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Maleness doesn't give you priority in the gym

The Sun Devil Fitness Complex on the downtown Phoenix campus opened up at the beginning of the 2013 fall semester.

The Sun Devil Fitness Complex on the downtown Phoenix campus opened up at the beginning of the 2013 fall semester.

I walk in the doors of the Sun Devil Fitness Complex in downtown Phoenix, scan my ID and put my headphones in. Then, I check my workout for the day, accept that death is upon me and head over to the squat rack.

Quick scan — who's here?

One guy walks past and smiles: harmless. This man is in the most common group of people you will encounter at an ASU gym. A majority of the men in the fitness centers are there to break a sweat, “get swoll” and mind their own business. To you guys, thank you.

Unfortunately, the creeps are inevitable in any gym. Maybe something in the pre-workout supplements gives guys an unreasonable level of confidence, but they too are relatively harmless. I won’t thank you for shamelessly checking out every girl that walks by, but I can give you and your excess of machismo the benefit of the doubt.

After assessing the area, I begin my workout.

I move the bar down to a reasonable height for a 5’4” girl, and slide on my 165 pounds. Occasionally, this action alone draws attention because so many women allow themselves to be confined to “exercising like a girl,” for example, only doing cardio and lifting pretty pink weights. I, however, have been an athlete my entire life. I am a woman, I am strong and I am here for the same reasons men are — to better my body and to stay healthy.

Off I go, quickly breaking a sweat and breathing heavily. I rack my bar in between sets, like every other human being does, and here comes the “are you done yet?” guys.

They don’t ask me how many sets I have left, or if they can rotate with me (which makes some sense due to our difference in weight lifting capacity, but that is beside the point). The question is always the same: “Are you done yet?”

Those four words bring my inner-feminist out more than any gender issue in the world, but I typically smile and provide the answer they already knew: No.

I understand why men ask other men how many sets they have left, as it is always busy and people have to share equipment. However, I am never politely asked where I’m at in my workout, but merely cast aside as another body in your way because what swings between your legs doesn’t exist between mine.

Newsflash: having a penis might give you a lot of benefits in this world, but I’ll be damned if I step aside to let you use my equipment.

If I were a man, you would never ask me that question. You would never word it in such a way that makes it seem as if my presence is burden to you. You would never even inadvertently make another man feel unwelcome and out of place in a gym, but because I am a female, you have no problem doing so.

Well I’m sorry Mr. “Are you done yet?” but I am not done, and I have a right to be in this gym, using this equipment, because we both pay to be here.

Not all male gym goers consider women inferior, but on campus is truly the only place I feel the pain of my gender. The truth of the matter is that the campus gyms are intended to satisfy all students. I am sorry that we’re a little short on equipment, but I am not sorry that I am here. I am strong and capable of lifting to my own degree, and as a fellow Sun Devil, you should respect that.

Reach the columnist at or follow @KPenningroth on Twitter.

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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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