Whenever I go to the gym I tend to put my earphones in and try to avoid watching the music video screen, which is huge. Instead I focus on the display on the treadmill, other people at the gym, or the TV shows on the tiny screens. However, every now and again I see something interesting out of the corner of my eye, or a film clip I actually like, and I catch myself watching the music videos… and wow, some of them are terrible.
As a generalisation, the film clips shown at my gym, when sung by male singers, feature women as objects, as tits and arses, as thin, gyrating people who are clamouring to have sex with the singer, or the viewer. Interestingly though, those film clips of songs sung by women, have women front and centre, as entire beings, and generally as free agents. The two messages don’t really go together, and I am increasingly grossed out by the male-dominated film clips at my gym (hence me not watching them).
This is a gym, a gym that believes to be fit and healthy, one has to be slim and preferably muscular. This gym believes that I have joined solely to lose all that fat that keeps following me around, because clearly fat is an unwanted thing and not part of who I am. And that being fat is a bad thing, and being thin is a good thing. None of this has been said to my face, but it really doesn’t have to be with all the posters extolling the virtues of their boot camps with before and after photos.
So imagine my surprise when I saw a film clip of the Beth Ditto song, “I wrote the Book”. Here was a proudly fat woman, singing a great song, dancing like she had every right to, and in the film clip being desired by several gorgeous men. I was amazed – mostly because I had completely failed up until this point to even notice Beth Ditto (not watching film clips didn’t help), and also because this was so subversive. I was exercising at the gym, an activity that many people looking at me would assume be because I hated my fat body and wanted to be thin (I just want to be fit and strong), and here I was watching a proud fat woman, dance and be desired, knowing that although outside the gym this is actually a normal part of life, inside the gym it was subversive.
So thank you to whoever programs those songs for sneaking in a Beth Ditto song. Please note that I’d like a whole lot less of the “women as sexual objects” and a lot more of the “everyone, regardless of who they are and what they look like can have a good time” clips for the future.