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Talk me through why I felt threatened, please?

(22 Posts)
JennyOnTheBlocks Tue 03-Feb-15 13:22:15

I'm a member at a local leisure centre; gym, swimming, classes and health suite.

The health suite comprises sauna/spa pool/solarium and seemed a great way to relax after a hard swimming session recently.

I'm a pretty confident woman (or so I thought), I don't have hair of snakes, but need to get this out.
I train alongside men, I have male friends, I live with one, I have somewhat successfully (IMO) raised two of my own...so why, when I tried to walk past the spa pool to access the sauna the other day, did I feel so threatened?

It was bloody awful, there was a group of men in the pool, very loud, all sitting with their arms stretched out - even though there was plenty of room, there wasn't IYGWIM. They were swearing, loudly. I use curses all the time, but again, I felt threatened. I went into one of the other rooms, only to be joined by some other patrons, who were also loud, cursing and basically making the whole experience less than pleasant. I closed my eyes, and stayed my time in there, trying to 'brave it out', but it left me feeling really almost vulnerable.

What saddened me more was at the bottom of one of the doors was sheet of pink paper which read 'women only sessions - Thursdays 8-10pm', and after reading this, I felt dismissed. As though I was being told if I didn't feel safe, I should go then instead.

Not even sure what I want to gain out of this thread, so thanks for reading.

SirChenjin Tue 03-Feb-15 13:24:55

You felt threatened because it was threatening - but it would have been threatening if it had been a group of women behaving that way too. Any group of people that is shouting, swearing and taking over an area is intimidating.

JennyOnTheBlocks Tue 03-Feb-15 13:26:00

So, I was letting my inner 'victim' take over, wasn't I?

kickassangel Tue 03-Feb-15 13:28:40

Any large an loud group who seem to be dominating a space as if they own it an make you feel like that. It's the implication in their behavior that they are so comfortable there and that anyone else is an outsider and intruder, therefore potential for picking on.

The same can be true of a group of loud teenagers shouting and swearing and filling up the pavement.any people would cross the street on that scenario.

Any caring adult in a public space would be aware of others and moderate their behavior to make sure that they don't take over and intimidate. Not doing so implies that they will monopolize the people there along with the space.

Lots of swearin would absolutely not be tolerated at my gym. They would be asked to consider others or leave btw. It's not just you who wouldn't like it.

kickassangel Tue 03-Feb-15 13:30:33

But men are more often able to dominate like that and sideline women, so that background knowledge adds to the effect of them being threatening in a way that female groups don't.

SirChenjin Tue 03-Feb-15 13:31:14

You weren't letting your inner victim take over - you were in a very intimidating situation. There was a thread ages ago about a woman who was taunted and intimidated by a group of teenage girls in the female changing rooms and felt that she should have handled the situation better - but she couldn't have done anything differently. When you are on your own, in an enclosed space, and you are subjected to loutish behaviour (from either gender) it's intimidating - it's important to recognise you have the right to feel that, and not that you are in some way a victim, if that makes sense?

TheCowThatLaughs Tue 03-Feb-15 13:35:22

Any large group of either sex could be intimidating if they were loud and swearing, but if it's a male group then imo it is likely to be more intimidating for a woman, especially if she is alone. This is because women have long experience of men commenting on their bodies, negatively or positively, so especially if you are wearing a swimming costume you are likely to be anticipating that this might happen, as some men are more likely to behave like twats when they're in a large group.
Also, this kind of behaviour is intended to be intimidating and territory marking to a certain extent. And of course unfortunately male violence is a problem (NAMALT)

BuffyBotRebooted Tue 03-Feb-15 13:35:26

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

JennyOnTheBlocks Tue 03-Feb-15 13:39:00

I think because I'm perhaps not used to feeling so threatened, that I'm giving myself a hard time for not challenging them, there and then.

People dropping litter, making racist/disablist remarks, making sweeping generalisations and other such casual 'crimes' I can handle.

That makes sense, Chenjin, but I'm angry I had to use that right, I'm really angry I gave them that power over me.

JennyOnTheBlocks Tue 03-Feb-15 13:40:05

x-post Buffy - yes, i need to take that power back. thank you

SirChenjin Tue 03-Feb-15 13:54:26

I would be angry too - you should feel safe in a public leisure centre, not be subject to this sort of behaviour. Did you complain to the staff at the time?

SirChenjin Tue 03-Feb-15 13:54:37

subjected

JennyOnTheBlocks Tue 03-Feb-15 14:35:32

I didn't complain at the time, and that's pissed me off too. That I didn't, and also that there didn't seem to be any about either.

