You Don’t Get to Decide For Me
I know one of the reasons why so many of us women don’t speak up about people and situations that don’t work for us. We assume that we are at fault. We assume that somehow we must be in the wrong. We take seriously the comments about ‘well no one else has ever complained about that’ or ‘no one else seems to be bothered by this’ and assume that someone else knows more than we do and dismiss our feelings as invalid or insignificant.
I know I am not alone in this. I decided today that this has to stop, at least for me.
Today I went in for a consultation with a new personal trainer at House of Hustle in Redwood City (Spoiler alert: I will not be working with this guy or at his gym). My husband Zeke told me about it and it is conveniently right up the street.
To give you perspective, I fired my last personal trainer(Aaron) over two years ago when I finally couldn’t handle his misogyny any longer. After I got my commercial helicopter pilot rating, he actually said ‘well now you are a real pilot.’ Really? Because the private rating I had was somehow not real? I think I asked him if airplane pilots with private licenses weren’t real pilots. It was unfortunate because he put together great workouts for me. I just couldn’t deal with what came out of his mouth at 6 AM…building up my body and tearing down my self-confidence and mind…not worth it.
Yesterday I got on the phone with Keith, the owner of House of Hustle, and told him what I was looking for and what I was trying to avoid, including a misogynistic trainer. I also told him what works well for me and he said it was consistent with how they operate. He assured me that I wouldn’t be made to feel anything like I was made to feel with Aaron and we scheduled the consultation.
The first red flag went up when he told me that I may be the boss outside of the gym, but inside the gym, he was the boss; he was the one who would tell me what to do. I raised my eyebrows at this but kept going.
The second and final red flag went up when I commented that the machine he had me on was uncomfortable because of the pressure against my chest. I said it didn’t appear to have been made for women with breasts. He told me no other women had complained about it so it shouldn’t be an issue for me. Not a good answer. Right now I am hyper-sensitive to any man dismissing my feelings or opinions, especially with the ‘no one else has ever complained about it’ response. I don’t care about the other women, I care about my experience. How hard would it have been to acknowledge the discomfort and offer up an alternative exercise? Is empathy really that difficult. Apparently it is.
I asked him if he knew that the majority of the world was designed for men and that we women just have to fit into it? He said it had nothing to do with men or women and I decided to not back down and pushed back. I’d recently listened to Annie Rogaski’s Unraveling Pink episode on exactly this topic and suggested that he listen to it. He waved his hand as if to swat that away and said he doesn’t listen to anything like that. Anything like what? Something with research and studies and a perspective that doesn’t align with how he wants to view the world? Typical.
He then proceeded to tell me had 12,000 hours of something and that he knew what he was doing and didn’t want to hear what I had to say. Completely tone deaf. What successful business owner doesn’t listen to their customer or client? Wasn’t I going to pay this guy to provide me with personal training tailored to meet my needs?
I was so angry and disgusted at this point that I said ‘I think we are done here.’ His response, ‘I think we are too.’
There was a bit more back and forth as I walked out the door totally uncomfortable and practically shaking from the interaction.
I stewed on it until I got home and decided to send him the episode to help him understand what I was trying to say and where I was coming from. He responded dismissively that he isn’t the podcast’s target market and that most of his clients were women so I must be the problem.
This is the response we women often get and then we assume that it’s just us. We start to think that if ‘everyone else’ is fine with something that perhaps there’s something wrong with us. So we go along with it and don’t say anything. Why do we take the other person’s word over our own personal experience? We assume someone else knows something we don’t.
This is ridiculous. Why do we question our own feelings and resist claiming ownership of our feelings? We allow someone else who has a completely different agenda to make us doubt that what we feel is real or has value. It is real to us.
Is it because we are so overly socialized to avoid confrontation that it’s easier to just go along with it? Is it because we are so overly socialized to think that if there is a problem that we are the source or cause of it? I think the answer is yes to both.
To which I say, we have an obligation to make this cycle stop by standing up to those we don’t agree with. It’s damn uncomfortable and I am hoping this becomes less uncomfortable over time. I had to go play with kittens with my daughter at the local humane society to stop feeling queasy and stop shaking.
To anyone who knows me, they are probably shocked at my admission about this situation. To most, I appear strong and I appear to stand up for myself. I do most of the time but there are other times that I question myself and just let things go. I’ve been so conditioned to do this for so many years that I am having to create completely new behaviors and responses and boy is it uncomfortable.
But if I don’t, how will things ever change?
At some point (hopefully), we women will be believed but only if we start talking about the little things and the big things despite the resistance.
In the meantime, gentlemen, stop dismissing women’s feelings and perceptions. You don’t know better. Acknowledge our feelings and perspectives…show some support.
And, ladies, continue to push back.
P.S. On an related note, I am still looking for a creative, non-misogynist personal trainer near my house so if you have any recommendations, drop me a line.