#MeToo is movement, but this is also an instant. Or, more specifically, the countless individual moments that may seem shocking at first reading, but have some familiarity for them, the more you listen. And the industry of fitness and health is no exception.
Consider this situation: a scientist and a speaker found that they were sharing a bill at a conference with a respected nutrition educator who was supposed to give a keynote report. She knew his work and brought her several times, but there was no other story with him. As often it is a custom in these events, both people were at a group dinner. But within a few minutes after he was sitting next to him, the scientist was alarmed to find that the man ran his hands through her hair, whispering vulgar things in his ear.
Her answer was straightforward: “Dude, you're cute and everything, but for me this is not what I am here for. Please stop". He did … about 30 seconds. Then it began again: touching, comments, reluctance to stop or listen to her. The scientist sent friends as friends and said “save me” to people she saw in the restaurant. Then, as soon as she got a chance, she left the stand and immediately informed the nutritionist of the event organizer.
In this particular case, the nutritionist was excluded from the program, and in the following days and the battle in the comments to social networks, everything became more erratic. It became clear that the scientist was far from the only woman who had experienced a strong, unpleasant success with a nutritionist and that he had a history of attempts to discredit women who talked about their behavior.
Stories related to this particular situation were also revealed by many others who were not “connected” but were reflected in its basic scheme among coaches and clients, members of the gymnastics or elsewhere in the gym. And for many of us, this discussion and the ones she liked seemed to go on for a long time.
As a result of an extensive discussion of these topics, many people want to better understand the problems. Many guys, in particular, ask themselves whether they are part of the solution or part of the problem. Dozens of men came to me asking what they could or should do differently.
It all starts with a simple listening. As the co-founder of the online community Fitness Girls Gone Strong, I am in a unique position to hear from women who have experienced the dark side of what can be called a rape fitness culture. Here are some of what women recently told me, and what you, men and women, can do to help.
For a long time
Some time ago I said that the #MeToo movement had already come. That's why: Sexual harassment and attacks are incredibly common, and behavior that was previously swept under the rug or rejected as “normal” or “just as it is” is no longer tolerated.
In a study conducted in 2018, 81 percent of women reported sexual harassment. This is twice as many as men. This experience includes, but is not limited to:
- Verbal sexual harassment (eg, catcalling)
- Unwanted sexual touch (for example, seizing their butt)
- Cybersexual harassment (e.g., indecent messages)
- Physical support
- Unwanted genital outbreaks (for example, “pick pics”)
- Sexual abuse
Globally, 35 percent of women are sexually abused or raped during their lifetime. Unfortunately, actual figures are probably much higher than given that sexual abuse is greatly underestimated.
These figures may seem high even to women. But here is one of the great unspoken truths about being a woman: most of us, in the culture of fitness and in other places, are already changing their behavior in both small and large ways to protect themselves from harm. In fact, it even has a name: "rape schedule."
A rape schedule is a term used to describe the conscious and subconscious ways in which women place restrictions on themselves and / or change their daily behavior as a result of their constant, and not always completely conscious, fear of sexual violence.
I recently posted a question about the history of Girls Gone Strong Instagram, asking women what they do every day to try to protect themselves from sexual harassment and attacks. Within 24 hours I had over 250 responses. Here are some of their answers:
Training schedules of rape:
- Avoid wearing tight or open clothes in the gym so that I do not attract attention
- Try to go to the gym when he is not busy, so the guys do not shy from me in a room with weight
- My gym schedule has been changed to avoid another creepy gym member.
- Do not go to workouts where men train; just go to classes headed by women
- Put my pants on my gym shorts when I go to the gym to reduce oppression
- Wear my earphones at my 10-minute walk to the gym so that I don't hear cats
- Switched gymnasiums, because the walk to my gym was on the construction site, and I was constantly haunted
- Switched gyms, because the manager always commented on my body as he considered “compliments,” and I didn’t think anyone would believe me if I told them
- I stopped at the gym, and now I work at home, although I can not train so hard
- Switch my workouts so that I never have to pull or run when the gym is busy
As you can see, these are not small concessions. They are significant changes in the way women train and live. It affects what they wear, what exercises they choose, what time they train, who they want to ask for a place, even if they are ready to train in the gym at all.
And in the end, it makes it difficult for them to work as they want, it’s harder to see results, and harder to see and feel the positive results of an active life. Even women who love learning may simply be exhausted and exhausted by all they have to put up with.
And it's only in the gym! With a little push, most women can also point out how they stick to rape in their daily lives. Just a few:
Not associated with the simulator "rape schedule":
- Never drink alcohol if I am not in the presence of trusted friends.
