BEDA Day 24: Libraries, Squats, Faults, etc.

Happy Friday! I'm coming at you live from the library, where I've been since 9 AM, with the exception of a fifteen minute excursion to the dining hall to get some pizza, which I then brought back and ate while I copied down some geology notes. Other than a few distractions and self-sanctioned breaks, I've been working nonstop on geology. I have a lab exam on Monday, which basically means analyzing topographic maps and fossils--it's about as fun as it sounds.

But that's enough about geology for today. I'm using this blog post as an excuse to take a break from my studies, even though I'm going to a review session in less than an hour and will probably devote a large chuck of tomorrow going over the study guide I spent my afternoon making. No more talk about rock strata, I promise. Instead let's talk about voyeurism and the entitlement of the male gaze!! Fun, right?!

So yesterday around 9 PM I went to the gym, as I often do. I did my usual 45 minutes of cardio and then went out into the hall to do a little bit of strength training and stretching. The way our gym is set up, there's a huge basketball court toward the back, closed off by a series of floor-to-ceiling glass panels. The people--usually all men--in the basketball court can see out into the hallway, and the people--usually all women--in the hallway can see into the basketball court. Admittedly, this is a little bit of an odd setup for a gym; it feels like an aquarium, where people are meant to observe animals behind a looking class. Here's the difference though: we're not animals. We're college students. We're humans who should acknowledge one another's personhood.

So now that you have that visual in mind, picture me in that little hallway, dripping sweat after cardio and ready to do some muscle work. I'm wearing a sleeveless black workout top and cropped yoga pants. Admittedly, the pants are tight around my butt, because I don't like to work out in super loose clothes; bear in mind that my choice of wardrobe is just that: my choice. Not at all any indication that I want to be stared at.

As is my usual routine, I start with squats. I try to do as many as possible; I squat until my legs can't take anymore. So I start squatting, facing the windows so my ass is backed up to the cinderblock wall behind me. I manage to do about ten or so, until out of the corner of my eye I notice two men--probably between 20 and 22--blatantly staring and making comments through the glass. They both actually stopped playing basketball in favor of angling themselves to best stare at my body while I was working out. And no, I'm not paranoid--ask any woman, and she'll be able to tell you: we know when we're being checked out. And sometimes it's wanted; sometimes we want attention. Most times it's not. Like when we're at the gym.

I tried to ignore their gaze and focus on my form, doing my squats as normal. But I felt like I was under inspection, which is not only creepy, but it's a form of assault. I felt like I wasn't even a person, but rather an object to be watched closely. So I stopped. Not even a third of the way into my anticipated set, I just stopped, packed up, and went home. That sucks. If you make another person so uncomfortable that they no one feel as though they can exist as they would like to, I have no problem telling you you're a shitty person.

I don't go to the gym to be checked out. I don't work on my body for the approval of random men. My workout is my time to be in my own head and to challenge myself. Anyone who thinks they can interrupt that isn't worth their place in society. And yes, I know it could've been worse: I wasn't catcalled, or touched, or physically assaulted, but being stared at that blatantly is a testament to the disgusting culture of female objectification that we live in.

Sorry to get all feminist rant-y on you guys, but I really just can't stop thinking about that. It was super creepy and not at all flattering. If you go to the gym on the regular, please listen up. The gym is not the place to pick up women. It's not the place to check a woman out. It's not the place to make a woman feel like she's lost her autonomy. Please just be like the rest of us: come in, do your workout, and go home. Simple as that.

I'll see you all tomorrow, hopefully with something more lighthearted to say.

x,
Lauren

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