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Dec 16 2012

Planet Fitness: Does “Judgment-Free Zone” Not Extend to Trans People?

Via Fit and Feminist (a blog I can’t believe I didn’t know about until now) comes this ad for Planet Fitness. Supposedly about how they’re a gym for non-gym-rats*. Actually about how disgusting and laughable it is to be (a) a woman with big muscles and (b) a person whose gender can’t be immediately determined by a total stranger — and how they’re a safe haven from these dreadful people.

The tagline at the end of the ad: “Not her planet. Yours.” Right. Because the whole world is just one big safe playground for trans people to run around in. Bathrooms especially. So Planet Fitness is thoughtfully creating a safe haven, the one place in the world where “normal” people can be untroubled by the sight of people whose gender presentation doesn’t fall neatly into one of two clearly demarcated gender identities. Including trans people, or even just cisgendered women with big muscles.

/sarcasm

Not her planet. Yours. That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?

Caitlin at Fit and Feminist has this to say (among other things — her whole piece is well worth reading):

Planet Fitness has been trying to carve out a niche for itself as a gym where so-called normal people can exercise in a “judgment-free zone” but ironically they can’t quite seem to accomplish that goal without coming across as judgmental assholes themselves.

A “judgment-free zone,” huh? Well, you know what? I feel judged by this ad. I’m not even a trans woman, and I feel judged by this ad. I’m a woman who loves to lift weights, whose health care routine largely centers on lifting weights, who loves seeing her muscles get bigger and more toned and defined, whose identity as a woman includes “strong, powerful, healthy, loves her body.” And I’m a woman with many friends and colleagues who are transgendered, and who doesn’t feel welcome in places where they’re not welcome. Was there really no way to get across “we’re a gym for non-gym-rats” without conveying “if you don’t fall into a strict gender binary, we’re going to mock you and humiliate you and explicitly tell you that this place isn’t for you”?

Not much else to add, really. Except this: Fuck you.

*Side note: It occurs to me that “gym for non-gym-rats” is a pretty slick racket. My understanding is that gyms typically make a big chunk of their profit margin off of people who join, eventually quit going, but keep their memberships and keep paying their monthly dues because they don’t want to admit that they don’t go and convince themselves that they’ll start going back any day now. If everyone who paid a monthly membership fee actually went to the gym regularly, gyms would be hugely crowded and way more expensive to maintain. So marketing yourself specifically as a gym for non-gym-rats basically means marketing to a demographic that’s a lot more likely to slack off — and your ratio of “monthly membership fees” to “maintenance costs for people who actually go to the gym” is a whole lot higher.

18 comments

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  1. 1
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    I’m literally about to go work out-at Planet Fitness (joined last month)-so reading this is quite disappointing.

  2. 2
    sambarge

    Planet Fitness commercial – BOO!

    But, on a positive note, I’d never heard of Fit and Feminist before either and I’m wondering why/how I missed out on this site. Thanks for the link because, you know, I sometimes feel like being into weight-lifting and health is a taboo thing on feminist sites because it smacks of fat-shaming. I totally don’t approach fitness from that place – I just love the feeling of being really strong and I think of it as, for me, a natural extension of my feminism (in a “No thanks, I can open that bottle myself” kind of way).

    Anyway, thanks again for the link!

  3. 3
    maxdwolf

    This is not the first commercial that they’ve run of this nature. Also, you’re correct about the focus on slackers. Last I checked them out online they were advertising free pizza Fridays.

  4. 4
    joachim

    Hi Greta! Do you think your arroganceright to tell others what to do is part of your homosexuality…or whatever it is you currently…is independent or part of your dysfunction?

  5. 5
    Greta Christina

    Don’t bother responding to joachim. They’ve been banned.

  6. 6
    AJS

    All gyms are a rip-off anyway!

    The second half of the20th Century was spent, basically, on finding new ways to get less exercise (and incidentally charge people money for it). Now gyms mean you can spend even more money getting the exercise you have already been spending money on avoiding.

    People drive their cars to the gym, fight to get a parking space as near to the entrance as possible, and then go and sit on a fake bike for an hour, pedalling nowhere.

    Whereas if they walked or cycled to work just one day a week, they could actually get some exercise for cheaper than free (since they wouldn’t be spending any money on petrol that day)! Walk your dog, dig your garden, gather some firewood or something — there is no shortage of stuff to do in the Big Blue Room, if you can just be bothered to look for it.

