Sexism In the Fitness Industry

I will preface this, I am speaking from the point of view of someone who works in the fitness industry, who in doing so has seen the very many ways that it is flawed. And who really wishes to help change that, fitness has been an important part of my recovery from heart surgery, and my mental health recovery. I know it's not for everyone, and that's cool! It's boring if we all love the same things. Sexism exists in every industry so I'm just highlighting my area.


It feels like the big elephant in the room when discussing fitness in general, and especially working in a field that for a long time has been male dominated. When It comes to fitness, women’s bodies have long been policed and have been told in order to fit into societies beauty standards working out was a necessity. Women have become the biggest consumers of the fitness industry, things like spin, zoomba, HIIT, etc are all incredibly popular because they target women. More specifically women and weight loss. “Dance the pounds away” “HIIT helps you melt fat” amongst many many other phrases are what we are inundated with day in and day out. I got into the fitness industry not to help anyone lose weight. I wanted to help people be healthy, lead movement-based lives and feel good in their bodies no matter how they fit into those societal standards.


It came to my attention quite early on that I was working in an industry that based my performance and perceived abilities based on my own body. I have heard people in position of power in this industry utter the words they “would never hire a fat trainer”. The pressure here is that no matter if I get sick, if my mental health is compromised, I can never gain weight or else I’ll lose clients or become unhireable. I can *almost* understand general public not understanding that you can be physically fit and large but when someone is an “expert” in this field still showing bias and ignorance is ridiculous.

The inherent sexism in our society is especially prevalent when we are looking for an expert on a specific topic. I have known women in this industry, power houses, more knowledgeable on certain subjects than their male counterparts but are passed over because of their gender. Clients often are asked if they would prefer a male or female trainer, perfectly reasonable, sometimes we need to discuss rather intimate things regarding our bodies. Frustrating when they think only a male can teach them how to lift heavy shit. I am constantly in awe of the strength of the women around me, how could anyone ever question their ability to teach strength? Listen, everyone has their specialities but when your specialities are assumed based on your gender, that’s fucking bullshit. If a man can tell women how to Kegel I can teach men how to punch and knee things.



Now where institutionalized sexism gets really really frustrating is when it’s apparent in the wage gap. There’s a lot of people who don’t think this is a thing anymore, unfortunately it’s a reality we face all the time. Most of us just don’t know it because we’ve been warned against discussing wages. I have known it where someone has less experience, the same education, and is brand new to a company making way more than a veteran female counterpart at that company. There are no factors that justify this. In an industry that has essentially been a boy’s club for the past 30 years, this is the reality. This is why I am writing this; we need to acknowledge the inherent sexism, we need to speak up, I will not sit pretty and be silent. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away, I try to fight these inherent biases on the daily, and will always stand up for what I believe in. Women are just as talented as men, and deserve the respect and compensation as such.

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 

jennadonovanfitness@gmail.com

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