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

Women get harassed regardless of the time they go to the gym or the clothes they are wearing. They are harassed just because they are women.

Kalyani Ganesan
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Gym harassment, Sexual Harassment At Gyms
It takes so much for a woman in our society to get through the door of a gym. Many women avoid going to the gym for fear of being judged. They are constantly worried if they are using the equipment correctly, if their clothes are in place, if they are sweating a lot, or if someone is staring at them. “Staring”—this brings us to the context of this article. While the majority of women are hesitant to hit the gym, some women go to the gym despite stereotypes and inhibitions. But are all the women who go to gym regularly comfortable and safe?

No, because the male gaze is considered "normal" and "justified" in our society. Men will be men, they say, and that’s about it. Not everyone seems to understand that women being stared at, leered at, solicited at, and stalked are more than just “annoyances.” It is harassment because men stare in a way like they are undressing and touching the woman in their head. And that makes women feel extremely uncomfortable. Women get harassed regardless of the time they go to the gym or the clothes they are wearing. They are harassed just because they are women.

Sexual Harassment At Gyms

As a result, many women limit their gym visits to specific times of day, avoid doing certain workouts, bring a friend, wear baggier clothes, or avoid certain areas of the gym, such as the weights section, which is dominated by men. Whenever women realise that they are being stared at, most of them just move out of that place. If the harassment becomes excessive, most women simply stop going or change gyms. The majority of women are hesitant to confront their harassers, fearing that they would turn aggressive or create a scene that would lead to victim-blaming. According to a survey in 2019, FitRated found that 71% of women are harassed at the gym on a daily basis.

Now one may ask, if a woman is uncomfortable working out in a unisex gym, why can’t she go to a women-only gym? Yes, we do have women-only gyms, but is that really the solution? It’s always the women who should adjust, tolerate, compromise, run, and hide, right? Why can’t society, for a change, call out men who are in the wrong? When women are raised with so many restrictions right from childhood, can’t men be taught to behave at least?

Some argue that men stare because women dress provocatively. Do men expect women to wear a raincoat while working out? Even then men who intend to harass women will continue to do so. Besides, would men stare at another man if he was working out shirtless? Women are supposed to be constrained by social norms in a patriarchal society. Unconventional women are automatically perceived as eye candies. She is assumed to be "characterless," "asking for it," or needs to be “taught a lesson.” So according to patriarchy, she can be harassed, assaulted, or abused. When are we going to break the double standard?

I started going to a women's-only gym right after I graduated from college. Truth be told, trainers in some women-only gyms aren't as efficient and dedicated as those in unisex gyms. Sometimes the management is lethargic when it comes to servicing their equipment because the majority of women who go to women-only gyms are housewives and stay-at-home mothers. Most of them concentrate more on gossiping than working out.


Despite knowing that unisex gyms have better equipment and trainers, my parents are adamant that I go to a women's-only gym. People like my parents are seeking alternative ways to counter the issue but are not ready to address the elephant in the room. Why should a unisex gym remain men’s domain? When unisex gyms are open to both men and women, why should some creepy men make women feel uncomfortable? Furthermore, the number of women-only gyms is lower than that of unisex gyms. Women will obviously pick the gym closest to their homes since it is unisex and they deserve to be able to work out there safely. Is that too much to ask for?

Suggested Reading: How Sexual Harassment & Abuse Towards Female Sportsperson Has Long Existed

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