How the Men of the Fitness World Can Help Make a More Inclusive Space

Folks like you are the dominant voice in the fitness world. Here are 7 ways you can share the love.

one. Elevate women’s (and other non-men’s) voices on your platforms. We’re about half of the population. Quick test–what percent of the people you’re sharing and talking about are women? Not 50%? Time to begin the work of reaching out to more women’s voices. For that matter, it would be awesome if the folks you celebrate represent all sorts of gender identities, cultural backgrounds, racial identities and other life experiences. This blog is largely about other people’s conversations, and I’m not blind to the fact that most of the folks I share regularly are men, with the exception of the ladies at Balance 365 and the women at 3DMJ. I’m always seeking out new voices to listen and broaden my exposure to. (I’ve found more blogs from women than podcasts. I’m curious as to why that is.)

two. Shut down sexualizing and harassing behaviors and content from other men, and of course, don’t do that shit yourself. I have been unapologetically stared at doing my lifts at public gyms. I have seen women post videos or pictures on social media only to have a string of comments on the attractiveness (or perceived lack) of her features. Don’t film a woman without her consent, and if a friend shares something like that with you, tell them it isn’t cool. If a woman is brave enough to tell you something isn’t alright with her, be grown-up enough to accept her boundaries and stop doing whatever is not ok. When you’re talking on your podcast, writing on your blog, or hanging out in any virtual public space, be mindful of how you speak and avoid sexual comments. Sexual harassment is about how the message is received not about its intent.

three. Don’t give unsolicited advice IRL or online. This perpetuates power dynamics, with the man taking on the role of the “knower” and “leader.” If you see someone who would benefit from your wisdom, ask if they are interested in talking about what they’re doing, and be genuinely ok if they say no, thank you.

four. Never, ever say “everybody” or “somebody” when you only mean “men.” This is like a plague in the fitness podcast space. “Let’s say someone wants to squat 500 pounds.” “What if someone is 8% bodyfat?” Or Omar’s recent everyone has considered going on testosterone at one time or another.” Words matter. I’m not a hyper-vigilant progressive who expects everyone to use the wokest language at all times. I recognize there’s an ongoing learning curve to this stuff. (I’m still unclear as to why unhoused is less offensive than homeless. If you can help me understand, I welcome the explanation!) But when I do not hear myself in the description of “everyone” over and over and over again, the message is pretty clear: I’m not considered a part of the group.

five. Seek out enough information to know when something is truly generalizable and when it is more likely to apply to men than women. Except for unique circumstances like pregnancy, lifting advice doesn’t seem to be all that different as long as goals are the same, but nutritional advice can vary a lot. According to the last numbers I’ve seen, we’re also still shouldering most of the burden of household work and childcare, so any conversation about priorities and life balance could acknowledge those realities, too. Additionally, women’s psychologies can be pretty different from men’s, which means what we need for motivation, to put a plan into action, and to define success might look different. If you’re talking about that stuff, make sure you know the differences and address them.

six. Start watching and celebrating women in sport. Back to point one, if half of what you’re watching isn’t involving women athletes, consider why that is and what you can do to increase your exposure. Women’s sports can admittedly be different than their male counterparts. I notice that our women’s soccer team (Go Thorns!) do a lot more playing and a lot less flopping than the men’s team. Personally, I like watching the sport better with less drama and artifice.

seven. Buy your daughter tampons when she runs out. Seriously. Stop acting like a menstrual cycle is something dirty and shameful. Help the women in your life lead healthy, active lives.

Did I miss something important? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below (here’s our comment policy) or find and follow Progressive Strength on Facebook!

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