An Open Letter, Effed-Up Shit, Warning: Strident Feminism Ahead

Hey, gym? How long would it take you to redecorate if you hung a dick pic and a single bodybuilder complained?

This is an actual email I had to send to my gym. I don’t want to be driven back into the grasping arms of New York Sports Club or, god forbid, Crunch, but I will if it means I get to lift weights without having to stare at porn.

Also: AAARGH.

Hello,

I’m a new member of BaseNJ, and have been enjoying the facility a great deal — it’s a beautiful space, and staff are friendly and helpful. I was glad to find a gym that felt so welcoming in my neighborhood.

I was saddened to walk in this afternoon and see the artwork now being displayed throughout the gym. Several of the pieces are not only degrading (partially-dressed woman on all fours, next to bowl of spilled milk), but advocate violence toward woman (partially-dressed, unconscious woman bound and carried by a grinning, bloodied man).

These images are violent, demeaning, and pornographic and create a space in which women feel objectified and threatened. To be confronted with this in a place where we come to seek health and strength is doubly insulting. What’s the message you’re trying to send? While working out in the main group fitness room today, my main thought was that if becoming healthy and fit makes me more attractive to predatory men like the one displayed in that space, I’d rather stay home.

This is to say nothing of the fact that some of the problematic pieces are within full view of the path to the child-care room — what parent wants to walk their child past these images? — and that your many female employees must deal with these images in their workplace. A Playboy calendar hanging openly in an office creates a hostile work environment for women; these paintings are no different. It’s laudable that you want to support a local artist, but to display these images in this environment shows a lack of judgement.

I note that it is only women who must exercise and work in a space where they’re forced to look at degrading images of themselves; the men using the facility deal with no such thing.

I really like Base and would like to remain a member, but this artwork makes it very difficult to justify. I cannot believe I am the only person who finds this problematic, and hope this is one of many complains you will receive.

Best,
Michelle

Gross.

Standard

15 thoughts on “Hey, gym? How long would it take you to redecorate if you hung a dick pic and a single bodybuilder complained?

  1. Although some people might enjoy that type of art, a public place such as a gym with a mixed crowd is not the place. I would expect that type of art at an S&M club or a strip club. I hope they take your email seriously and that you are not the only one to reach out to them about it.

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  2. Wow, great letter. What you’re describing sounds entirely inappropriate for any public space, much less a gym. What’s even more scary is that the people who put those images up probably see nothing wrong with them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow. If it’s ok to hang crap like that on the walls I wonder what the talk around the water cooler is like. Good for you for speaking up. I hope to hear the response.

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  4. Update:

    After an initial response, the issues with which I will not pick apart now:

    I received your e-mail regarding the art on display. Please know our only intention was to support the Jersey City art community and hopefully let our members enjoy another layer to the club. We and the artist certainly did not want to offend anyone. We will be doing a new installation every month and I will certainly be more sensitive to the content and will discuss with the curator on her selections.

    I got a more promising follow-up:

    I pulled some down today.

    This afternoon’s workout will reveal which images got the axe.

    Liked by 8 people

  5. Dear Michelle W; Thank you for your note. BaseNJ is not only a gym but we’re also a Club. A Club which exists for human interaction, with a purpose to inspire & educate the body, mind and spirit. We pride ourselves on being part of a wonderful community. We enjoy adding to lifestyle experiences and support the many different cultural aspects of our diverse community. That said, we are a proud partner of Jersey City and we do support local artists. Art, as you know is subjective and is intended to be interpreted “in the eyes of the beholder”. Our intent is never to offend our members and we are sincerely sorry about how you feel. We do however, support these two artists but we will be more sensitive in the future as to the works we select through our local talent, while continuing our enrichment program for our future cultural art shows. Thank you for bringing up this point and awareness of toning it down, as we continue to provide our members with wonderful, enriching events. Please feel free to contact me directly. Best, Melissa Vail melissavail@aol.com

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    • I appreciate that you took the time to respond and that some of the more problematic pieces have been removed, and thank Base for acknowledging the issue and making those changes.

      In response to the above, I would respectfully make three points:

      1. I am part of the Jersey City artist community, as a writer who has lived downtown for 13 years.

      2. My sensitivity is not the issue here, and I imagine Base has members who are sexual assault survivors who are even more “sensitive” than I.

      3. There is a marked difference between an art installation in a gallery or museum, which I can opt not to view if it’s objectionable to me, and art displayed in a way that makes my viewing compulsory. My choices are (1) view it or (2) avoid using a service I have paid to use. Neither seems fair.

      That’s the end of it for me. Again, I appreciate the responses and removal of the most violent piece.

      Liked by 10 people

  6. WOW! Even tho’ I am a personal trainer I don’t use gym and fitness facilities, for exactly these kind of reasons. When the weather closes in I may be forced to use a sports hall or someones living room, but most of my training is done in nature.

    It’s good that they are taking some of those pictures down, and I understand them wanting to support local art, but really!

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  7. I’m so glad that there is a change in your gym after your letter. This shows the power of words and using words the right way. I am very glad.

    If I ever went to a gym, I would not go to a facility such as that. In my opinion just as yourself, there is a place for where different types of art should be displayed.

    Shouldn’t a gym be displaying art that is neutral and not offensive to anyone (man/woman, single/taken, young/old).

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  8. I especially appreciate your point about kids being exposed to these images. It reminds me of the time I was flying with my son who was 4 at the time and one of the in-flight channels featured a music video with multiple women in cut-off shorts and tiny tops dancing suggestively with whatever pop star it was. It wasn’t any different than eighty bazillion other music videos out there but it was so gross to me that there was no way for me to keep my son from watching it. There were at least eight screens within our view, and that was playing on four of them. I spent the whole trip composing an irate letter in my head…but I never actually wrote it. Thanks for writing, acting, and sharing here.

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  9. Update to the update: today’s gym visit revealed that a naked woman right next to the front door has been removed, as has another rape-y image (featuring the same creepy guy!) that I hadn’t discovered until after I sent the original email.

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