- Just wear headphones in one ear to keep you aware when I'm in public.
- Choose my clothes well when I know that I need to walk more than a few blocks down the street.
- Look men, I drive straight down the street, with a very stern expression
- Avoid eye contact with men outdoors.
- Repeat for yourself three times what someone is walking along the street, so I can remember the identification characteristics
- Call my partner / mom / friend anytime when I go at night and let them know my location so they can ask for help if I need it.
- Check the backseat of the car every time I log in.
- Park in well-lit areas and refuse to park and walk in dark areas
- Do not plan night classes in college, so I do not need to walk alone at night
- Ask a male manager to take a walk with my car at night when I leave work.
- Avoid working late in my office when I know that a creepy male employee also works late, so I don’t need to be alone with him
- Never take the elevator alone with a man
Yes, sexual harassment and assault can occur anywhere. But make no mistake: it happens in the fitness industry every day.
I asked the women in the Girls Gone Strong community about their experiences and received hundreds of responses. Among many events, members of our community reported:
- To be feline, weigh and repeatedly hit during development
- Listening to men at the gym, including fellow instructors, using degrading language about women and telling rape
- Getting "jokes" that their video in the gym is deprived without their consent
- Assault and sexual abuse while working out in the gym
I hope you will agree that everything is in order.
What can you do
At Girls Gone Strong, we always work to help create a culture where all women feel comfortable, safe and secure in their lives and in their bodies outside and inside the gym. But we cannot do it alone.
We need people who actively help us stop this problem. Changes in the industry cannot happen until people recognize and begin to take on the burden of stopping sexual harassment and assault.
For many men, this means making changes and being willing to be honest about where we are. Of course, some men are more willing, willing and able to seek change than others when it comes to actively preventing and stopping persecution and sexual abuse.
Just as we can think that clients are at different levels of fitness, I described this willingness to create changes in three levels. I found that understanding these levels can help guys understand where they are and where they can do better.
Level 1: Guys Who Get It
These guys understand that sexual abuse and harassment are incredibly common, and they believe that the responsibility for this lies with the men to solve the problem.
When women talk about harassment and assault, they listen. They understand that their experience is likely to be very different from that of women, and they are actively seeking ways to support women and create safe conditions free from harassment.
These are guys who say when they witness how other guys perpetuate sexual or harmful ideas and behavior.
Level 2: Guys who don't get it, but there is a chance that they
These guys understand that sexual harassment and assault occur, but they do not understand how common this is. They are surprised when they hear the statistics, and they may even be surprised when they learn that the woman they know is being attacked. When women talk about harassment and assault, they also share their opinions.
Level 3: Guys who don't get it, and they are unlikely to ever
These guys believe that sexual harassment and assault occur, but they think it all swells because of the inconsistency. These may be guys who claim that some women are lying, are opportunists or manipulate the situation, because it did not work in their favor.
It is important to consider where you fit into this picture.
To be clear: Level 1 guys are guys who will help us make real changes. They have the potential to change the fitness industry and make the life of women — damn it, our whole life — better by preventing sexual abuse and harassment.
Learn how to make changes.
If you are unhappy about where you fit into these levels, keep in mind that this does not necessarily mean that you are the “bad guy.” This means that you have the opportunity to do better. But it is also your responsibility to become better.
The good news is that change is entirely possible. You can go from a level 2 or 3 guy to a level 1 guy, and you can be a powerful catalyst for change. Want to start? It can be as simple as adding a moment of reflection, where it will not be otherwise. Think twice before speaking or acting. Listen when the opportunity arises. And actively seek opportunities to learn.
Here is a great place to start. Sign up for a free five-day Girls Gone Strong course that you can do about sexual harassment and attacks in the fitness industry.
It covers important topics, including:
- How to determine behavior that seems OK, but not really
- Avoiding common mistakes that guys make (even when they think they “get”)
- How to create a safe, welcoming environment for clients and patients
- What can you do to stop sexual harassment and attacks in your gym and fitness industry?
- How can you be part of the solution, not the problem?
We will also include case studies and sample scenarios to help you understand:
- What to do if you witness or suspect sexual harassment in the gym
- What if a woman trusts you that she is being persecuted
- What if you are personally harassed
You will leave this course with a set of tools for action and a clear path forward.
- 2018 Study on sexual harassment and assault. (2018, February 21). Derived from http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/resources/2018-national-sexual-abuse-report/
- Violence against women. (But.). Derived from http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/violence-against-women