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HomeNewsGym creep trend: Joey Swoll accused of fuelling misogynist behaviour

Gym creep trend: Joey Swoll accused of fuelling misogynist behaviour

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A fitness influencer on a mission to stop women sharing their “uncomfortable” encounters with men at the gym is at the centre of a furious online debate after his videos left one “target” fearing for her safety.

Joey Swoll went viral for defending a man being widely slammed on social media after Jessica Fernandez, a video game and lifestyle content creator with nearly 56,000 followers on Twitch, posted a video in which she shares her frustrations at being “sexualised” when working out.

Despite stating the encounter left her feeling “extremely uncomfortable”, Ms Fernandez later apologised after her clip was shared by Mr Swoll, who offered an alternative motive for the man’s unwanted attention.

“There is a big difference between staring at somebody and simply looking or glancing at them,” he said in a clip that has been viewed almost 8 million times.

“So why did this man look at you? Well, you’re in front of him, off to the side. You’re in his peripheral. You’re also taking a video with your camera pointed directly at him, and you’re talking to yourself.

“He’s probably watching you wondering, ‘What is she doing?’ Know I would.”

As Ms Fernandez was faced with a barrage of criticism, some even labelling her an “attention seeker”, men were quick to hail Mr Swoll a “hero” and a “legend”.

“Doing Gods work bro,” one bloke even commented.

Since that video went viral last month, the fitness creator – who calls himself the CEO of gym positivity online and has 6.5 million followers – has continued to share videos shaming women who claim they’ve been left feeling “vulnerable” and “scared” by unwanted male attention while working out.

Women being harassed at the gym is not a new phenomenon. One study from 2021 found that 76 per cent of women feel uncomfortable exercising in public due to harassment, The Guardian reported.

Almost 56 per cent of women said they had faced harassment during their workouts, a survey from Run Repeat found last year.

But while data revealed 92 per cent of cases go unreported, the rise of TikTok and people recording their workouts caused the “gym creep” trend to take off.

Currently, videos with the hashtags #GymCreep and #GymWeirdo have more than 100 million views, the BBC reported.

The hashtag #weirdguysatthegym has already amassed over 18.8 million views.

For the most part, these videos show women recording their workouts, and in the process capturing the moments in which men begin to harass or bother them.

Of course, it doesn’t happen exclusively to women, but research from the University of Queensland shows females are often the primary victims of unwanted sexual attention.

As a result, Mr Swoll’s mission has been accused of fuelling a misogynistic rhetoric.

To be clear, the influencer also shares videos calling out male behaviour in the gym.

One example of this is Mr Swoll’s take-down of a man recording his “gains” in a male changing room as an unsuspecting guy got undressed behind him. Another sees Mr Swoll label a man mocking another guy’s running style “disgusting”.

This is a point he makes on Twitter in response to an Insider article that mentioned some were “worried” his content “fuelled misogyny”.

“I’ve done an equal amount of videos on men and women because gender has nothing to do with it. I have no agenda other than making the gym a safer place for EVERYONE. Period,” he wrote in a lengthy post on February 9.

“There have been some who have taken it upon themselves to take my words of positivity and create situations of harassment, misogyny, body shaming, or any other version of spreading hate.

“To those people I say, with every fibre of my heart – “DO BETTER.”

However women, who studies show have long been “blamed” for being sexually harassed, argue Mr Swoll’s community is incredibly “dangerous”.

“Joey Swoll basically made a safe space for misogynistic men to invalidate women’s experiences of being uncomfortable at the gym,” one woman wrote on Twitter.

“OMG I can’t stand Joey Swoll that man has done irreparable damage to the reality and plight of women facing misogyny in public spaces,” another said.

As someone else said: “Whether he likes it or not, that Joey Swoll dude is definitely contributing to the amount of misogyny women in gyms are subjected to lately.”

Indeed, since the popularity of Mr Swoll’s videos has soared, many more men have begun sharing their opinions on the gym creep trend.

One man argued on YouTube men were naturally going to look at women, instead suggesting those who felt victimised should reconsider “what you’re wearing” in order to stop the harassment.

Another claimed women were “specifically filming for attention”, adding women wearing figure-hugging tights were “ridiculous” for thinking guys wouldn’t look at them.

This argument has long been problematic and has a long history of being used against female victims of sexual assault.

As journalist Mikki Kendall wrote in a piece for the Washington Post titled, Why dress codes can’t stop sexual assault in 2016, it is a myth that has been “throughly debunked”.

“It’s a common argument that invariably boils down to the same nonsense: If the victims were different, they wouldn’t have been victimised,” she said.

“It’s a comforting myth, guaranteed to make it easy to pretend that sexual assault is something that only happens to people who make bad choices.

“It’s also a myth that has been thoroughly debunked by the Justice Department, RAINN and many other organisations.”

She also referenced a study that shows women with passive personalities, who tend to dress in layers, long pants and sleeves and high necklines, are actually more likely to be raped.

“The cultural assumption that rape is something that can be prevented by behaving a certain way has never been extended to include male victims,” she added.

Of course, no women sharing their gym creep experiences recently have publicly stated the encounters have led to violent crimes of any nature against them, but it’s not a huge leap to make.

A US woman hit headlines after she was sexually assaulted while taking a shower at her gym, the New York Post reported in 2022.

Not to mention the disturbing number of women who are murdered while out running.

One of the women in Mr Swoll’s videos, Nora Love, has already shared her safety fears after he clapped back at her “gym creeper” video, a report by Indy 100 stated.

A supporter of Mr Swoll argued he shouldn’t be “held accountable for how other people misconstrue his intentions”.

But as one commenter pointed out, “undermining” how a woman feels invalidates a long-running female issue of safety in a public space.

Another said it “isn’t hard to see” that singling females to his large fanbase is “setting them up for misogynistic harassment”.

Mr Swoll has reportedly refused to comment further when approached by a number of US publications.

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