This really isn’t a big deal…but it made me think…
So this old, fat, white guy comes up to me at the gym tonight and says
“I never thought a little girl would put me to shame in the gym.”
I was kinda caught off guard by his comment so I just laughed and said something humble like.. “oh, ha…I’m not putting anyone to shame.”
Then I kinda got to thinking to myself and got a little pissed…
“First off, dude…I’m not a little girl. I’m a full grown, hard working, highly educated, career WOMAN. Secondly, why are you surprised by a relatively healthy, younger person working out harder than your old fat self at the gym? This should not come as a surprise to you as you appear to look like you never exercise at all. Thirdly, is it just your usual assumption that women can not be athletic, or strong, or as capable as men? Do you just honestly believe that men should always be able to out-do women in the area of fitness simply because they are male?”
I’m sure old dude was, in some way, trying to pay me a compliment. But are you seriously going to make it about gender? Why not say something like, “your strength is impressive?” And why am I even a “little girl?” Like…dude..I have on a wedding band and I seriously don’t look 12. I may not look my age, but I look older than 18 for sure.
I love my gym. Absolutely freaking adore it. Won’t go anywhere else. But this is not the first time something like this has happened there. On 3 other occasions (in the 6+ years I’ve been going there) I have been spoken to by old white men in a way that they would NEVER speak to another male. EVER. And once it was straight up, legit, sexual harassment.
Men don’t fear women. Plain and simple. They fear rejection, and hurt, and all those things…but they aren’t afraid for their physical safety with women. And some men use that as a green light to speak to and treat women, especially younger women, in a way that is seriously degrading. I know there are lots of men that do this…young and old, black and white…and it says more about character than age or race. But I’ve experienced things like this alot in my life. And alot of other women have as well. And because there’s a fierce little feminist inside me, I always get super riled up about it because it’s not right. I definitely believe it’s a generational thing too. Most guys my age, my husband included, respect women and believe they can do all things as well as men, or better. But these old guys…whew buddy…lemme tell ya.
And I’m keenly aware that 1) I’m kinda being ageist by talking about “old white dudes” like this. And that’s fine. I’m acknowledging it. and 2) I’m also keenly aware that lots of you workout at Riviera fitness for women and will say “that’s why I work out at an all female gym.” That’s fine too. I just had to throw it out there that I knew I’d get those comments. Because I’m one step ahead of y’all like that! 🙂
Lastly… I almost went into the whole gender/race aspect of this but I’m tired and it’s late so I won’t get into it. Other than to say that racism is real and still very prevalent in our society. Sexism is real. Ageism is real. And no matter how much we pat ourselves on the back for being progressive these days, the truth is that most of us still operate from a very biased and ego-driven perspective and we all make judgements about others based on appearance. We are humans. That will happen. But if being a therapist has taught me anything it’s taught me to PAUSE. Pause before I make assumptions or judgements about the lives of others. Because it’s easy to see people sitting in the waiting room and make assumptions about them based on what they are wearing, how old they are, their race, their gender, how they carry themselves, etc. But once I get most of those people into my office and hear their story, their lives are never what most people would assume. Never ever. And underneath all of the outward stuff, everyone just wants the same things out of life. They want to be heard, they want to feel that they matter, and they want to be validated.