To My Sexist Toerag Of A Boxing Instructor

16/03/2017 13:22
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all women everywhere

Dearest Toerag,

You probably don't know what it's like to be me, or in fact any of the girls who muster up the courage to come to your boxing gym.

Maybe you've known what it's like to feel small, self-conscious and weak, but you don't know what it's like to feel all of those things, and walk into a heavily male gym where your sexuality is set against such a stark background of grunting and testosterone.

There are probably lots of women who experience men like you and walk out never to return.

In fact a close friend who was punching a bag at her own gym the other day, was tapped on the shoulder by her instructor. He handed her a pair of bright pink boxing gloves and said: "I think these would suit you better."

You aren't the first and you won't be the last. Worst of all, you probably think your behaviour isn't that bad.

The class is hard. It's one of the hardest classes I've ever done and when I'm finished every part of my body aches and I have just enough energy to ooze home. But that's why I like it.

But as hard as the class is, nothing is as hard as me psyching myself up to come to the class.

It's a mixed boxing class so I never know how many women are going to turn up. And if there aren't enough, that means a guy has to spar with me. And although I hit hard, I don't hit as hard as the other guys. Yet.

So I have to put my armour on, and it's the same armour I have to put on every time I have to go to the weights section in my other gym and have to battle some zealous alpha male for equipment.

And here's the thing Toerag, I've had to learn how to feign self-confidence and it hasn't been easy. So for every one of me, there's about ten women who are put off, intimidated by the atmosphere and willy-waggling. As Sport England would say this girl can, but a lot of girls don't unless there are other girls around.

Today there were no women.

My heart sank. But hey, I'm a tough bitch so I just put my armour on. I went through all the drills, I punched the shit out of the bags.

When we stood in a circle and you went round sparring with us one by one, you made fun of my punching - you mimicked the feeble jabs made by girls who slap at each other. You singled me out. I notice you didn't do this with any of the guys who missed their punches.

When we were doing circuits and I kept up, you said I was doing well. I was really chuffed.

Then you said I was doing really well even though I was a girl. Lucky for you I didn't have my gloves on and I was wheezing through a burpee or I would've punched your lights out.

Then you said I was strong. Thank you, I work fucking hard at it. This isn't a surprise or a coincidence. I put in the work and as my personal trainer will tell you, I push until I can't push any more.

Then you yelled out again: 'Guys, this girl is really strong you know."

I still kept quiet because I was starting to feel small at being singled out again. I already knew I was beating some of the guys at circuits - this is no surprise, because I can lift more than some guys in the gym, and I don't mean that arrogantly. I mean that just because you are a guy doesn't mean I can't be stronger than you just because I'm a woman.

Then you said: "Come on guys, she's beating you, she's doing better than you." And then you explicitly made it about my gender, as if the worst thing these guys - who were all great by the way and none of them made me feel uncomfortable - could experience was being beaten by a girl.

And you know what Toerag, at that point I couldn't keep quiet any longer.

You think you're being complimentary but you aren't. Comparing me to the strength of men isn't a compliment to my strength, and it shouldn't be used as a motivational tool for other men.

I'm really glad at that point I found my voice and yelled out: "Stop being so sexist." I noticed you apologised and shut up really quickly so I don't think this is the first time you've experienced this before.

When I left, I was so angry, and I thought there was no way I'm ever coming back here again.

And then I thought: "No. This is exactly the kind of stuff that pushes women out of sport, out of fitness. I'm not going to make it that easy for you."

Toerag, you need to get with the times. Women can be as strong as men, and we have every right to work out, get strong and not have to deal with this outdated, sexist crap.

Because I may not be able to beat you in a boxing ring, but don't for one minute think that I'm not capable of fighting back.

HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today

Through blogs, features and video, we'll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. If you'd like to blog on our platform around these topics, email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com

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