Monday, 25 June 2007

Consider me pissed off

I was at the gym earlier this evening after work. You know I'm not entirely comfortable with gym culture in general, but this evening was positively hellish.

I'd just got myself installed on a cross-trainer when one of the sleazy men who works there came up to me and asked if I might be interested in joining in with a free step class. I hesitated for two reasons. Firstly because I am a serious sportsperson, I come to the gym to do hardcore interval training and suspected that the class would be too easy for me, and secondly because the image I have of step aerobics is of bitchy women in leotards bopping around to shit music whilst visualising their thighs shrinking. But then I thought, what the hell, I should try anything once, and hey, it's free.

I began to feel a little apprehensive however as I observed Sleazy Gym Boy collecting more recruits. He was only inviting women. And all the women he was inviting were young, attractive and wearing lycra.

"Is this a women only class?" I asked him.
"No, anyone can join in!" he breezed.
"So why are you only asking women?"

He mumbled something incomprehensible before enthusiastically introducing me to the instructor (a young, attractive woman in lycra).

At this point, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. It was a free class, probably a sample for something they were hoping to get clients to pay for later. Thus it made sense to target a specfic demographic, and frankly given my own prejudices about step aerobics I didn't blame him for going after gym bunnies in lycra.

The studio at my gym has a viewing area at the top, where anybody can watch classes in progress. In order to get from the changing rooms to the gym one must walk both through this viewing gallery, and past the entrance of the studio. It's not a quiet, private, anonymous location at all. So when the class started I felt pretty self-conscious about the fact that all of the male staff were hanging around by the door watching us. Soon I realised why. They knew what was coming. They knew that the choreography for this step class was verging on pornographic, with the instructor getting us to stick out our asses like strippers or lapdancers. They knew that in that overheated dance studio, pretty soon they'd have ten sweaty, lycra-clad twentysomethings gyrating for them. They all nodded approvingly at us as we shook our nubile tushes. We also attracted a plethora of men in the gallery above, who had a prime view of our behinds. One charming gentleman took photos with his camera phone. Basically, we spent half an hour putting on a show for them.

I don't think for one moment that the gym deliberately organised this class in order to produce soft pornography, but that is what happened. I was disgusted. I wouldn't have minded the cheesy quasi-pornographic choreography at all had we not had a male audience. It would have just been a bit of fun had it been in a private location, but with thirty slack-jawed pairs of eyes on our behinds I felt as if I was starring in a Lynx commercial, in which the heroic gym instructor douses himself in Lynx and coerces a bunch of hot, scantily-clad babes into dancing for all his mates. I was insulted - do I really look that cheap? I find it more comfortable working out in a dri-fit top - does this say something about my sexual availability? To some people it does.

I'm cancelling my membership tomorrow. I know it would be an enlightened statement to walk into that gym in my lycra top with my head held high, but the fact is that since my taekwondo instructor is starting another club near me I can now train five times a week, thus making the gym redundant. I won't miss it one bit.


Anonymous said...

I really think you should write to them and explain exactly why you're leaving, and exactly what you think is wrong with the way they run the gym. You never know, the person at the top may well agree with you that a gym isn't a place for voyeurs.

The Urban Feminist said...

Yeah, that's what I'm planning on doing.