Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The proliferation of sexism in 'fit' spaces and homoeroticism on the weight floor

Let me begin by saying I spend a lot of time trying to stay active. I work at the UCF RWC in the fitness department, organizing programs, instructing group exercise classes, and personal training. I love working out, moving my body, and teaching other people how to do so. However, the passion for staying active I’ve fostered over the years does not blind me to the rampant sexism, ableism, and exclusion in the fitness industry. Like any industry, gyms, magazines, diet companies, etc. all try to sell us an image of what we need to be and look like. More insidious than most industries, fitness uses nebulous terms like “health” and “fit” to shame people under the guise of improving their lives. The individuality of things like physical fitness and health is widely ignored, and these very important issues are treated with a one-size-fits-all approach. In tragic irony, the ubiquitous presence of outlets telling us to be healthy lead to body image issues, eating disorders, and physical injuries. Yet I digress. In my time working at a gym, I’ve become fascinated with the hyper masculinity, homoeroticism, and vanity on the weight floor. Physical fitness for men has become synonymous with lifting big and heavy, exhibiting impressive feats of strength, and being in peak physical condition. The same notions that prove a manly man’s manliness are simultaneously counterintuitive. In all other social discourses, men are not supposed to pay attention to what they look like. They aren’t supposed to gaze in mirrors as they walk past, nor are they supposed to fixate on what their bodies look like as women do. In addition, a man is most certainly are not supposed to touch a fellow bro, let alone whilst sweating and moving their bodies. Yet take a trip to any weight floor and you’ll see men stepping out of the man box in very deliberate ways. Flexing in the mirror, spotting another man, etc. Regardless of how weight floor behavior goes against traditional man box rules, this behavior is still seen as strong and ‘manly.’ I’m reminded of the homoeroticism in hip hop that we learned about in our last module. Not only does the current state of the fitness world inevitably lead to body image issues and an ignoring of the inaccessibility of “healthy” lifestyles, but it reinforces the man box in counterintuitive ways.

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