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How to improve women’s experiences in gyms?

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There is a topic that I’ve been hoping to discuss recently regarding my own personal experiences and those that I’ve heard about from other women. My experience at multiple gyms as well as the one where I currently train, is there is a “boys club” that exists and creates a certain barrier for women who train.
 

I’ve only trained in the US, so that is my frame of reference for gym culture. A (male) business partner and I are hoping to open a gym in the near future. I’m hoping that this discussion will help inform the culture we create as well as improve the approach of current gyms.

I’ve noticed more than one coach almost entirely ignore women who train either as beginners or experienced fighters. Men are given more attention in terms of coaching, encouragement, and feedback.
 

I’ve also observed that women, myself included, seem to get excluded from conversations, condescended to, have borderline or blatant sexist comments directed toward them, and assumptions being make about fighting knowledge as well no matter the level of experience.
 

Other than power level, there have only been a handful of times where experienced being treated differently in sparring. I’m not sure if that’s a common experience for other women or not. 
 

This question is addressed to other women who train. What is your experience in this regard? Have you felt that this was common in gyms where you have trained? Do you feel like it slowed down your progress with learning? How do you think the gym culture can be improved so women become more skilled? 
 

I’m asking men, respectfully, to refrain from saying things along the lines of “That doesn’t happen” or “women are being too sensitive”. You are welcome to constructively participate in the conversation and ask questions but please do not deny that other people experience things. Men, please be respectful and measured in your responses. 
 

I'm placing this here instead of in the women’s only forum because I feel it’s important for all people to read and consider these observations. It’s important for the growth of the sport and for women to have better experiences in the gym. 

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2 hours ago, CSIBMOD said:

A (male) business partner and I are hoping to open a gym in the near future. I’m hoping that this discussion will help inform the culture we create as well as improve the approach of current gyms.

What are things you are already thinking about as substantial changes? As this comes from your experience it would be interesting to hear what you are already envisioning.

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I don't have a lot of experience training in western gyms, but when I have these experiences were my experience as well, and Thai gyms absolutely treat women differently from men but not necessarily in every aspect.

I would offer that as a gym owner you will have to explicitly correct your trainers and even gym members on a fairly regular basis, as sexism is cultural and not specific to the context of the person or the gym. Normalizing communication between gymmates, as well as feedback between staff and members - across all genders - will make it easier and more reasonable for members to voice their needs. "This sparring is too hard for me," should be as valid as "this is too light for me." All genders. Maybe encourage training partners to communicate and check in with each other between each round. And an anonymous comments box to make complaints or suggestions about trainers.

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Thanks for raising this issue and for wanting to create a better gym environment for women. 

I second everything that Sylvie said. I'd definitely recommend having a reporting/feedback system, which people can choose to use anonymously. But also to make sure that gym members see and feel that they're listened to and that steps are taken after their feedback is received. Otherwise, it can become disheartening and the system becomes pointless.

I've experienced all the things you mentioned. When it comes to sparring, I think it's important that trainers step in. Not just when things get out of hand, but when they can see that people are being treated differently. For example. I've been frustrated so many times by male sparring partners who've refused to hit me, spent the whole round just blocking, running away, or acting like a punch bag (regardless of their size or experience level). At times, my trainers have made comments, reminding them to hit me and spar properly. Other times, they've switched my partner for someone more suitable. That makes me feel like at least they have my back and encourage these guys to be better sparring partners. I understand that you can't (and shouldn't) babysit everyone all of the time, but just being observant of these imbalances can make a big difference in making women feel more supported.

You've reminded me that I have an unpublished blog post written about a similar topic, so I'll get on and finish that!

