as something that divides physical ability when we know that women are perfectly capable of doing anything –– and more –– that men do? Why do women at CC and around the world feel like they cannot lift weights in the gym? This trend can be extended to women in the STEM and Engineering fields, science professions, and countless other examples.
This is a systemic issue that may not be easily resolvable. However, I am confident that men and women, for that matter,at CC can start standing more often for women in the gym. To clarify, I am not saying that we have not made room for this already, but I’m emphasizing that there is room for greater advocacy.
On the other side of things, men often feel a compelling need to lift heavy weights and attain a six-pack to block out their vulnerability. As a male, I can attest to the pressure of having the biggest biceps.
Yet, I think that in this recognition and possible movement of welcoming more women to lifting weights in the gym, we should be aware of the impact that toxic masculinity and dominant male hierarchies play, and work to limit those impacts.
If you are a male reading this, I want you to know that it is okay to be sensitive and vulnerable. This is, in fact, not a weakness but a strength. Some may even say that it gives you more strength than lifting the heaviest dumbbell.
Going to the gym to work out and lift weights should be a universal space that any person can experience comfortably. History does not have to define our realities. History does not tell us what is possible, or normal, or not. Our beliefs, attitudes, and actions can be independent of past injustices, and it is solely our decision to make this change.
If you are a female out there, please know that you have infinite power and do not let anybody constrain your life. I am sure that this is a story you have heard countless times, but it is vital for you to figuratively and literally lift your own weights. Not only do you have the strength, determination, and willpower, but you have the right.
If you are a male that knows a female who wants to start lifting weights, invite her to your workout. More importantly, take time for yourself to be weak. Nobody can be strong all the time, and it is okay to break the stereotypes that may be pressuring you.
Our lives may be divided by socially constructed divisions of gender, but our realities can be dictated by how we decide to nurture our culture.