Meet the Buff Cats club: promoting inclusivity in the weight room

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Photo Courtesy of Sami Rosenberg

Senior club president Sophia Ikeda helps junior Ciella Koe Bi with a lift during a club workout. WJ’s Buff Cats club’s goal is to encourage girls of all weight lifting experience levels to join.

It’s the first week of school, and senior Sophia Ikeda left the locker room and made her way into the weight room for her weight training class. While standing outside of the weight room, waiting for the teacher to arrive to start the class, she looks around and sees that out of the 30 people in the class, she was the only girl.

Feeling intimidated and uncomfortable in her male-dominated class, she couldn’t enjoy an activity she loved so much.

A few months later, in search of a more diverse weightlifting environment, she joined the Fitness and Body Positivity Club, only to find that although there were other girls there, it was still predominantly male.

“I was incredibly disappointed to see the lack of women in the weight room. I could understand why but it was still very upsetting. It was also upsetting that there were no separate classes. I feel like if that was an option, more girls would be interested in weight lifting,” Ikeda said.

The male-dominated environment quickly became uncomfortable for her and some of her other friends who had similar feelings about working out around men.

Her love for lifting and desire for much-needed inclusivity in the weight room led her to form her own club, the Buff Cats Club. It’s a weightlifting club specifically targeted toward women.

“[Buff Cats] is a weight lifting club for women to feel comfortable in the gym but really for anybody that feels uncomfortable in the gym just because the other weight lifting club at WJ is completely male dominated so we just try to create a safe space for people who want to get stronger, to learn, even if they haven’t lifted at all,” treasurer sophomore Lydia Stelnyk said.

The Buff Cats club meets every Tuesday in the weight room. In each meeting, they have different workouts on the whiteboard, including stretching and lifting. Occasionally, they have challenges where members can win prizes.

Both the leaders and members have noticed a difference in the weightlifting experience in an all-female environment.

In a class or gym with all men, Ikeda recalls getting unwanted attention which she feels is why many women don’t feel comfortable and prompted her to start the club.

It’s why a lot of girls don’t like weightlifting classes or going to the gym because boys feel powerful in the atmosphere and they tend to sexualize and objectify women’s bodies. They also belittle women for not being able to lift heavy, and women may feel intimidated by that.”

— Ikeda

Along with the attention, some women have had experiences with sexism in the weight room.

“When they try to give you advice it seems like hidden misogyny because they think you don’t know what you’re doing because you’re a girl so they try and give you tips but sometimes they don’t know anything either,” vice president senior Ida London said.

Buff Cats strives to create a judgment-free environment for women interested in weightlifting and exercise and is accepting of anyone interested.

“Even if you’re not an athlete, anybody can lift, especially for people who don’t like working out. I don’t like cardio, but it doesn’t have to be cardio. If you don’t like working out, you might just not like running and lifting is a great opportunity,” Stelnyk said.

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