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One of the more difficult and hidden aspects of gender gym dynamics that I've noticed is that because Muay Thai gyms are almost always male coded spaces it can be that there is a limited amount of social capital that women receive. That is to say, some women will get a desired amount of attention - the quality or kind of this attention may vary by gym - but because this is set up as inherently scarce, women will be even unconsciously forced into competing over that scarcity. This means that other women in the gym who may be more natural allies, making one feel more comfortable or at home, persons of support, inspiration or encouragement, actually become your competitors over "being authentic" or "being treated like a fighter" or even just "the coach pays attention to me". One woman may feel that the gym is pretty fair and supportive of women, because she's competed over the limited resource and won it, but other women may not. I'm not really sure what the answer to this is, other than being really sensitive to the idea that there may be hidden limitations of social capital.

It can be very difficult, because a lot of what coaches can do is set up a scarcity in the first place, to motivate students. "I'll pay attention to you if you do it right", "I'll pay attention to you if you work really hard" "I'll pay attention to you if you show toughness". This leads to some very earnest women over-performing, or out-performing males in a space. They want to earn their rightful place in a male coded environment. But, this scarcity which should be a equally distributed scarcity also really easily can become quite gendered. That is to say: it's much more scarce for women than it is for men. In some gyms men will just take for granted something that women end up competing with other women for. Men compete with each other and will tend to bond. Women may experience competition with other women differently. Sylvie's talked about this female competition in the gym space a few times.

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5 hours ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

One of the more difficult and hidden aspects of gender gym dynamics that I've noticed is that because Muay Thai gyms are almost always male coded spaces it can be that there is a limited amount of social capital that women receive. That is to say, some women will get a desired amount of attention - the quality or kind of this attention may vary by gym - but because this is set up as inherently scarce, women will be even unconsciously forced into competing over that scarcity. This means that other women in the gym who may be more natural allies, making one feel more comfortable or at home, persons of support, inspiration or encouragement, actually become your competitors over "being authentic" or "being treated like a fighter" or even just "the coach pays attention to me". One woman may feel that the gym is pretty fair and supportive of women, because she's competed over the limited resource and won it, but other women may not. I'm not really sure what the answer to this is, other than being really sensitive to the idea that there may be hidden limitations of social capital.

It can be very difficult, because a lot of what coaches can do is set up a scarcity in the first place, to motivate students. "I'll pay attention to you if you do it right", "I'll pay attention to you if you work really hard" "I'll pay attention to you if you show toughness". This leads to some very earnest women over-performing, or out-performing males in a space. They want to earn their rightful place in a male coded environment. But, this scarcity which should be a equally distributed scarcity also really easily can become quite gendered. That is to say: it's much more scarce for women than it is for men. In some gyms men will just take for granted something that women end up competing with other women for. Men compete with each other and will tend to bond. Women may experience competition with other women differently. Sylvie's talked about this female competition in the gym space a few times.

Thank you Kevin for voicing this and as a man understanding this. I really appreciate that. I find personally it's really hard to speak about these things. When as a woman you get discriminated against because you are a woman (and this happens a lot), those situations are easy to fix: everyone gets to spar, everyone gets clinching etc. The hard part is the benefits you might receive because you are _not_ like other women. So there are situations where you receive a lot of attention because you are not what they expect a woman to be (oftentimes playing that card of being very strong physically but just sweet enough so that they accept your male coded attributes), but you know for sure that this attention is at the same time cutting into attention that could have been given to other girls, because of the scarcity you speak of. You "play the game" to get ahead. And you not proud of it, but as a woman you know it's a zero sum game. So the ideal situation is that your gender is viewed neutrally. But if that happens, lots of benefits are lost. 

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I've been training (US-based) for about 5-6 years. I was lucky to have the option of finding gyms that weren't sexist in the ways you described, but in visiting other gyms or trying other gyms to potentially join I have experienced a lot of sexism. 

In the US, I'm considered a fairly experienced amateur fighter with 21 fights, but when I visit other gyms I almost invariably get paired with the only other woman in the gym, regardless of size or skill level. This drives me nuts, because I'd much rather have a partner with comparable skill - whether that person be male or female! It also poses a problem as sometimes there are men more appropriately sized to work with me, when I'll get paired with a much larger woman. Combine that with a skill discrepancy, and it makes me feel like I'm only good enough "for a girl" and not to train with the majority of the fighters. 

In sparring, I get a lot of guys trying to go light on me but they go so light that they're basically shadow boxing or going super slow. If I pick up the intensity, sometimes they get mad and try to hurt me. Neither is beneficial. I also get a lot of those guys that just shell-up and say "hit me, hit me!" and (maybe this is just me) I find this super condescending because if I wanted to just hit something that doesn't move I'd hit a bag. 

In some cases, I've asked coaches (that I'm more familiar with) "hey, you paired me with her, but I think this other person would be a better match based on skill and/or size." In my own gym, I try to take my turn teaching newer people how to hit and hold pads - we all have to learn. But when I'm paying to drop in at another gym, I am paying to work, not teach their new students to hold pads. 

The biggest thing I've learned is just to advocate for myself. It's really hard, and the response isn't always what we want but I find that 95% of the time people don't realize they're behaving in a sexist way and didn't realize how you interpreted what they did. Sometimes I've been given really thoughtful reasons why I was partnered up the way I was, too - trying to inspire a student who's expressed interest in fighting by letting them work with a fighter who "looks" like them. 

As for the "boys club" part of it, sometimes I find this. I always ask myself if I really want to be in that club. If yes, I assert myself. If I have valuable knowledge, I put it forward. Sometimes though, I can see that this is a group I don't care to be part of and I have no problem just walking away. I'm happy to share my thoughts if they ask, but unconcerned if they don't and that they don't consider me one of them. Many gyms have cliques and sometimes those cliques are all-encompassing. I'm not trying to join a Muay Thai cult - just train and fight and make some friends.

I hope this helps! 

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My experience as a female who has trained in a variety of western gyms is as follows:

1. Being paired with men who will decrease their intensity too much out of fear of "hitting a woman" which hurts both of our training but is especially frustrating to me. I have to ask them to go harder, the coach has to tell them to go harder and sometimes they will and sometimes they still won't. 

2. Not being taken seriously, left out of the gym "community" which usually consists of the coach and his best male fighters.

3. Sexual harassment or unwanted attention from other members; same age, older, single, married. 

It's demoralizing but women are sadly used to being in spaces that are not friendly to them. The gym owner and staff need to be in charge of establishing and controlling the gym's culture. There should be an anonymous complaint box, established rules and no tolerance for sexual harassment. If possible the gym staff should take interest in all its members and try to understand why they are there and how they can support their goals. 

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Wow! You guys have given so much thoughtful and in depth feedback. I have 4 kids and things are a little nuts as it’s dinner, homework, bedtime. I’ll come back and respond and ask more questions this evening. I appreciate the answers both on the personal level as well as from a gym business perspective. Thank you so much! 
 

 

 

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What would be good etiquette if, as a man, the reason for this attitude during sparring (or any other sort of intense pair training) is mental discomfort with the idea of throwing even mid-level strikes with women? I've found myself paired with girls and it is quite uncomfortable to try and disregard this cultural norm. 

I did that exact thing described of just using defence and letting the girls work their offence during these routine  'colosseum' exercises (I forget the English term for it) at a gym I trained at, where the instructor would make one of us (sometimes a woman) do rounds with almost everyone at a time. It wasn't supposed to be sparring, but eventually the one doing the rounds would get tired and more desperate, so they'd put more behind their strikes and, between men at least, you'd end up reciprocating with similar intensity. I use this example because, even if you oppose to being a sparring partner for a female (if your instructor lets you, that is), you might find yourself in a situation where you'll basically be doing light sparring with them, and might adjust your power a bit too low for those that want to be treated equally. 

Sorry if this is a bit of a convoluted question, but basically I wanted to take the chance (and please do excuse me if I'm unknowingly derailing the topic of conversation) to ask what you think would be the right procedure for males that just feel uncomfortable hitting females but nonetheless get thrown in situations where you have to be available for them and actually want to help them improve their skills in any other way you can (as you would with any other training partner, since that's obviously the idea- to get better together). Thanks!

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What you're describing is internalized sexism. So, you deal with that. It's not your "fault" and it doesn't make you bad, but you do have to acknowledge and recognize it first and foremost in order to go about addressing it.

Women aren't children. Women aren't weak and unable to make decisions for ourselves. Women go to sparring for the same reasons men do, to be challenged, to improve, to experience pressure. By giving priority to your discomfort, you are robbing your teammates of all those benefits. Be generous, just as you would for a male teammate. Note size difference and skill disparity and make adjustments for those, just as you would for a male teammate.

Also, thank you for asking this, as it demonstrates you do care and want to do better for your teammates. 

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Thank you for the kind response. While I don't feel entirely compelled by the framework that would characterize it as internalized sexism, I think the way you put it really helps in viewing the situation differently and emphatically, ie, making an effort in understanding that I'd be stopping a female training partner from improving as much as any other person in the gym by letting my own discomfort get the best of me. You're right, they're there for that specific reason, and everyone can voice their disatisfaction with someone who's going harder than they should. As simple as it is, it can be ignored due to the violent nature of it all and not wanting to deal with those irrational feelings of having done something culturally taboo.

I do think that the process of adapting to this understanding may be a slow one for men with this cultural conditioning, but that's when talking about it helps so much. The feeling that you did something that goes against your upbringing (punching or kicking the opposite sex in the face) leaves a foul state in your mouth regardless of any rationalization, but I'm sure that it can be dealt with progressively by knowing how the consequences of this attitude are so frustrating for female martial artists and how unbalanced it ends up being for everyone involved. Both parties need to understand the other's position and needs, and work together to even things out. That is to say, just asking to hit harder might not be enough to really ingrain the idea and erase the discomfort in some men, but it should at least be the start of a conversation that solves the problem.

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I did want to come back to you because it can be difficult to recognize our own thought processes, which result in our feelings, because many of them come from unconscious conditioning.

One element I see repeated by men is this notion that "hitting women" is wrong. How could that be a bad thing? I think a good way to address this feeling in yourself is understanding the difference between trained skills and practice, versus violence. My mom struggled with my fighting for a long time because she views it as violence. I've experienced what I call violence, which involves a victim and is more or less one-sided. That's not what sports or artforms are. I wrote about it here if you want to read about the differences I see (https://8limbsus.com/blog/violence-fighting-silence-speaking-of-rape-muay-thai) but the short, short takeaway you can start straight away with is looking at how many women have expressed offense and disappointment by their male training partners refusing to hit them... that's obviously not the same thing as "hitting women," and obviously we're not experiencing sparring that way.

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One thing I wanted to mention is also us women understanding how much power we have and how hard we punch. I might be mistaken, but I feel sometimes women tend to go pretty hard because guys we spar with never want to admit when hurts. So we don't learn to assess our own strength in strikes. 

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On 12/11/2021 at 10:34 PM, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

What are things you are already thinking about as substantial changes? As this comes from your experience it would be interesting to hear what you are already envisioning.

I think I’m envisioning a place where everyone is on equal footing no matter gender, sexual orientation, fitness level, etc. Where we create a culture of equity  and that people will know to leave the ego at the door. It will be a fighters gym but it will also be clear that no one is better than anyone else. This especially applies to the gym social hierarchy. I’m having trouble defining exactly how that would be encouraged and enforced. 
 

As a woman with some level of life experience, I want to make it clear that woman won’t just be accepted or tolerated but that they are a mainstay of our gym. What I mean by not using the wording of “accepted” is that that term implies women are being accepted into a space that doesn’t already belong to them. I.e. you wouldn’t use that phrasing when you are walking into your own home. Not sure if I’m saying this in a way that’s easy to decipher. 
 

I’m envisioning a place where there is a very clear set of boundaries in regards to respecting training partners and equal treatment amongst all students. Again, it’s difficult to define and even harder to figure out how to create this type of environment. 

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On 12/13/2021 at 12:10 AM, Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu said:

I don't have a lot of experience training in western gyms, but when I have these experiences were my experience as well, and Thai gyms absolutely treat women differently from men but not necessarily in every aspect.

I would offer that as a gym owner you will have to explicitly correct your trainers and even gym members on a fairly regular basis, as sexism is cultural and not specific to the context of the person or the gym. Normalizing communication between gymmates, as well as feedback between staff and members - across all genders - will make it easier and more reasonable for members to voice their needs. "This sparring is too hard for me," should be as valid as "this is too light for me." All genders. Maybe encourage training partners to communicate and check in with each other between each round. And an anonymous comments box to make complaints or suggestions about trainers.

Thank you for this feedback. I think the communication aspect of creating a respectful training environment is very often overlooked. Encouraging people, especially people new to the sport and to the gym, to express their level of comfort with their training, sparring, etc. 
 

I specifically want create an environment that is encouraging and firm when new people are brought in. “Firm” meaning even if you are experienced in the sport doesn’t mean an automatic green light for being set loose. And also for people new to the sport to know that it’s okay to be nervous. And also to be aware that nervousness can lead to some poor choices when new to sparring and create problems unnecessarily. And as you said, this needs to happen across all genders. I was even thinking about having a required session *just* to coach people on how to spar safely, address safety issues for injuries, adjust power levels, communicate respectfully with training partners, etc before new people are permitted to participate. I think this will help all members but especially women who may feel uncomfortable without these guidelines specifically spelled out. 
 

Women being able to come to trainers, coaches, and me as the owner and know  that they will be heard if something doesn’t feel quite right or if something happened that makes them feel unsafe is huge. That’s a great part to focus on so thank you for that! 

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On 12/13/2021 at 2:47 AM, emma said:

Thanks for raising this issue and for wanting to create a better gym environment for women. 

I second everything that Sylvie said. I'd definitely recommend having a reporting/feedback system, which people can choose to use anonymously. But also to make sure that gym members see and feel that they're listened to and that steps are taken after their feedback is received. Otherwise, it can become disheartening and the system becomes pointless.

I've experienced all the things you mentioned. When it comes to sparring, I think it's important that trainers step in. Not just when things get out of hand, but when they can see that people are being treated differently. For example. I've been frustrated so many times by male sparring partners who've refused to hit me, spent the whole round just blocking, running away, or acting like a punch bag (regardless of their size or experience level). At times, my trainers have made comments, reminding them to hit me and spar properly. Other times, they've switched my partner for someone more suitable. That makes me feel like at least they have my back and encourage these guys to be better sparring partners. I understand that you can't (and shouldn't) babysit everyone all of the time, but just being observant of these imbalances can make a big difference in making women feel more supported.

You've reminded me that I have an unpublished blog post written about a similar topic, so I'll get on and finish that!

I’m looking forward to reading your blog post. I think you make a good point about not just hearing peoples feedback but also reacting appropriately and thoughtfully. I am going into business with another person and I’ve made it clear that poor behavior will get someone shown the door. 
 

I also want to be proactive instead of reactive to all types of problems within gyms. I mentioned to Sylvie above but in regards to sparring, I think I would like to have a regular class that teaches people how to spar safely and respectfully that covers all the common problems, including the ones that are specific to men and women sparring with one another. Communication, safety, controlling power, keeping ego in check, making sure to let them know that speaking to the coach about an issue is always an option, how to be a good training partner with other genders, etc. Doing an on boarding seems like it might be a proactive step to prevent problems. 

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On 12/13/2021 at 5:35 PM, Kellie said:

My experience as a female who has trained in a variety of western gyms is as follows:

1. Being paired with men who will decrease their intensity too much out of fear of "hitting a woman" which hurts both of our training but is especially frustrating to me. I have to ask them to go harder, the coach has to tell them to go harder and sometimes they will and sometimes they still won't. 

2. Not being taken seriously, left out of the gym "community" which usually consists of the coach and his best male fighters.

3. Sexual harassment or unwanted attention from other members; same age, older, single, married. 

It's demoralizing but women are sadly used to being in spaces that are not friendly to them. The gym owner and staff need to be in charge of establishing and controlling the gym's culture. There should be an anonymous complaint box, established rules and no tolerance for sexual harassment. If possible the gym staff should take interest in all its members and try to understand why they are there and how they can support their goals. 

I think you hit the nail on the head in so many ways here. These are most of the top issues that I see. They are challenging both from a personal perspective and the perspective of figuring out how yo prevent them before they happen as a business owner. My goal is to be very proactive in creating a healthy environment for all members, focusing on preventing sexual harassment, creating a respectful culture, and prevent problems before they happen. I have a rough rule set built in the back of my brain and this is a good reminder to be specific about what those rules mean.  
 

I’m a “grown” woman in my 40s and have no issue calling people on the carpet about unacceptable 

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On 12/13/2021 at 3:16 AM, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

One of the more difficult and hidden aspects of gender gym dynamics that I've noticed is that because Muay Thai gyms are almost always male coded spaces it can be that there is a limited amount of social capital that women receive. That is to say, some women will get a desired amount of attention - the quality or kind of this attention may vary by gym - but because this is set up as inherently scarce, women will be even unconsciously forced into competing over that scarcity. This means that other women in the gym who may be more natural allies, making one feel more comfortable or at home, persons of support, inspiration or encouragement, actually become your competitors over "being authentic" or "being treated like a fighter" or even just "the coach pays attention to me". One woman may feel that the gym is pretty fair and supportive of women, because she's competed over the limited resource and won it, but other women may not. I'm not really sure what the answer to this is, other than being really sensitive to the idea that there may be hidden limitations of social capital.

It can be very difficult, because a lot of what coaches can do is set up a scarcity in the first place, to motivate students. "I'll pay attention to you if you do it right", "I'll pay attention to you if you work really hard" "I'll pay attention to you if you show toughness". This leads to some very earnest women over-performing, or out-performing males in a space. They want to earn their rightful place in a male coded environment. But, this scarcity which should be a equally distributed scarcity also really easily can become quite gendered. That is to say: it's much more scarce for women than it is for men. In some gyms men will just take for granted something that women end up competing with other women for. Men compete with each other and will tend to bond. Women may experience competition with other women differently. Sylvie's talked about this female competition in the gym space a few times.

I’m not sure there is anything I can add here because this spelling out exactly what I feel like I’m responding to both personally and as a potential gym owner. Very insightful and I’ll have see if I can find some what Sylvie has written about how this happens. 
 

That scarcity is a very real thing and quite frequently does not filter down to women regardless of skill level, even if she is a fighter. 
 

As a woman in my mid 40s, I’m *never* going to a high priority for 99% of coaches. I’m a woman, I’m older, I’m past the prime age where sexual interest is a major driving factor, there is no potential there for being a legit fighter, professional or amateur, etc. But I see even the younger women that have far more potential than I do and pro female fighters having the same issue. 
 

And it keeps the ball rolling because the scarcity breeds lack of trust between the women at the gym. So not only are you not getting in optimal training with men, you also aren’t getting it with women either because there isn’t enough trust built to push each other to be better. I like my female training partners but sometimes it feels like that isn’t necessarily reciprocated. It doesn’t have to be like that. 

 

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On 12/13/2021 at 4:15 PM, MollyJuliette said:

I've been training (US-based) for about 5-6 years. I was lucky to have the option of finding gyms that weren't sexist in the ways you described, but in visiting other gyms or trying other gyms to potentially join I have experienced a lot of sexism. 

In the US, I'm considered a fairly experienced amateur fighter with 21 fights, but when I visit other gyms I almost invariably get paired with the only other woman in the gym, regardless of size or skill level. This drives me nuts, because I'd much rather have a partner with comparable skill - whether that person be male or female! It also poses a problem as sometimes there are men more appropriately sized to work with me, when I'll get paired with a much larger woman. Combine that with a skill discrepancy, and it makes me feel like I'm only good enough "for a girl" and not to train with the majority of the fighters. 

In sparring, I get a lot of guys trying to go light on me but they go so light that they're basically shadow boxing or going super slow. If I pick up the intensity, sometimes they get mad and try to hurt me. Neither is beneficial. I also get a lot of those guys that just shell-up and say "hit me, hit me!" and (maybe this is just me) I find this super condescending because if I wanted to just hit something that doesn't move I'd hit a bag. 

In some cases, I've asked coaches (that I'm more familiar with) "hey, you paired me with her, but I think this other person would be a better match based on skill and/or size." In my own gym, I try to take my turn teaching newer people how to hit and hold pads - we all have to learn. But when I'm paying to drop in at another gym, I am paying to work, not teach their new students to hold pads. 

The biggest thing I've learned is just to advocate for myself. It's really hard, and the response isn't always what we want but I find that 95% of the time people don't realize they're behaving in a sexist way and didn't realize how you interpreted what they did. Sometimes I've been given really thoughtful reasons why I was partnered up the way I was, too - trying to inspire a student who's expressed interest in fighting by letting them work with a fighter who "looks" like them. 

As for the "boys club" part of it, sometimes I find this. I always ask myself if I really want to be in that club. If yes, I assert myself. If I have valuable knowledge, I put it forward. Sometimes though, I can see that this is a group I don't care to be part of and I have no problem just walking away. I'm happy to share my thoughts if they ask, but unconcerned if they don't and that they don't consider me one of them. Many gyms have cliques and sometimes those cliques are all-encompassing. I'm not trying to join a Muay Thai cult - just train and fight and make some friends.

I hope this helps! 

Thx for the insights.   One comment.  The phenomena I did featured in bold...  This is not about you, this is about the alone girl / woman in that gym.  Here is she alone, eager to train, but more or less aside...  If nothing else, she is the alone woman.  And suddenly there comes in another adult woman!   They want to give their member a positive experience, to be able to met and train with another woman if and when the occasion arises.... Of course, if you are a paying guest, its not necessarily YOUR problem.

But. Hey, what do I know, they perhaps even thinks you are in a similar situation?  Alone woman in YOUR gym?

 

Anyways, its a problem with several bottoms.  I dont know if its customary to phone the owner / coach / host and tell whom you are and what type of train you do wish.  Or the owner / host meets the new face and asks...   

Its done in some of bridge clubs for example:  " I wish to visit your club tonight, and will be happy to get a good partner to play with.  I consider myself as an expert."

Another proposal I fancy is to have labels to put on:  Beginner medium, advanced   and  Mostly fitness (=take it easy in sparring)  (Fighter = Im OK with quite rough sparring too), but as I know, this is not done.

 

Ps.  Nay,  Im not into active martial arts myself; although I did some other sports, including bridge and riding.

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This with an inner circle around the owner / trainer...   And new bees have difficult to come forward.  Here, get also the proper education they are de facto paying for, both in their time, effort and often also good money.

The phenomena is common!

A generous host / owner, whom can create a warm, welcoming athmosphere, is the remedy.   But its not always (seldom)  the reality....

 

Ps.  A standard way worth to try with, is to anyway work as hard and as well you can. Often enough, with time they will see you ARE a hardworker, not whining for nothing, and with time, accept you in their circle and perhaps even, their cameradeship.  If they dont; you hadnt lost much anyway, because your effort will repay for yourself this way or another.  Ps.  I believe THIS was the way Sylvie did, when she did come to Petchungrang, a male gym...  Showing she is a hardworker, she won their acceptance.

 

In this case, as its typically a male dominated milieu, it becomes extra difficult for most females.

Sorrowfully but true, this is a common experience for most women in many situations... In war and in peace.

That is a heavy reason why most women kept themselves into typically female occupations, and typically female sports...

