Do you remember that gym I almost joined and then didn’t? Well, I went back.
I’ve been feeling a little lackluster in the exercise department these days, just stuck in a rut and in need of a boost. The gym was offering a free week and I figured that if I wasn’t giving them my money, I could sleep easy despite the damaging “Look Good Naked” messages they were broadcasting.
What they want, what all gyms want, is to sucker you in with a low rate and a good deal, and then sell you on how convenient/luxurious/intense/life-changing it is until you can’t help yourself and you fork over your credit card.
It almost worked. The classes I took were great. The facilities were lux (shampoo and conditioner?). I felt rejuvenated. Muscles I haven’t touched in a while were worked and strengthened. Maybe I could do this, I said to myself. Exercise is important to me, after all, and the convenience is hard to beat. Should I compromise my health and fitness goals to make a political point about body positivity?
Yes, yes I should. On my last free day, I noticed a new promotion in the lobby. It’s a large cardboard display with a cut-out where you can put your face:
Oh hell no. Is this what I’m supposed to want to look like? Is this what I’m sweating and panting and squatting and jogging and hurting for? Should I fantasize about the day when someone will want to cover me in chocolate and put a cherry on my head?
I could write a whole thesis on all the things that are wrong with this image, but I think you know what it would say. It’s a beheaded, naked, high-heeled woman covered in dessert toppings with her legs in the air. Can there be a more egregious conflation of the pursuit of health and the pursuit of being sexually desirable? Also, let’s just note, there is most certainly not a comparable naked dude in a whiskey tumbler.
So yes, it would be awesome to have a gym just a short elevator ride away. But it would not be awesome for my self-esteem to walk by this hot mess of a poster every day. I know that this calculation, of convenience vs. principle, is not going to come out the same for everyone, and that’s just fine. As we’ve discussed, we all make patriarchal bargains based on our values and our needs. This is just one bargain I will not be making. For sure.
Related Post: What is my body for? How Title IX changed my life.
Related Post: “Your body will get the recognition it deserves.” Say what?