A discussion of gender stereotypes in the gym and on the field—and how to overcome them.

The Hangar at UBC Okanagan - Photo by Lauren St. Clair
The Hangar at UBC Okanagan - Photo by Lauren St. Clair

Every time I come to the gym and look at the weights section, I’m nervous to exercise there. I have never thought about the cause of my intimidation until I overheard a discussion and realized that the weightlifting is considered by some to be “masculine.” This conversation made me wonder whether the attitude that girls shouldn’t lift weights is common in today’s society.

Some research shows that sports are sometimes considered to be for males, while girls who do heavy training sometimes face judgement or stereotyping. While the situation in general has largely improved and many women today are involved in sports, I wondered how I could overcome my own shyness in the weight section. Perhaps, my insights could be useful for someone else.

After thinking about it for awhile, I realized that I’m actually truly afraid of is being perceived as an incompetent intruder. In one of the articles this phenomenon was described as “Masculine Hegemony in Sport.” More specifically, this myth generates a social order that hampers both males and females. Girls who take up sports are at risk of feeling that they’re going against a system, while the obligation to demonstrate masculinity through physical strength is often endorsed in boys.

There are some methods that in my opinion may help girls to overcome this psychological trap. According to the Campus Recreation website, it is possible to have a free orientation around Hangar gym. A trainer will explain how to use various equipment. Having not known about it before, I thought that it might help to overcome the fear of looking incompetent. Also, for me such orientation would serve as a symbolic manifestation that there is nothing wrong with lifting weights.

Another way to feel more confident in the weights section of the gym is to come in a group. Not everyone knows that Hangar gym has a Facebook page, which is a shame! Students could easily organize training groups via this page. Currently, the page is used for announcements of tournaments and news. In my opinion, adding the social component to the page would be a really productive use of the space.

All in all, the remnants of myths about gender might still echo in some of us. While I focused on gender stereotypes about women, I acknowledge that stereotypes may be harmful for any other gender as well. The good news is that possibilities to overcome the stereotypes exist on campus. Also, social solidarity might be a great way to overcome gender stereotypes. What are your thoughts and suggestions?

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