Examining The Pertinent 'Male Gaze' And Issues Surrounding Gym Culture

I enjoy lifting heavy. I feel liberated and sensual like never before when I lift heavy. However, when I was in the process of bulking, trainers would jestingly walk up to me and ask me not to build more muscle mass for I'd end up looking like a man.

Shivangi Mukherjee
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The Gym Culture And The Male Gaze
Gyms are rarely analysed critically as places of fitness. It is ostensibly perceived as a place of encouragement and upliftment. There is not enough discussion about the existing gym culture and the male gaze at gyms. 

I started going to the gym late November in 2018. It's February 2023 and I take to this article here to express my feelings on the matter. 

Pertinent Issues Surrounding The Existent Gym Culture And The Male Gaze 

A lot of importance is put on an individual's body weight in society. As a result, the motivation for a person to join a gym is often to lose or to gain weight, the latter being a less frequent phenomenon. Goals such as building on one's strength or one's muscle mass are not the first thing on an individual's mind while taking a gym subscription. The weighing machine carefully placed within an individual's close reach at gyms only fuels their aesthetic desire for fitness.  

If I asked you to describe posters from your gym, a poster of a bulky body with veins threatening to pop out any minute is perhaps the first one that comes to mind. 

The probable aesthetic output weighs more heavily than the process at gyms. 

Shame at not being able to lift as heavy as the next gym bro isn't foreign. Neither is the memory of a trainer dismissing your current body to reach a 'better goal' distant. 


Trainers will often make jokes about a gym member's incorrect posture or a foreign exercise. They have a term for it, 'Insta exercise'. If they don't approve of it or don't indulge in it themselves, then it's wrong. 

Don't get me wrong. I'm not advertising incorrect exercises. I'm merely pointing out the fact that a trainer can be alien to a particular exercise, just as it is possible for a teacher to not know the answer to a question. It doesn't make the exercise or the question wrong. 

The Pertinent Male Gaze At Gyms 

My relationship with my body has been a slippery slope. I am still learning to reach out to fitness out of love and not insecurity.

For the longest while I struggled with not getting on the bad side of a trainer, till I didn't care. I do not take personal training sessions, I've always trained by myself with a little guidance. 

However, I could always sense the reluctance of a trainer in guiding me on an exercise they do not approve of. Everyone's training style is different. It was difficult for me to keep up with each of theirs'. 


If I asked trainer A to help me out with an exercise that trainer B showed me in the gym, they'd make fun of the fact that I was doing that particular exercise. 

My weight fluctuations post the pandemic were not looked kindly upon. Trainers and certain gym members (a lot of them men) were quick to comment on my body. 

When is it okay to comment on someone else's body? Never. 

Who can comment on your body? No one. 

When I was in the process of bulking, trainers would jestingly walk up to me and ask me not to build more muscle mass for I'd end up looking like a man. The reason you see women stuck at cardio sections and hesitant to lift weights is the mindset that women will look like men if they lift heavy. 

I enjoy lifting heavy. I feel liberated and sensual like never before when I lift heavy.  I identify as a woman and I don't find lifting heavy emasculating to my feminine traits. 


I'm often asked to move my hip thrust to a separate area because a gym bro needs to lift heavier weights there. I'm all for compromise. I'm aware that I need to share my space at the gym but that doesn't mean that the gym bro with the bulkier body is treated on a priority basis while sharing space/weights. 

I've had men walk up to me offering me unsolicited advice on how I should lift or do a certain set. They weren't trainers. 

I've also had trainers asking the next woman to lift the same weight as me or reach the same body goals as me. I watched as their faces fell and my heart broke in that one sentence. 

I've had trainers take to my Instagram DMs to express their disapproval of my body clad in a bikini when I posted the occasional 'check-in.'

I've felt the male gaze every single time I practice the cat-cow pose, or any indulgent hip movements during a cool-down. I do not like my safe space being threatened, no one does. I push myself to continue without being restrained by their perceptions of me. 

I plug in my earphones in an attempt to block out impertinent comments on my body. I watch them mask their distress with laughter at my inability to hear them.

The views expressed are the author's own.

Suggested Read: Stop Staring! Is Wanting To Work Out At The Gym In Peace Too Much To Ask For?

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