Being "Brave" / by India Choquette

I take a lot of classes at studios and boxes around the city. I like to see what other trainers are doing. I think my desire to learn and improve myself makes me better at my job, and testing out other gyms is one of my favorite things to do.

I took a class some time ago, and I've been trying to figure out how to respond to it. The studio itself was very bare bones, which I tend to love, and the class itself was simple, clean movement, and I thought it was great. I happened to be the only woman in this particular class, which I noted when I came in, but I'm not timid and it didn't really bother me. The coach was kind of an insufferable bro, not in the good bro-y way, but the kind that likes to over demo to prove how physically superior he is. But I'm used to that. What I'm not used to was what he did at that end of the class. He told us we "crushed it," and then he gave me a "special shout out" and had the other men in the class give me a round of applause for being "brave" enough to come to class alone. I though that was an interesting word choice and asked what he meant. He said in quite a flippant tone (and this is a direct quote), "Well, you know, women usually travel in packs."

And his comment has been bothering me for a while. The reason why women "travel in packs," as he charmingly put it, is for a couple reasons. First off, when we go anywhere (and I mean anywhere: bars, gyms, grocery stores, subway, park, vacuum supply store, water parks, WHATEVER) alone, cetain men take it as an invitation to harass us. 

In other instances, if we are the only woman in the room, men take it as a sign to completely ignore us (classrooms, meetings, workouts). Bringing another woman along is not something we do because we are pack animals, it is because we are trying to make life less disappointing and uncomfortable.

Since moving to NYC, I have been followed by men more times than I can remember and have had to hail (and pay for) a cab to get rid of them. I have to get my keys out of my bag as I leave the subway so I'm not vulnerable when I open my front door. I had to take work off when a man pushed me into a wall because I didn't respond to his drunken catcalling. I wear headphones all the time so that I have a plausible excuse not to acknowledge the things that get yelled at me as I walk down the street, but I rarely listen to music because I don't want to be caught off guard again. So sometimes we go places together to protect each other, but we also go to support each other. Because when you are standing in a room alone and feel invisible, it's nice to have another woman there so you can simply have someone recognize your existence. 

I consistently notice gender in studios--som lecater to men, some to women, but very few draw both. I'm lucky enough to work at a place that welcomes both, but it's rare. I try to make my classes inclusive. Health and fitness is too important to be exclusive.