  7. 7
    sambarge

    AJS – I do ride my bike to work. And I walk my dogs daily, do yardwork and housework, hike, camp, canoe and kayak, etc. When I go to the gym (2Xs/week) it’s to lift weights and push an weighted iron sled with a personal trainer who is pushing me to be stronger and fitter than I’ve ever been.

    And guess what? That makes riding my bike, walking my dogs, yard and house work, hiking, camping, canoeing and kayaking, etc better and more enjoyable. Because I’m stronger, I have more endurance and I kick ass.

    My trainer’s gym is about fitness, not endless cardio. So, not all gyms are a waste of money and, sorry to burst your bubble, but if you have a sedentary job like mine, I can’t encorporate enough physical activity and strength building into my day to have arms like this without going to the gym.

    Sorry but this attitude burns my ass like a 3-foot flame; that people think you’ll get the same physical results from riding your bike to work once a week (assuming you live in a climate where tha’s a possibility year round) as you would from a well-designed gym workout. I work very hard at the gym, way harder than when I`m walking or stacking firewoord and I`ve seen dramatic results since I started training at this gym so please keep your patronizing tone and poor workout advice to yourself.

  8. 8
    picklefactory

    AJS, usually lifting weights doesn’t involve also any significant distance.

    If effort expended equaled distance traveled, that third set of deadlifts would magically teleport me to work in the morning.

  9. 9
    Amazing Sandwich

    What I want to know is, who are these self-loathing bodybuilders who agree to do PF commercials?

  10. 10
    left0ver1under

    As I heard Covert Bailey once say, the best exercise is the one you’ll do. If exercise is inconvenient or time consuming, people won’t do it. These “gyms” in question place themselves in inconvenient locations, requiring commutes away from both work and home.

    Poor location is part of the scam, part of getting people to sign up and then not use it because the suckers don’t want to go there. People don’t have time before work, they’re too tired to travel far after work. Ergo, they never go and the company makes money. On the other hand, something nearby – say, a local civic swimming pool – will be far more convenient and people will use it. Many pools have fitness and weight rooms. Their equipment may not be as new or expensive, but you don’t even need a complex or expensive set of equipment.

    People buy into the myth that you need a fancy gym because they don’t know any better. A few 5 to 10kg dumbbells and velcro-wrapped ankle weights are enough to do it in your basement. With basic weights, a good pair of sneakers and a bicycle, you’ve got more than enough to become a semi-competitive local athlete.

  11. 11
    opposablethumbs

    I’m lucky enough to go to a gym that actually is pretty non-judgmental (bearing in mind that I may not notice everything, obviously, as I am as likely as the next person to be oblivious to things I don’t directly experience). At least, that’s my impression based on the very large range of ages, sizes, fitness levels, body types and mental or physical disability/ability of the people who use it regularly (and some of the trainers working there).
    And it’s cheap for the low-waged or unemployed.
    It’s the local municipal leisure centre, with swimming-pool, gym and sauna (all included in membership), plus occasional NHS outreach health-checks (and also – now – a free book-swap stand!).
    This is basically just good sense, as it’s a relatively cheap way to make it easier for people to keep healthier – since when we’re sick we’re going to cost the state more than when we’re healthy.

  12. 12
    opposablethumbs

    And come to think of it, my previous post was completely insensitive inasmuch as this post is not really about what a gym should be like but more about how transphobia is still regarded as an acceptable (even laudable, ffs) form of bigotry by so many; I’m sorry for missing the point. The snide, tacky little prejudice expressed in this advertising should lose them custom – I hope it does (yeah, if only). (there are a couple of regulars at my gym who do not dovetail neatly into conventional gender divisions in terms of their body type and appearance, and I don’t think anyone has ever raised an eyebrow let alone made a fuss about who uses which changing rooms – but it is likely that if they had, I wouldn’t know about it).

  13. 13
    Greta Christina

    opposablethumbs @ #12: A certain amount of topic drift is okay with me, especially since I brought it in myself with my footnote. So not to worry.

    As to the question of whether gyms in general are useful or a racket: They’re useful for people who like them and use them regularly. They’re not for people who don’t. I, personally, love mine and find it very useful. Yes, I could weight train at home, I even have a set of dumbbells… but the reality is that I hardly ever use them. I tell myself that I’ll do a little weight workout at home on days/ weeks when I can’t get to the gym for some reason… but If I’m home, there are way too many distractions. For me, the useful thing about the gym is that all I have to talk myself into doing is getting there. Once I’m there… what the hell else am I going to do?

