Laurie and Debbie say:
Most of you have probably heard about the controversy that developed after Planet Fitness (a gym with 120 national locations) had a member escorted out by the police for grunting.
This has been written about in various places. We thought about making some comments on the class implications; however Zuzu at Feministe has done an excellent job on that one.
Most gyms will have rules about cellphone use, wiping down equipment, hogging equipment, waiting your turn and proximity to equipment in use while youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re waiting. Planet Fitness has rules about grunting and about attire Ã¢â‚¬â€ but only certain attire, like bandannas and jeans. You know, the kinds of things that blue-collar guys who are into bodybuilding tend to wear at the gym. Add to that the Ã¢â‚¬Å“lunk alarmÃ¢â‚¬Â deployed against people who need to stay in shape for their jobs, and youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got yourself a little class problem. Is it novice exercisers the chain is trying to attract, or white-collar ones?
We also saw something else, perhaps even more disturbing. In creating this affluent-class, “casual exercise” gym niche, Planet Fitness (better named Planet Eliteness) is following a longstanding and dishonorable social policy, one which is particularly inappropriate for a gym: they are trying to erase the body.
Bodies make noises. They make smells. Hands drop weights (something else which is against the rules at Planet Fitness). Bodies exercising make more noises and more smells than bodies at rest.
Erasing the body is nothing new. The rules of our culture are often about erasing the body: don’t burp; don’t fart; always use deodorant (and antiperspirant–which is actively dangerous to your health) is even better; don’t pick your nose; don’t scratch. And so on and so forth.
The rules for traditional femininity are often extensions of these rules: don’t ever get sweaty; use perfume; don’t cross your legs above the ankles.
One of the best things about the move toward exercise, movement, and gym membership of the last twenty years has been the moderation particularly of the feminine rules. When gym workouts are fashionable, sweating becomes ladylike (“go for the burn!”). Pictures of women doing aerobics become sexy rather than disgusting. Weightlifters (both men and women) become athletes, with almost the same social perks as runners or swimmers. TV close-ups show you the grunts, the effort, the physicality. (By the way, grunting actually physically helps you get that weight into the air.)
But Planet Eliteness wants to change that. They want exercise without sweat, gratification without effort. They want to take your money and make damn sure that you check your body at the door.
We don’t believe that anyone should have to exercise. We don’t believe that exercise is the solution to everything. Neither of us belongs to a gym. We are just boggled at the idea that bodies can be erased even from a place whose function is about the body.