So whenever I check my referrals I notice I get at least one or two searches a day for Curves Gym, which I mentioned in this entry about a year ago. I didn’t join Curves for various reasons–the hours weren’t great and neither were the membership fees; the fact that it was in a storefront was unsettling to me. All kinds of bad theater, fringe religions, and pyramid scheme recruitments have happened in storefronts, and my impression was that Curves was just a little bit like all three of those. Mostly, though, it just looked kind of boring. It wasn’t for me, I thought, but I could have been making excuses, too.
But a lot of you wrote me and said Curves is a good place. From what I’ve heard, it is okay–in fact in a lot of ways, it’s great. I can’t possibly hate the concept: Curves loves the fat chicks, and our moms, and the whole sedentary sisterhood of North America; Curves wants us to be comfortable; Curves wants us all to work it because Curves knows we can! I’m being a little hammy here, I know, but hell, I’m all for it. Curves seemed to have the same philosophy I did in a different flavor–more flowery, maybe, and with a hint of Jesus, but close enough.
I don’t want to think any less of those values now, even as I read online and in Bitch magazine about how Curves entrepreneur Gary Heavin is an anti-choice activist. I mean, the guy funds “crisis pregnancy centers” with money from the Curves franchises. He’s “stepped up to the plate in a big way” by rounding up five million dollars to bring down Planned Parenthood in Texas. (And it seems like at one point in his life he was way too into the belief that God provides for unwanted children, because he sure as hell didn’t feel like paying child support.)
So, yeah, I think this guy is a total shitpig, but to be fair, there are other pro-life dickheads and companies out there. I get that some tool is always going to be backing up truckloads of money to the front doors of organizations who lie to women about their health care and say 9/11 is God’s punishment to our country and other really fucking endearing things. What I don’t get is the idea that this anti-choice bullshit is somehow an acceptable tradeoff for a goddamn gym.
No, really, think about it: A GYM. A gym that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. For fuck’s sake, it’s not even a fully equipped gym. Part of your membership fee goes to buy cuddly fetus puppets or some crap and you don’t even get showers? If my sweat pays for DVDs of The Silent Scream you can motherfucking bet I want towel service.
For those of you who are against abortion, this is not about arguing with you. This is also not about making anyone feel guilty about going to Curves, whatever your position. By the same token, I don’t think anyone should get off saying that Curves is just a cheesy gym for housewives and they’d never go there anyway. Instead we need to think about how nearly 200 of these places are opening a month and what that means in a country where it’s getting increasingly, depressingly common for a woman to have to drive for hours to get to a family planning clinic. If you find this stuff distasteful, can you really say “But Curves is empowering,” and have it be completely all right? The whole woman-friendly, fat-friendly, make-me-feel-like-a-natural-woman happy environment in Curves is a great idea, but I don’t know if that makes it a feminist phenomenon. Mostly it sounds like swell marketing to me.
If you go to Curves, I understand you had good reasons for joining; if you aren’t crazy about where your money ultimately goes, I honestly don’t know what you should do. I just don’t think the benefits of Curves in any way balance out what’s happening in places like Texas.
I mean, what the hell is worse: feeling all pudgy and intimidated at a Bally’s, or being poor and at the mercy of some nutty CPC clinic staff who will make you wait a fucking month before they tell you that you’re pregnant and, oops, sorry, you’re in your second trimester? Like I can’t stand Step Aerobics classes, but at least I know Suzanne the instructor won’t call me a fornicator and keep me from getting the Pill.
Do you get how I think there’s a little fucking disparity here?
This is sort of about abortion rights but it’s about other things, too. I’m getting a little tired of bicep curls passing for women’s power. I’m glad so many of you believe in your health and I’m glad that you feel good about yourselves. I’m glad that you know the feeling of taking control of your own bodies. It’s a great feeling, but consider who you’re paying to feel that. Maybe we should all be doing more to offset that very great cost.
(p.s.: I couldn’t find a way to fit in a link to the March for Women’s Lives that happened in D.C. weekend, but I thought I’d mention it, in the spirit of doing things.)