Laurie Toby Edison

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Where Did that Grunt Come From?

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 you’re waiting. Planet Fitness has rules about grunting and about attire — 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 “lunk alarm” deployed against people who need to stay in shape for their jobs, and you’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.

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7 Responses to “Where Did that Grunt Come From?”

  1. Vicki Says:

    My gym has signs asking us, among other things, to wipe sweat off the machines when we’re done, not to drop weights on the floor, and to put the weights back on the racks when we’re done. But they don’t go around yelling at people who drop weights.

    I suspect “Planet Fitness” would find me an undesirable customer, for at least three reasons: I’m serious about weight-lifting; I’m fat; and I’m tattooed. Maybe four: I don’t dye my white hair. Not their target demographic at all. Of course, I’d not set foot in their doors, since that “lunk alarm” sounds like it would cause me a headache at minimum, and I go to the gym to improve my health and mood, not to get a headache.

  2. Pearl Says:

    It’s a club to see and be seen. One must look cool in every sense? To each their own niche.

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  3. Lynn Kendall Says:

    Their stated purpose is to avoid intimidation, right? What’s so scary about blue jeans?

  4. C Says:

    The no grunting thing is ridiculous. I can understand if they do not want people screaming at the top of their lungs though.

    I suspect the whole grunting incident was a PR stunt to coencide with the World Gym merger. With all the hype their have been no charges OR lawsuits yet…Check out a PF grunter squatting 525 on google video

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2248121835451382414&q=Planet+Fitness&hl=en

  5. curiousgyrl Says:

    the class aspect is a really good point

  6. joscelyn Says:

    hi,
    i just want to say i belong to planet fitness and have found that it is the perfect environment for someone who is just starting out at a gym. obviously the two of you have no idea what its like to start at a gym but people who are grunting and sweating all over the machines are intimidating. when im working out id like to concentrate or hear my music not the 450 lb guy next to me grunting or dropping his 300lbs of weights. weights dont just drop and if they do ur straining urself. theres good reason not to let people lift more than they can hold. and SO WHAT if a gym wants to market towards white collar workers. its difficult to feel comfortable in just any gym. i like my gym. i dont feel scared to go in the big weight room i dont feel intimidated by anyone cuz they are minding their own business and i mind mine. also jeans? cmon we arent allowed to wear jeans in gym in highschool dont u think theres a reason behind that? and who said no sweating? u can sweat u need to clean up after urself, wipe down the machines, u know sweat can breed bacteria right? were not trying to erase bodies were trying to make a friendly germ free environment for people who want a nice 3 day a week workout. i completely 100% agree w my gym. grunting is unnecessary and there is absolutely NO proof that it helps ur breathing. maybe u guys should stick to talking about something you know about instead of bashing a perfectly good gym with rules that all of the members appreciate.

  7. Bull Says:

    I go to a lil hometown gym. I grunt when i workout and so do plenty of others. If you get intimidated by serious lifters then you dont need to be in a serious gym. Don’t be afraid of germs, your using weights that everyone else uses, your gonna have to deal with germs, so quit whining. You go to a gym to get in shape.

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Laurie Toby Edison by Carol Squires

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