THE DAWN OF AN ERA: GYM SHAMING
By Dominique Bouthillette
Judgement on the stage is subjective. Judgement in the gym should not be.
Shaming /SHām-ing/ v. to cause one to feel ignominy or reproach; disgrace.
If there is one thing that really bothers me, it is shaming. All public shaming is unacceptable in my eyes. But the ones that particularly need to cease are those involving the shaming of others for their own interests and definitely those where the person being shamed is not even aware a blog, article, photo or video is being written or posted of them. I’m sure a lot of people don’t think about it nowadays with the whirlwind of social media but it is a poisonous habit a lot of us have become accustomed to and ACCEPT.
”There is definitely a lot of shaming seen from the end of a less active person being judged or ridiculed by a more active person.’’
Gym shaming is when a person makes another feel bad for their actions of going to and/or working out at a fitness institution or living a fit lifestyle. Gym ‘shamers’ can be many types of people, so don’t think it’s just ones who are active or compete in the fitness industry that do all the shaming.
Yes there are definitely fit people who shame others for being less active or knowledgeable of a fit lifestyle; but it can also be those who don’t understand the benefits of routine workouts to assist in healthy living who make others feel bad for keeping consistent with their fitness goals and attempts at staying healthy. There is definitely a lot of shaming seen from the end of a less active person being judged or ridiculed by a more active person. But like I said, it does happen to the opposite end of the spectrum too.
I know a while back, before I competed, I would go out to eat with friends, even family, who weren’t living the same or a necessarily healthy lifestyle and was made fun of for my order. They’d ask if I ever ate more than “twigs and berries” which to them was what it was, even though my order usually consisted of a lean protein and steamed veggies or fruit. They would also make snarky comments that I was fit enough and didn’t need to go to the gym 5 days a week. Either way one type of shaming is not better than the other. They both hurt and can be absolutely embarrassing to the individual experiencing them, especially on a public platform.
”One person’s PR does not make another’s any less impressive (it is a PERSONAL Record after all)…’’
Which leads me to social media and our cyber- bullying tendencies. Everyone has to have something new, exciting or funny to show the world to make their lives relevant now; their dog, morning pancakes, trips to the Grand Canyon… But have you noticed how polluted our media has become with shaming tendencies, gym and non-gym related, in our newsfeeds? How many times have you scrolled through your feed or searched a hashtag to see a funny video of some poor individual being filmed using the gym equipment wrong? For me, personally, it’s a lot. I have seen a hundred memes of different people doing something unconventional or wrong in terms of being active (or less active) and then being not only called out in public for it, but made the butt of a cruel joke for the whole world to judge and comment on.
Privacy and candid moments are lacking wherever you are in this day and age. With smartphones, tablets, camera, apps it all makes our world better in terms of entertainment and staying connected but it disconnects us from natural processes and being empathetic. We are all human and make mistakes, live life a little differently and want to paint different pictures on this planet but we have lost some of our humanity along the way.
I see gym shaming happen a lot when speaking of correct/ incorrect dieting regimens, proper technique and form when lifting, posing stances for female competitors, dismissing PRs and telling a person they workout too much and are obsessed with the gym and/or their physical appearance. A lot of it is ego and intelligence wars but most times it’s just sharing an experience of something ‘funny’ you’ve read or witnessed when it is actually just mean and hurtful.
I think having an open discussion about training methods and dieting routines is great. When it becomes an all out confrontation that resorts to belittling one approach over another is when it starts to get out of hand. Proper form? That should really be left up to the professionals opinions, but even they can get involved in shameful callouts of those executing lifts improperly. If a person is taller or shorter, has a bad back, knee, shoulder or other unknown injury who is to say a modified lift or exercise cannot be performed and is not correct for them? One person’s PR does not make another’s any less impressive (it is a PERSONAL Record after all) and one’s posing, perhaps defined by a coach or lack of knowledge or practice, does not define their character and moral standings. Nor does going to the gym everyday or being concerned with a fit lifestyle make you neurotic, narcissistic or obsessive. I’m not saying these particular situations do not occur and are not exactly how they seem. Just be aware gym shaming is based on what you PERCEIVE.
”Pat someone on the back for having unrelenting dedication and passion for something…”
From either written text or visual images; 10% of someone’s journey is on the surface, the other 90% you know nothing about. So before you tell someone they run too often and should eat a burger maybe consider where they’re starting point could be… perhaps they are recovering from an eating disorder and doing just fine without your comments. Maybe they find running to be their outlet after a terrible breakup, you just never know. Having a negative perception of people and utilizing shaming habits doesn’t help anyone. We are all people, we have feelings and emotions. People who exercise, don’t exercise, eat paleo, don’t eat paleo, do crossfit, bodybuilding or run marathons at the end of the day are all just people. And we can feel shame and embarrassment.
There’s no easy way to get rid of gym shaming and it will continue to happen. However we can circumvent worse things to come by:
- Thinking before we write or post something, specifically regarding someone else’s journey, online without their consent.
- Helping someone who maybe struggling with not knowing what to do in a gym rather than pointing and laughing. They may be terrified to make a fool of them themselves.
- Pat someone on the back for having unrelenting dedication and passion for something as opposed to telling them they’re obsessive.
I would be interested to have some of my beauties email me scenarios they have witnessed or been subjected to because of Gym Shaming and just thoughts in general on the issue!
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheers my Beauties!
Dominique Bouthillette | Contributing Editor & NBM Sponsored Athlete
Dominique began her competition journey in June of 2014. She took 1st and Overall in Novice for her first INBF show and placed 2nd in Open at her second show. On a daily basis Dominique works as a Medical Animator and 3D artist. She also loves singing and has her own covers of songs on Soundcloud.
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