We turn attention to ordinary gym users and everyday social relations in athletic facilities. Our study concerned college students in the US and their experiences in the university’s fitness center. Using a critical incident procedure, we gathered brief accounts of “uncomfortable” experiences in day-to-day workout sessions. Drawing on the theories of Bruner, Ochs, Labove, and Bamberg, we analyzed how these accounts drew upon and reaffirmed normative gender orders. One prominent theme was that men—especially those on sports teams—pre-empted both physical spaces and certain pieces of equipment. Another common theme concerned men’s overt scrutiny of and judgments about women’s bodies, whether in terms of physical attractiveness, athletic ability, or skill in using gym equipment. By contrast, no male participant told of such scrutiny by either women or other men. Participants seemed to regard these patterns of behavior as intractable. Rather than demanding that men change, participants described strategies such as hiding from men’s view or avoiding the gym entirely.
Jeanne Marecek and J. Salvatore.
"Out Of Place? Gender Relations In A College Fitness Center".