The 'Gymcreep' Trend Forces Society To Confront Harassment, But It Places An Unfair Burden On Women

For years, women have been conditioned to live in constant vigilance of men around them, even in spaces like gym. But now, thanks to the power of smartphones, women are at last exposing those who choose to make public spaces feel unsafe. Across the internet, the hashtag #gymcreep has gone viral, as women from all over the world have posted videos of men peering at them in the gym in ways that make them feel uncomfortable.

Creator @ginaveelay captured one such incident in a video posted to TikTok. As she completed her deadlifts in the corner of a near-empty gym, the video shows a man walking into frame and exercising right behind her. "I started recording him so now we're all uncomfortable together," explains the text on the video. He was staring at her before she began recording, the text continues. Gina then puts down the weights and turns off the camera. Another creator,  @theycallmedilemma, shared a separate viral video where a man followed her around during her entire workout session.

To date, the #gymcreep hashtag has over 91 million views on TikTok, suggesting that it is working to spread awareness, while also serving as a reminder of how alarmingly common this experience is. However, it's worth noting the #gymcreep trend is not just evidence that men's violence against women can exist anywhere, at any time. It is also a dismaying reminder of how we expect women to be the ones to address problems that aren't their fault.

Women are putting themselves at risk by calling out creeps

Holding a fear of harassment at the gym is not far-fetched. Research from Run Repeat showed that more than 56% of women have been harassed during a gym workout, and that more than 92% of such incidents are unreported. One frightening incident in Florida saw a woman escape from a man who attacked her while she was alone in the gym, per NBC News. Because the gym caught the incident on camera, the evidence of the attack was clear, and the man was jailed. But what would have happened should the cameras have not been there, or not working?

The #gymcreep TikTok trend thus offers some semblance of protection for women, while also calling attention to the issue of harassment at the gym. In some ways, the trend is working to help some women stop harassment in its tracks. In one video creator Heidi Aragon (@fit_with_heidi) recounts how she confronted a man who was staring at her inappropriately during her workout, "I then told him I record my workouts and I have him on film. He shut up real quick," reads a portion of the text on the video.

The problem, however, is that it once again places the burden on women to call out this bad behavior. Plus, there's no telling how a man might react to being recorded, which means recording and posting a #gymcreep video comes with its own set of risks. Once again, women are left trying to address an issue that is not their fault, which begs the question: Where are men stepping up to address gym creeps?

Men should take action and accountability

When the #MeToo movement began, women called upon men to be allies as they fought to be heard surrounding men's sexual violence against women. However, men on TikTok have largely responded to the #gymcreep trend by making jokes about women's harassment at the gym, parodying the videos that women filmed working out where they felt uncomfortable.

Instead of dismissing the trend, what if male gym-goers decided to take a step back and consider the ways in which they could make the gym a safer space for women? According to the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworack-Peck School of Social Work, one of the first ways men can initiate change is by having open conversations with their male peers, as well as reflecting upon their own behaviors at the gym. Men can also intervene at the gym, either by themselves or alerting gym staff, when a woman appears to be uncomfortable. And, taking their support a step further, men can speak up publicly in support of women, creating a space for others to do the same. Women should not be shamed for wanting safety in traditionally male-dominated spaces, nor should they feel unsafe being in them. The #gymcreep trend reminds us where men created the problem, men could do better to fix it.