I'm going again tomorrow, this time will take my righteous indignation in a separate bag, and use it positively (ie complain if it happens again)

Thanks for talking me through this, I wasn't sure if I was being a bit 'hatey', I'm rather intolerant at the best of times.

JennyOnTheBlocks Tue 03-Feb-15 14:36:03

*didn't seem to be any STAFF about

ThatBloodyWoman Tue 03-Feb-15 14:41:12

The behaviour sounds inappropriate for the setting,and it would indicate to me that they felt a sense of power in that they felt they didn't need to adhere to what normal expectations would be in such an environment.

SirChenjin Tue 03-Feb-15 15:47:37

Hopefully the next time you go it will be fine - fingers crossed it will be a positive experience which will cancel out the negatives smile I hate when this sort of thing happens - you want to go somewhere you enjoy, and some ignoramuses decide that they can't behave and spoil it for others. If it does happen again then demand to see the manager and make a formal complaint - don't just tell them about it, make sure it's recorded and explain that it's the second time you have been subjected to this with no intervention from the staff.

YonicScrewdriver Tue 03-Feb-15 16:11:37

They were already behaving in a way that indicated they cared more about their own comfort than someone else's.

It is sensible to react to that, just as it's sensible to react to someone who keeps trying to talk to you even when you are not making eye contact etc because their behaviour is telling you that, in their eyes, you matter less than them. And that attitude may or may not carry through into some more intrusive boundary pushing (catcalls, comments, whatever)

YonicScrewdriver Tue 03-Feb-15 16:13:42

Have you read The Gift of Fear?

JennyOnTheBlocks Tue 03-Feb-15 17:34:39

I haven't, worth a read then?

I'm usually really good at batting unwanted comments back, grown quite a thick skin over my years of not conforming to social pressures when it comes to things like personal grooming and even parenting (2 dc with SN)

scallopsrgreat Tue 03-Feb-15 23:12:26

Yes it's not bad Jenny. He is pretty perceptive on the barriers and conditioning women face and how that competes to override our intuition. Although he inexplicably loses that perception when it comes to women exiting from abusive relationships and gets a bit victim blamey.

YonicScrewdriver Tue 03-Feb-15 23:57:47

True, scallops, that section is a misfire.

It was discussed in feminist book club on here jenny

MyNameIsInigoMontoya Wed 04-Feb-15 23:30:17

This is interesting because I had a quite similar situation at a gym I visited a while back.

The main difference was, in my case the men in the jacuzzi weren't even behaving badly in any noticeable way - just chatting to each other, using "expansive" body language, yes, but not swearing or being specifically hostile or anything. But I still felt quite uncomfortable, if not actually threatened.

I think what TheCow said was very true, that we have come to expect (or at least fear) some kind of comment or hassle in similar situations, so might be anticipating something even if nothing actually happens.

Certainly some of the factors that made me feel uncomfortable were: the slightly dark, gloomy feel of the pool area there (it was in a basement and I think they had deliberately low lighting to make it "relaxing" but actually, it gave it a bit of a sleazy feel...); the way the group of men were taking up the whole jacuzzi and using very wide, confident body language as if they owned the place; feeling them watching as I walked past; being in a swimsuit, as others mentioned above; the lack of any staff or other "neutral" people around to moderate any bad behaviour; and also the layout of the place - the jacuzzi was set into the floor, so walking past was a bit like being on display (think catwalk or stage) with them all looking up and out, which felt quite intimidating, especially in a swimsuit. I think a raised one with a wall round would have felt less daunting to walk past and they probably wouldn't have been all staring out in the same direction either.

In my case, I wouldn't have even considered complaining about the men - there really wasn't anything specific I could have said as you can hardly complain about people sitting, looking and talking, even if they are doing it in a bit of a macho/manspreading sort of way (unlike in OP's case, where they could at least have been told to keep it down and mind their language).

But I think perhaps the gym people could do more to make it feel welcoming if they got enough feedback - some better lighting, a member of staff around (at least some of the time) and possibly a rethink of the layout would have helped to make it less uncomfortable and might well encourage better behaviour too.

Also I agree the "Women only" sessions aren't a solution and if anything are likely to make it worse (though I know they are set up for other reasons too), both by discouraging women from going at other times (meaning the men of that type can take over even more...) and also by suggesting that the rest of the time is "men's time" and therefore kind of backing up the idea that they do own the place.

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