Reverse Gender Stereotypes at the Gym

I actually wrote a whole term paper on this exact topic last year. The rec center at my school had a section of cardio machines (treadmills, stairclimbers, etc.) and all the diagrams showing how to use those machines were women, while the diagrams on the machines in the weight room were men. On top of that, about 95% of the people using the cardio machines were women and about 95% of people in the weight room were men. Basically the thesis of my paper was that men and women are socialized to strive for different body types: men should be big and muscular, while women should be fit, but not too bulky.

This also reminded me of a situation a few months ago when I went to play ping pong at a local gym with my friend (a guy). When I walked in I realized not only was I the only girl there, but that my friend and I were the only ones under 50. I decided to shrug it off and try to enjoy myself anyway. However, as soon as I started playing, one of the men thought he would do me a favor by explaining to me how to play the game correctly. Ok….I’ll admit I’m not a table tennis prodigy, but I’ve played the game more than a few times in my life. And also, it’s fucking ping pong. Get over yourself.

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So this guy proceeded to talk his head off to me about all the rules and how I was holding the paddle wrong bla bla bla, and I was just trying to play but he wouldn’t let me. Then that guy had to leave, so I got to play with my friend who I had come with. No more than 2 minutes go by when ANOTHER guy comes up to me, gives me a disapproving look and says “you look like you need help.” I literally did not know how to react and didn’t want to be rude so I said “um….sure.” And he proceeded to explain to me everything I was doing wrong. In the end I had a pretty lame time, didn’t get to play any ping pong and left early. These dudes clearly all thought I was a delicate little lady who’d never played a sport in her life. That whole situation just made it more clear to me how laughable gender stereotypes can be sometimes when it comes sports. Even in a sport like ping pong (sorry, table tennis. They were very clear about there being a huge difference) a sport which has very little to do with muscle mass, I wasn’t taken seriously because I’m a girl. Oh, and my guy friend who I came with didn’t receive any “pointers” like I did, which he was actually kind of miffed about.

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