Fitness was my passion long before it became fashionable, and the health benefits well known and documented. My days of pumping iron go back to an era when the “gym” was a poorly ventilated room with battered barbells and dumbbells strewn on makeshift racks. The customary attire was nondescript shorts, a t-shirt, and sneakers.
What I miss about those bygone days was the sense of community. There was no such thing as “personal trainers” and there was no YouTube to watch workout routines. One learned new exercises watching others, and the more knowledgeable weightlifters gladly shared their expertise. If they saw someone doing an exercise improperly that could cause injury, most would voluntarily offer a warning and a correction.
I’m forever grateful that decades ago someone I’d never met took the initiative and alerted me that I was doing a popular shoulder exercise incorrectly. I was engaging my back, hips, and knees to allow me to use heavier dumbbells, but the person warned that I was putting too much pressure on my joints and over time I might tear a rotator cuff. He offered some simple corrections that required using much lighter weights but delivered considerably better results.
Ten years or so ago while working out at a 24 Hour Fitness in San Francisco, I saw a woman doing the same shoulder exercise incorrectly as I did until someone showed me beneficial corrections. The woman was working out intensely, suggesting she was serious about her training. Although my gut told me to mind my own business, I feared I was being sexist. If I saw a male training diligently and could benefit from the insights a caring fitness buff previously took the time to give me, I’d share them without hesitation.
The woman, who one wouldn’t mistake for a fashion model, didn’t appreciate my intended goodwill. She launched an immediate tirade about being tired of men hitting on her at the gym, and that she didn’t appreciate me observing nor correcting her routine. I was embarrassed, as the woman made a scene.
I’m fortunate that cell phone cameras weren’t as advanced and pervasive as they are today and that TikTok had not yet launched. Otherwise, I might have found myself labeled a “creep” and my image widely distributed on the internet. These days when some women at the gym imagine themselves being ogled by men, they are secretly filming their perceived admirers and posting the videos online with such hashtags as #creep, #weirdo, #creepyguystory, and #gymweirdshit.
I learned of this trend reading this story in The Guardian, a once venerable publication that in 2014 was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities based on the leaks of Edward Snowden. I’m boycotting the publication (more on that in a moment), but the story appeared in one of my news feeds and the headline and photo caught my attention.
The Guardian story by Alaina Demopoulos, who Allure lists as its “beauty editor,” features a 29-year-old Atlanta woman identified as Gina Love who reportedly works out at the gym four days a week and complains that men are constantly staring at her.
“Watch this creep come over to my personal bubble while doing [Romanian deadlifts],” Love wrote in the caption of an encounter she posted on TikTok, which received nearly 60,000 “hearts” and generated more than 5,000 comments. “The gym was practically empty, and so many corners to be in and he chose this one.”
Demopoulos described the clip as a man who “stands directly behind Love as she lifts dumbbells before deciding to leave.”
I watched the clip and it’s far from clear that man invaded Love’s personal space or was paying much, if any, attention to her. The video begins with his back to her drinking water, there is what I’m estimating was a 45-pound weight already nearby which he possibly placed there earlier, and for the brief moment that he’s possibly looking at Love’s derriere (far from clear in the video), it’s because it’s within his line of sight.
As an aside, Love mentions she’d been working out in her “personal bubble” for 10 minutes, so it’s safe to assume she was responsible for leaving the set of 25-pound dumbbells on the floor directly behind her, which is a safety hazard. People with good gym etiquette return weight equipment to the rack when they are finished so others can use it. Love’s form could use considerable improvement, but it would be a cold day in hell before I’d offer her some pointers.
The Guardian’s display photo appears to be staged, as I first assumed that Love was the woman featured because her quote appears underneath. The choice of the photo is questionable because it’s for a story about women feeling uncomfortable being watched while lifting weights, yet the most prominent feature in the photo is a woman doing just that.
In any case, it’s debatable whether the man is ogling the woman, although he’s inconsiderate training at a public gym without a jersey. He appears to be lifting or squatting heavy weights and one must rest for a few minutes between sets to safely perform these sorts of powerlifting exercises. In the days when I did these exercises, I’d often zone-out and mindlessly gaze at whatever appeared before me. Sometimes I’d watch other people for pointers on good and bad form. Powerlifting isn’t my expertise, but the spine of the woman featured is possibly too rounded.
Demopoulos reported that an “influencer” named Jessica Fernandez posted a video from the gym showing a man glancing in her direction as she worked out. “I hate this, I hate when there’s weirdos,” she said under her breath in the clip. “Feral, feral, feral, like fucking feral.” The man then asked her if she needed help with a weight, an offer she declined.
What’s missing from the Guardian article is this detail: Fernandez later issued a lengthy apology for posting her video after legions of people, including a fitness buff named Joey Swoll, questioned whether the man in question was ogling her and criticized her for secretly filming him. Fernandez said being made aware of the harm she caused made her “feel sick to my stomach with guilt.”
Here’s a partial screen shot of Fernandez’s apology.
Some men might understandably be confused about what’s appropriate and offensive at the gym. A teacher who goes by the moniker ms.johnson recently modeled some gym outfits for her TikTok viewers to contrast her more conservative workday clothing. The video drew more than 543,000 approvals.
Ms.johnson seemed pleased with such comments as, “I’d never miss class” and “What do you teach? I need to learn it again.”
What I question is how the Guardian, which is a nonprofit, can solicit reader donations to uncritically publish clickbait articles about TikTok trends. The New York Post is my go-to source for this sort of information and they do a wonderful job aggregating social media content without hitting up readers for donations. Reading the Post is how I learned about Fernandez’s apology, yet media sites rate the Guardian a more credible publication.
The Guardian’s US editor is Betsy Reed, a former editor at the Intercept. Reed was instrumental in spiking an article by Intercept co-founder Glenn Greenwald questioning the U.S. intelligence community and the entrenched media’s dismissal of the New York Post’s Hunter laptop expose just prior to the 2020 election. The New York Times, Washington Post, and CBS News have since confirmed the authenticity of the laptop’s contents.
Greenwald, who was among the Guardian reporters who led the NSA coverage that garnered the publication the Pulitzer Prize for public service, resigned from the Intercept and can now be found on Substack. As an independent journalist, Greenwald is unfettered by editors censoring him if his reporting doesn’t align with their political views.
Those who want to support quality and unbiased investigative journalism would be wise to invest in Greenwald rather than wasting their funds bankrolling the Guardian under Reed’s leadership.