Breaking gender barriers

“Its unusual being the only girl [in weights]”

Aria Jain, asst. sports editor

Surrounded by racks, dumbbells, and different lifting equipment, junior Abby Muir breathes in the sweat-permeated air of South’s weight room. Currently enrolled in Weights II, Muir was initially drawn to the class after finding a passion for lifting during her freshman year.

However, Muir feels that her gender singles her out in her class, primarily made up of males. Yet, she does not let being one of the only girls hold her back from taking the class, as she truly enjoys lifting.

“I love the feeling of accomplishment you get when you beat your record and see the gradual improvement over time,” Muir said. “It’s also something I know I’m good at and enjoy doing, so I thought it seemed like the most fitting class to take.”

Despite Muir’s praise for lifting, she wishes that more girls would enroll in the Weights program at South. Muir credits the extreme disproportion of boys to girls in Weights classes as one of the main detriments to girls enrolling. She believes this is a root cause of the stereotypes some girls experience when taking Weights courses.

“I think that taking weights as a girl definitely comes with stereotypes,” Muir said. “Weights is a boys class [that] tends to steer girls away from it. Also, it’s often believed that girls can’t lift as much and people are usually very shocked when girls lift heavy weights.”

Senior Sarah John echoed the sentiments of Muir, being one of the only girls in her Weights II class who came in person during hybrid learning. Spending most of her time alone during the class, John said she sometimes felt out of place, but motivated her to always try her best.

“I liked lifting with my [lacrosse] team, but it’s definitely different when you are lifting with your team that you’re comfortable with than boys in your [Weights] class that you don’t know,” John said. “While it was unusual being the only girl, it was a good motivator to try my best everyday.”

John believes that being surrounded by people you are unfamiliar with, especially when isolated to your own rack, can create a divided environment.

“There weren’t many people that came in person so [almost] everyone had their own rack,” John said. “I can’t speak on the behalf of all girls but it made it kind of intimidating.”

However, John and Muir both give credit to the positive environment that the Weights teachers create towards females in the class. Josh Stanton, physical education teacher, said that a sense of belonging is fostered by the Physical Education Department.

“The physical education department at GBS believes that all students are capable of success within PE no matter their gender,” Stanton said. “With that being said, every teacher strives to create a classroom environment and culture that is nurturing, inclusive, and safe for every single student.”

Weights classes have seen an increase in enrollment by both female and male students, Stanton also said. The increasing class enrollment has required certain adjustments, Stanton said.

“[With the increased number of students] we have also increased the number of female teachers instructing both Weights I and II classes to better serve the diverse needs of all our students,” Stanton said.

Muir says that her physical education teacher does a great job of making everyone in the class, especially the girls, feel comfortable. In fact, in her class, she personally says she does not experience any stereotypes as only one of the two girls.

“During class, sometimes we talk to our teacher about our weekend and other things we’ve been doing and it just makes being there more fun and less isolating,” Muir said.

Muir hopes that her positive experience with the Weights program at South will encourage other girls who are hesitant about enrolling to sign up. Though she admits there is a male dominance  throughout the program, Muir said she never felt alone and and the class teaches you a lot about determination and mental fortitude.

“It’s a super fun class and you get to see your personal growth throughout the year,” Muir said. “It’s very rewarding and a great way to grow new bonds with those around you.”

Muir shares that while it is easy to let the stereotype of being a girl in weights scare you away from enrolling in the class, trying something new and venturing out of your comfort zone can be a great experience.

“If you’re hesitant to sign up, just do it,” Muir said. “It’s very easy to let the stereotype of being the only girl take over, but it’s only a stereotype.”