I’d just got onto the treadmill the other day, when a ‘gentleman’ entered the gym, found all the cardio machines taken, and commented loud enough for me to hear, “The non serious people shouldn’t be allowed into the gym when we men are training.”
I try very hard not to get into unnecessary scraps (much better to pick my battles, I have now realized), but this man really put me off. Not only was he stereotyping, he was stereotyping on multiple levels. Female, therefore not working – sure, more than 90% of the women in my building don’t work despite being professionally qualified, but that doesn’t necessarily imply that every female is a stay-at-home mom or wife. But it was the ‘non serious’ bit that really got to me – what about me suggested that I was not as aware of my fitness levels as he was? In fact, if I went by all the extra tyres he was carrying around his tummy, he worked out far less than I did.
His entire attitude towards me was absolutely condescending, and I was still seething when he claimed the treadmill next to mine. When he glared at me before starting off, something snapped.
“So you think women are not serious about fitness, do you? How about a challenge? You pick the speed, and let’s see which of us runs longer.”
He should have known better than to take it up, but after making his position clear, he couldn’t back away from the challenge either. He started off at 12 kmph, and I followed. It was faster, much faster than I normally run – to be honest, I hadn’t expected him to pick such a high speed – but I had too much at stake to think about it.
One minute later, both of us were panting. Half a minute after that, he seemed ready to collapse. Fifteen seconds after that, he gave up. I drawing on the last reserves of my strength, but continued for a minute longer, before nonchalantly giving him a grin, and reducing my speed to a light jog.
I had won! A personal victory and a blow against gender stereotyping.
But at what cost? Muscles I had forgotten existed ached for two days after that. Now I know what the term pyrrhic victory means!
Will I do it again? Undoubtedly! The one thing I cannot stand is stereotyping.