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Fatphobia goes beyond the gym

The social media testimonials speak clearly: something must change

Fatphobia goes beyond the gym The social media testimonials speak clearly: something must change

The gym is an ambivalent environment. On paper, it's positive: at the gym, we train with a personal trainer or by ourselves, improve our physical fitness, challenge ourselves, become stronger, connect with our bodies, release restless energy, and sweat away stress. However, the reality is quite different. The gym, especially for people who don't fit traditional beauty and thinness standards, for beginners, for those who lack confidence, could turn into a place of fear, even anxiety-inducing. What do we do if we don't know how to use the equipment? What if someone makes fun of us? Unfortunately, these concerns are not unfounded, quite the opposite.

Fatphobia at the Gym, the Viral Video

A TikTok user shared her personal experience, sparking an online debate. "I never want to set foot in that gym again," she exclaimed, filming herself walking down the street. "I was on the treadmill. At some point, I started feeling hot, I was wearing a sports bra underneath, so I took off my t-shirt. I kept running and I noticed there was a group of guys in front of me. They were looking at me, talking among themselves, laughing, puffing their cheeks. I didn't even shower, I grabbed all my stuff and went home. Is it possible that there's no place where I can feel safe? It happens everywhere, at the supermarket, at university, on social media. I just want to live my life. I try to be strong, I try to set an example, but I can't. Sometimes it's too much." After her, in the comments and on Twitter, many other girls added their thoughts. "Don't go to the gym. I've never seen a more toxic, bullying, discriminating place since fitness became fashionable. Sorry for those who feel good there, but for those who have problems, this is the reality. It's better to walk/run outside. The pool is better. Never the gym!" wrote one user. Not everyone agrees, and perhaps it's not about condemning gyms altogether but about an attitude that too often accompanies a passion for fitness and is tainted with body shaming, fatphobia, and misogyny, finding its outlet in the place where people dedicate themselves to their bodies.

@laz3cca Vi dico sempre che non dobbiamo aver paura di reagire, ma a volte non ce la faccio neanche io… spero davvero di non avervi deluso #sfogo #palestra #grassofobia suono originale - Francesca laz3cca

Women-Only Gyms: The Solution?

In some cities, specific gyms for women have emerged. Could they be the solution? Only partially, unfortunately. Often, these types of incidents are not caused solely by misogyny and how men think they can address women - judging them as if they were sexual objects and not people - but also by traditional beauty and thinness standards, which are influenced by diet culture, wellness culture, years of bombardment on what a body should look like to be considered beautiful and healthy. Many fatphobic attacks come from women themselves and are indiscriminately directed at children and adults regardless of gender, hiding behind a fake interest in others' health that never goes beyond mean or patronizing comments, revealing all its superficiality and falsehood.

A Cross-Cutting Issue: What to Do?

As pointed out by the TikTok user, for a fat person, there's no escape. Judgments about their body will hit them everywhere, whether they eat or don't eat, whether they exercise or not. The solution would be to rebel, explain, talk, but not always those who are victims of this type of behavior have the strength. So, perhaps, it's up to us to call out those who are wrong, to point out that others' bodies should never become the subject of discussions and comments, under any circumstances. Why does a fat person in the gym or in sports contexts seem out of place? It might be useful to think together about why we believe that only one type of body is right, what influences us, with self-criticism and an open mind, ready to admit to having wrong, even unconscious, thoughts.