Satire | Dear gym bros, are you guys okay?

By Paige Wasserman, Senior Staff Columnist

If you’re familiar with my byline, you know that I am chronically online. And in my most recent perusal of the digital hellscape that is TikTok, I encountered a Tok that made me Tik, if you will.

For the subsect of our readership that cannot access the TikTok, the video features a shapely young gentleman on a rowing machine. The text over his body reads, “Don’t bother bro she’s (sic) talking to a guy who can’t even bench a plate and cries when his flavoured air runs out. At least you look aesthetic and have functioning lungs.” 

I tumbled further down the rabbit hole and found several other content creators who use the same formula — a muscular young man lamenting over a woman’s rejection and exacting his revenge by getting buff. Perhaps he intends to motivate similarly scorned lunkheads to return to the fortress of swole-itude and bulk up for the ladies. 

If these videos accurately speak to the gym bro culture, then my dear, sweet steel-slinging studmuffins — you, sirs, have lost the plot. Your mindsets demonstrate a breed of manhood that refuses to truly understand women, much to its own detriment.

To preface — working out is great. If you want to have a muscular or toned physique, don’t get crazy and start eating unseasoned boiled chicken, because that can spiral into an eating disorder, but definitely go to the gym! I work out 4-6 times a week. It’s a huge part of my treatment plan for depression. I am very pro-exercise and pro-gym, just not pro-toxic-gym bro. 

What troubles me about the gym bro philosophy is the way they’ve framed working out. It’s always, “I’m heartbroken and no women want me, so I’m going to get absolutely jacked and make the gym my entire life. Then, I will be the paragon of heterosexual female desire.”

Take this video, for example. Our muscle man is back with morose ambient music, supplemented by text that reads, “The real me died years ago but nobody noticed because there was no blood.” The caption — #paintok #sadtok #relatable #fyp #foryou. 

Uhhh, shouldn’t working out make you happy?

I scrolled a little further and found our boy deadlifting with text reading, “Boys, pretend it’s a girls comment section..” And since I’m a glutton for punishment, I explored the comments section which featured remarks such as“Slaaaaay!” and “Yasss queeeen (I can’t drive).” 

Mr. Muscles created a space for his following –– which is ostensibly composed of other lovelorn lifters –– to clown on women. Even though it’s casual misogyny, it’s still misogyny. And I’m not loving the allusion to the tired “women can’t drive” bit.

It is also rather illuminating that these commenters’ knee-jerk reactions to female friendship is to laugh at it, as if the feminine tendency to support your friends is somehow low-brow and worthy of ridicule. 

Maybe poking fun at women is all in good fun, but these shallow digs at womanhood, coupled with the content creator’s active instigation of mockery –– reeks of misogyny. Here’s a real question for the boyz — do you even like women? Because if you don’t, maybe start playing for the other team.

It’s almost like they never talk to women and don’t bother to get to know them. Oh wait! They don’t, and they haven’t! Take this TikTok, for example. The text in the video reads, “It really went from ‘bro your killing it at the gym..’ (sic) to… ‘You don’t hang out with me anymore’ ‘You’ve changed’ ‘Ofc your not coming to the party’ ‘All you do is gym.’”

And the cherry on top? This TikTok, which reads, “Dating a gymrat is honestly like an, investment (sic) cause the longer you date them the hotter they get.”

I’ve used so many (sic)s in this article you’d think I have a stomach bug. Our gym bro can’t properly use commas or differentiate between “your” and “you’re” –– he’s also wildly unhappy, he hates women and he refuses to socialize outside of the gym. But he still thinks he’s the catch of the day because his big muscles are sexy?

All this tells me is that men of this subculture are the architects of their own destruction because they don’t care to understand the women in their lives nor any fundamental aspects of womanhood. When comedian Nikki Glaser was on Conan, she explained how multiple studies have shown that heterosexual men and women both desire a sense of humor in a partner, but for men and women, respectively, “sense of humor” has two different definitions. For men, it’s a woman who laughs at his jokes, and for women, it’s a man who is funny.

I find this to be a microcosm of a deeper issue within men. They want women to listen to them, but listening back is an afterthought. They don’t consider women’s desires, dreams, hopes, likes or dislikes, because they simply don’t care. The facts tell us that women want kindness, intelligence and values that align with their own. This article, titled “A study of 68,000 people has determined what women really look for in a partner, and it’s not money or a muscular body,” literally spells it out for the gym bros. It also details that only 22.3% of women have deemed an attractive body “very important.”

Our gym bros have paid attention to their own male gaze, which objectifies and reduces women to eye candy. They apply the male gaze to themselves as well, believing that since they themselves only look for an impeccable physique in women, women look for the same thing in men. But that’s not true! The female gaze –– which, mind you, is a concept that is still developing –– admires a man who is vulnerable and genuine. So, on a dating app, for instance, a shirtless mirror pic won’t win a woman over –– in fact, that might even be grounds for a swipe left, as it suggests vanity and shallowness. On the other hand, if you’re holding a puppy, laughing or smiling, that, fellas, is a sight for sore female eyes.

I’m not telling the gym bros to put down the weights forever. I just want them to understand that they’re desperately pursuing a standard of desirability that men admire in other men rather than a standard of desirability that women have set. In doing so, they’re sealing a fate of dissatisfaction and bitterness. Instead, they could benefit from getting to know the women around them. Women don’t just say “yaaaas queen.” They’re actually pretty cool, and they CAN drive.

Paige Wasserman (she/her) writes about the arts, pop culture, campus culture and things that make her want to scream. You can reach her at [email protected].