Photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash

I work out at a gym called Crunch, and this particular location has a women’s only section. I don’t use it, but I see the value for women who prefer working out without eyes on them, as the co-ed section acts like a dating scene jungle. Not to mention, religious women who choose to wear headgear (i.e. hijabs) can work out freely in here.

About a month ago, I walked into the section. Low and behold, they didn’t have a single weight over 15lbs. Their dumbells maxed at 15lbs, their bars for racking plates was “mini”, and their plates maxed at 10lbs.

I’m not kidding.

If you think, “Well the women can grab weights from the other section!” then you’re technically right. They can.

Yet… that defeats the purpose of the Women’s Only section entirely. If you left every time you needed a weight over 15lbs, you’d sprint back and forth your entire work out.

Crunch (knowingly or not) weaves a larger story into this decision. They tell us: females, you are not strong enough to lift more than 15lbs. You can’t even watch other females strong enough to lift more than 15lbs, and this is critical.

In a beautiful video about climate change, Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez says, “You can’t be what you can’t see”.

I look around the gym and am inspired by what other women lift. If we can’t see that, we can’t imagine it for ourselves.

“Come on Negin”, you think, “Let it go. They’re just weights”.

But they’re not — they’re not just weights. We don’t just get paid less on the dollar; we aren’t just expected to do laundry, the dishes, and the cooking in addition to working full time; and we don’t just bear the brunt of more childcare.

When Claudette Colvin refused to sit at the back of the bus in 1955, she didn’t just refuse a backseat. She refused a larger narrative. She refused the foundation the story was written on, and the implications the story told.

This is our story. Unless we step in (yes, even at things like weights) then it continues being written for us, not by us. We can’t let the assumptions of the past impact our opportunities in the future, and we must recover the ownership of our story that was once stolen from us.

In other words — stop letting businesses write your damn story. Stop letting ignorant men AND women write your damn story. Stop letting your well-intentioned but unknowing friends write your damn story. And especially, stop letting politicians write your damn story.

Write your own story, whatever it is (even if it’s emailing the manager, receiving a kind but ultimately useless response, and then moving the damn weights yourself).

New and Improved to the Women’s Only Section: real weights, a real bar and 2 clamps. Happy lifting, ladies.

We collectively see feminism’s progress and fear pushing for more. We fear being called greedy, “extra”, too left wing, or delusional. We fear being too sensitive, too emotional, or needy.

We’re wrong.

Why do we care what we’re called when we rewrite our stories? You don’t think Claudette Colvin was hated on? Called names? Ridiculed?

Your spine is yours, use it.

Progress is progress because someone pushed it there.

In a beautiful letter to her teenage daughter, Caitlin Moran shares: “Always believe you can change the world — even if it’s only a tiny bit, because every tiny bit needed someone who changed it.”

Push the needle, even just a little. Push the needle in your workplace, and in your home. Hold your ground in meetings when your male colleague speaks over you, and when you negotiate for equal pay (that’s a WHEN and not an IF). Speak up in your political realm: vote, please. Speak up when men stare at you at the gym — approach them and tell them to please find something else to stare at, because they’re making you uncomfortable. Call out bro culture in your workplace, and call out your mainly white male, senior leadership team.

We can’t assume “someone else” will fix these problems or even worse — that they already have. In other words, I’m asking you to please, raise some hell. Raise it in whatever capacity you can, and however you want to.

Raising hell doesn’t mean you need to fight every battle. It doesn’t mean you need to call out every issue, every time, and piss everyone off. It doesn’t mean you need to be an asshole. You can raise hell being polite, and raise hell being kind. You can raise hell together with men, with other women, or on your own.

You can raise hell and rewrite your story, do it with a smirk on your face and hop in your step, because you know it’s working.

Oh and for the record, the Crunch gym staff left the weights I moved in the women’s only section — and then even added more.

Passionate about communication, leadership and equality.

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