Commercial male dominated gyms force many young women to neglect their fitness journeys
With the recent tragic deaths of Sabina Nessa and Sarah Everard, women’s safety has been an ongoing important topic of discussion. With that in mind, the conversation of gym harassment and bullying has been brought up again by many social media users.
Social media users @Juliaapic and @justchesslee both shared their gym harassment stories on Tik Tok resulting in millions of views and open debates about the topic all over the platform.
Amara Malik, 18, has been a consistent gym goer since she turned 14 and has had her fair share of experiences with harassment in commercial gyms ‘I have switched gyms countless of times and always seen the same behaviour displayed by men’
Staring, filming without permission, grunting, harassment and unwanted advice from men are all contributing factors as to why women are feeling uncomfortable to go to the gym consistently. A survey conducted by RunRepeat found that 56.37% of the women questioned experienced some sort of gym harassment and 12,83% witnessed 2nd hand harassment (both numbers being significantly higher than the male percentages). Out of the women who experienced harassment up to a third of them have changed their behaviours and/or routine.
‘When I go to the weight section in the gym it is usually dominated by men and I always feel them staring when I do my squats.’ The unwanted staring made Amara feel intimidated and uncomfortable. ‘I no longer wanted to work out in public gyms, so I built my own at home gym during lockdown and it has helped me massively with my fitness journey’.
For those who do not have the opportunity or means to build their own at home gym fitness influencer Natalee Barnett (@nataleebfitness) has taken on the challenge of starting her own women’s only gym chain called ‘TheGspot’ to tackle the stigma of harassment and fight against the statistics. The first ‘TheGspot’ location will be in Birmingham with plans of opening in London soon as well.
The RunRepeat study also found that over 90% of cases of harassment against females go unreported. ‘I used to go to a very famous gym chain and one of the trainers who worked there offered me a free personal training session’ explains Sarah (name changed for privacy reasons) who was forced to change her gym due to her experience with that personal trainer ‘During the session he touched me inappropriately to ‘assist’ my lifts even though that was not needed and continuously flirted with me. I reported the incident to other staff members but I never got an update.’ She has been going to a new location for 3 months now and has never felt more comfortable in a gym ‘Every gym has members or staff that do not know how to behave but the management in those gyms and whether or not they support their members in those situations makes a huge difference’.
Natalee Barnett hopes to open a non-judgemental inclusive gym for cis and trans women where staff will ensure the safety and comfort of all members.
The response to her idea has been amazingly positive with many sharing their gratitude and appreciation in the comments.
‘I am excited to see how this gym will look’, says Amara, ‘Many commercial gyms have women’s only areas that are equipped so poorly that I never used them so I am hoping this will be a success’
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Words: Gizdem Albayrak, Subbed: