Breaking gender rules at Laurier Brantford

I know how awful this will sound, and I know how crazy it is for me to be intimidated by men lifting weights, but I think that most girls were programmed to think this way.

If you’re like me, then you’ve probably spent countless minutes staring yearningly into the weight room at the Wilkes House gym. Aside from the fact that there are usually cute boys pumping iron there, the main reason for my staring is because I long to use the weight machines.

Every time I go to the gym – which is now four to five times a week, thanks to my tedious new year’s resolution – I head straight for the cardio equipment, not even giving a second glance at the weight room. That is, only until I am finished on the treadmill or bike, at which point I ultimately end up wanting to lift weights. This leads to me awkwardly sitting on a yoga mat, peering into the weight room beside me, waiting until the coast is clear so I can use the equipment. However, since the gym is usually at its busiest every time I go, I inevitably end up leaving early after deciding that I’ll never get the chance to be alone in the weight room.

Of course, it’s silly of me to think that the weight room is just for guys, but that’s how it’s always been, hasn’t it? Leave the heavy lifting to the burly men, while the women can do something more simple … more feminine.

This unfortunate gender rule seems to influence my life and more importantly, society in general, all the time. There are such ridiculous standards that men and women have to live up to in order to be considered a “real” man or woman. Of course, this has changed greatly over time – women can now vote and wear pants proudly, and men can get highlights in their hair and no longer have the burden of being the breadwinner in the household.

Yet there remains some sort of impenetrable gender line that members of the opposite sex can’t entirely cross. Even simple things like asking someone out on a date, playing contact sports or shotgunning a beer can cause some raised eyebrows if done by a woman. And this is not to say that it’s easy for men to do whatever they want either; they too have gender restrictions of their own.

Similarly, if a straight male was to become a ballet dancer or order a fruity beverage at the bar, he might be met with disapproval and quite a few jeers as well.

Not only are these gender norms unreasonable, they tend to be harmful. What if there is a boy who dreams of becoming a professional ballet dancer? I’m sure this is the case in many boys’ lives, and not just for fictional Billy Elliot. Is society going to stomp on what they want to accomplish simply because it seems odd, or because it goes against the rules? The boy might be so discouraged already by gender norms that he gives up any hope of even trying to make it as a dancer.

Our society shouldn’t predetermine what is acceptable for people to do or become based on their gender.

I really only have one plea to voice about these society-enforced gender rules: the society that helped build them up, now must break them down. It’s really very simple – our goal should be to break the rules on gender.

I listen to my relatives and mentors speak all the time about the gender barriers that they had to break down in the past. I’ve heard countless stories from my mother about bra burnings and protests, and long ago, I learned from her the importance of doing things outside the box, even if you’re not entirely comfortable with it at first. I thank these women for breaking the gender rules, because of all the doors they have opened for me. But now it’s time for my generation to return the favour.

We can start with the simple things: I plan on marching confidently, or at the very least boldly sneaking into the weight room the next time I go to the school gym.

I also fully encourage any boys that want to use the elliptical or take a zumba class to do so, since females aren’t the only ones that have barriers to break down. I’m sure the weight room experience will be a little awkward for me at first, especially when I have to reset all the machines to a more manageable weight for myself, but I’m determined to make it work.

So, fellas, get ready for me because I’m going to break the rules on this one and pump some iron with the rest of you. As far as I’m concerned, the weight room is no longer just a “boys’ club.” It’s a place for anyone that wants to lift weights, regardless of their gender. I hope that the rest of you will join me, and maybe we can change the rules once and for all.

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