It needs extra determination, and tough skin for a female to be succesfull. in a traditionally male area.

Getting massive flak from many men, but sometimes also, from other women...

 

I dont have any good advices nor easy solutions at this moment, 

 I just want to mention it; the problems are a common experience for many females whom want to go forward in a male dominated milieu...

And thus, it will help to network with other females (and sympathisers) in martial sports, as here in this forum, but also, networking with almost any other ambitious females, should give some help and mental relief..

 

Its almost only the so called  boygirls, or tomboys, whom manage comfortably in male milieus; they are used to play and work with boys and later on males, and agree with them, "speak on equal and friendly terms"

Edited by StefanZ
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Thank you everyone for all the feedback. I’m in the process of obtaining a building to house out new gym and have a great business partner that does respect female fighters. We have some things to work on with incorporating our values into the culture of the gym and I intend to lead by example. 
 

While I’ve been training for 3+ years, I’m still very much a newbie. My business partner is a pro fighter that has been in the game for a bit so to a large degree, he will be setting the tone. But our mission statement will include welcoming ALL student whether they be LGBTQ, female, mature students, kids, beginners, advanced, amateur fighters, or pro fighters. It will be emphasized that hard work is the great equalizer but also recognizing that there will people that are there just for fun and fitness. That’s cool too. 
 

It’s going to be tough to foster this environment because of the traditionally male dominated history of the sport but in order the create a strong business in the city where we are located, we have to expand beyond the “traditional” student and target market. I want to grow the sport in our city beyond the usual niche. 
 

I think to do that I need to understand the dynamics at play in order to counter them the pitfalls of your average gym. Fostering that type of environment, combined with quality, rigorous training is our goal. 
 

It’s all getting real as we get closer to securing a location. It’s exciting! 

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5 hours ago, CSIBMOD said:

Thank you everyone for all the feedback. I’m in the process of obtaining a building to house out new gym and have a great business partner that does respect female fighters. We have some things to work on with incorporating our values into the culture of the gym and I intend to lead by example. 
 

While I’ve been training for 3+ years, I’m still very much a newbie. My business partner is a pro fighter that has been in the game for a bit so to a large degree, he will be setting the tone. But our mission statement will include welcoming ALL student whether they be LGBTQ, female, mature students, kids, beginners, advanced, amateur fighters, or pro fighters. It will be emphasized that hard work is the great equalizer but also recognizing that there will people that are there just for fun and fitness. That’s cool too. 
 

It’s going to be tough to foster this environment because of the traditionally male dominated history of the sport but in order the create a strong business in the city where we are located, we have to expand beyond the “traditional” student and target market. I want to grow the sport in our city beyond the usual niche. 
 

I think to do that I need to understand the dynamics at play in order to counter them the pitfalls of your average gym. Fostering that type of environment, combined with quality, rigorous training is our goal. 
 

It’s all getting real as we get closer to securing a location. It’s exciting! 

I Think this forum is the best informational source for all of us... Every little thing is discussed here.!!
 

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I believe most coaches and gym owners want women (and all students) to feel comfortable and safe during training. It’s very important to set good behavior in your gym. How do you know if your gym is both safe for and accepting of a woman? How can you attain female students?  This doesn’t require speeches and pronouncements. It doesn’t mean social media posts. You just simply ask, watch, and talk openly.  

Don’t assume a woman will speak up if her environment is uncomfortable or if something has happened. It’s not an easy thing to talk about. Most women have had uncomfortable or inappropriate experiences throughout their lives. For instance, we’ve heard that we are too sensitive, we need to relax, or we’re misinterpreting someone’s behavior.

It is imperative that a coach watches all interactions carefully, especially with females.

Over time, the cumulative impact is silence.  Because women are not always heard, we often tolerate it and keep it to ourselves. Pay attention to what’s going on in your gym and reach out to us. This can feel awkward or strange if you aren’t used to it so here are some suggestions.

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    • wait wait wait.... what the actual fuck?!?
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