    And at times when I’ve been recovering from an injury or illness, and have had limited physical ability but still wanted exercise, the gym has been a lifesaver. (Example: If I want to do an upper body workout, but can’t lift freeweights or take long walks because my bad knee is acting up? I can use the weight and cardio machines at the gym.)

    I completely agree that the best exercise is the one you’ll do. I’ve said so before myself, many times. Which is why I find the whole “therefore, here is the right way to exercise, gyms are dumb and you should just bicycle or work out at home” argument a bit baffling.

  14. 14
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    I completely agree that the best exercise is the one you’ll do. I’ve said so before myself, many times. Which is why I find the whole “therefore, here is the right way to exercise, gyms are dumb and you should just bicycle or work out at home” argument a bit baffling.

    Just think of it as the exercise equivalent of “NATURAL CHILDBIRTH IS ALWAYS BETTER!”

  15. 15
    carlie

    Tony – I’m in your boat. I just got a membership as a gift; I’ve gone as a guest several times. I guess we’ll have to try the “change from the inside” gambit?

    On the best being the one you do – absolutely. And I’ve found they are good in different ways. My treadmill at home (bought for physical therapy after a knee surgery) is fantastic for when I want to roll out of bed at 5am and walk in my pajamas in the middle of winter, not good at all for when it’s 8 at night and I want to use it while my kid is trying to play a game on the xbox right next to it (Mom! That thing is too loud!).

    or me, the useful thing about the gym is that all I have to talk myself into doing is getting there. Once I’m there… what the hell else am I going to do?

    Oh, and that too, in spades. If I’m at home working out, often literally every single minute I’m exercising I’m also giving myself a guilt trip about every other thing I should be doing instead, like laundry or cleaning, and the temptation is always to cut short and go do those things. At the gym, I went through the effort to get there, so I might as well make use of it.

  16. 16
    Holms

    @3 maxdwolf
    One of the follow-up videos after watching the one you linked involved a facebook app for trading virtual pats on the back. Once the target number of pats was reached, there was a prize… cupcakes.

    @9 Amazing Sandwitch
    Sometimes the practical need for paid work is enough. Blame the people dreaming up these dumb ads, not the actors.

  17. 17
    naathcousins

    AJS> My primary method of transport is (and has been for a decade) my bicycle. I bike to work, I bike to social events, and yes – I bike to the gym. Biking everywhere kept me somewhat fit; but since I’ve taken up running in a semi-serious way I am much much fitter. You do not get to competitive levels of fitness by biking to work.

    My gym has lots of equipment that I can’t afford to buy or store; and lets me try that equipment without putting out the upfront cost of buying it. That equipment includes a swimming pool – and no, a nice 25m swimming pool would NOT fit in my house! (even one of those treadmill pools wouldn’t fit in my house).

    My gym offers group classes. It can be fun to work out with others. Of course there are non-gym classes; but it’s nice to have them all in one place. I usually feel a lot more motivated when I’m with other people working out than I am on my own. Even just being in a gym with other people working out is motivating. Working out in my living room is much less motivating (a basement would be an unheard of luxury around here)

    When the weather is sucky it’s nicer to run on a treadmill than it is to run outside. Plus it’s nice to have amenities like drinking water and toilets on hand. Oh, and the TV is an excellent way to occupy my brain whilst running is occupying my legs. I don’t personally like using the exercise bikes but I can see why people might prefer them to biking around outdoors where motorists are apt to come and try to squash you at worst or get in your way at best.

    Sometimes I am a bit intimidated by the keen weightlifters – I’m put off trying to use the free weights because I feel I might look very silly compared to the much more expert lifters. But I don’t think that would be solved by telling them all to go away.

  18. 18
    Pax Gethen

    Agreed that “the best exercise is the one you’ll do”. For me, that’s running, and a large part of the appeal is being outside in the fresh air and sunshine (which we have in abundance here in San Francisco), so I never go to gyms (though I do attend yoga classes at yoga-specific studios). But if I were a swimmer, serious weightlifter, or injured and wanted to try an elliptical trainer, I might consider a gym membership.

    To the original point of the post – yes, the ad is highly offensive, and would make me want to avoid that gym.

  1. 19
    QUICKIES 12/17/2012 - Queereka

    [...] Fit and Feminist, the best blog you’ve never heard of, has a post up about Planet Fitness’ ad campaign pitting muscular and/or transwomen against the normals. [...]

  2. 20
    Empirical Massage

    […] going and just had to hurt more people: They’ve aired multiple transphobic commercials that mock and body-shame female bodybuilders. Their commercials accuse female lifters of being too masculine to actually be women, while women […]

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