I don’t expect this blog to be new, revolutionary information to many people. It certainly isn’t to me. I do think this blog could be a timely reminder to us all though, as it has been to me.

I was talking with a client, who I would also count as a friend, recently and they were detailing some of the frustrations they had experienced in a non-zero number of workplaces due to entrenched male dominance and bias up and down the organisations.

I sagely remarked that this was sum bullsh*t.

We lifted some more weights and I pondered aloud “Am I also patriarchy?”

My client considered their response and said, “You benefit from patriarchy, but I wouldn’t say you contribute to it. We both benefit from whiteness too.”

I like to think I am open minded, especially when it comes to self-examination. I hope that if someone points out an area I can improve or shows me a different viewpoint that I am quite welcoming of updating myself to reflect better information and understanding of the world around me and my place in it. I think to reflect the views and morals I eschew, I need to be constantly evolving into a more empathic and kind human. I still definitely believe in strength of conviction and I have been described as stubborn by many people but I think I’m constantly getting better at being genuinely open to new ways of thinking and updating my behaviour to reflect this. It’s certainly been a (much needed) journey from who I was as a teenager to who I am now.

Having said that, it is confronting, and not always for the most desirable of reasons, to be faced with the reality that some degree of who you are, and where you are comes for no other reason than your presentation as a straight, white, male. A trifecta of factors that can grease the rails to life without you even knowing it. I would struggle to name too many, if any, instances where I KNEW that I was being preferenced but in the same way that a fish in the ocean doesn’t know it’s wet because there is no other environment, it doesn’t mean I’m not existing in a privileged world.

After lifting some more weights my client said “I’ve been thinking of it like driving on a long highway with many sets of traffic lights -“

“- The Brooker.” I interjected helpfully.

“Yes, the Brooker -“

“- The Brooker sucks so much, it’s terrible.”

“It does. It’s like driving along the Brooker and every time you get to an intersection, the light is green…”

“Man, I feel so lucky when that happens, it’s a dream. It basically never does though. The Brooker sucks.”

“Exactly. But when you tick all the privilege boxes, the lights are green every time. And if the lights were always green, you wouldn’t know anything different. You’d probably wonder why it took some people so long to drive on the highway.”

“If you didn’t tick the right boxes you’d be stopping at every red light. Like what usually happens on the Brooker coz it sucks.”

“Yes, now imagine that the make and model of your car dictated whether the lights would be green or red. If you already had the luxury of driving a nice car, you’d get a smooth passage along the highway and if you had an old car because it was all you could afford, well the trip would take so much longer as well as being more dangerous in such an old car.”

I thought about this. “Mum had…has… a Volvo SUV and it has like the best safety rating in existence. She had a car crash awhile ago on a bad stretch of road and when the cops arrived they said that if she wasn’t in that car specifically, they would have been knocking on Dad’s door to report a fatality. So when the insurance money came through, Mum went and got the exact same model of car again, and now Dad has one too!”

“That’s a real life example that even a modest amount of wealth can absolutely save a life.”

“I want an EV.”

The reason I can recall that conversation quite clearly is that it made me think. I find my understanding of a concept happens a lot more easily if I can apply it via an analogy. The Brooker (which sucks) was a good analogy of privilege and that some things we take as good fortune – like Mum walking away unscathed from a potentially deadly accident – are from a much earlier good fortune of being afforded opportunities others simply are not. This is not to say that my Mum, or yours for that matter, don’t work and earn the things in their life. Quite the contrary. I’m seeing more and more how the same level of effort doesn’t have the same level of reward and that the deck is stacked long before the work even begins. It’s not a case of work smarter, or harder, it’s a case of work privileged.

We have so many different clients at the gym, but I would say perhaps more than somewhere like an F45 or a Crossfit box, we are a safe place for people to train who might have chronic injuries or conditions or other training inhibitions. These conditions or limitations can affect any and all parts of training – what exercises we can do, what intensity we can work at, the length of time to recover from sessions or injuries, inconsistent attendance and any number of other factors that don’t impact many of us.

I can also confirm, to my sincere regret, that there have been times in the past that I have thought something along the lines of, “Far out! Why can’t this person just turn up when they say they will?” Or, “Gee Whiz! This person is always getting injured (at their other activities, not at the gym!)/sick. Why can’t they get healthy so we can get a good run at it?” Even, “Holy Mackerel! This person is so flat in workouts, why can’t we get them to work harder?”

I’m not going to say that in every case that a chronic condition can excuse a poor effort in a workout. Heck, I’ve authored many rubbish workouts for myself and have nothing to blame but a strong lack of desire on a given day.

I have been thinking about this a lot though recently, mainly as a result of the car conversation I had with my client above.

I have a vision in my mind of everyone, every person, all walking along a big dirt highway. Some are talking to other people, some are bustling about going very fast. Others are meandering along, looking up at the sky or observing others but all of us are wearing a pack. You’re born, given a pack and put on the highway with everyone else.

Some people on the highway have nothing more than a pouch at their waist, or one of those super cool velcro wallets. Some even have porters running along side them, carrying their own packs in addition to their masters.

Others have packs with big open tops that are dragging along the ground, filled to the brim as the owner valiantly trudges along, each step a gargantuan effort. Oh and people are running past and chucking some of their packweight into the big open top as well.

Some people are rake thin, sitting on the ground watching everyone pass by, unable to even stand under the weight of their pack, they have to sit and waste away. You can never remove your pack. You can’t even touch it. A few people come and offer to take a little weight out but they smile and wave them on, it’s too little and too late. Most avert their gaze and walk right by.

It’s not a perfect analogy but it has helped me to stop and think when I am on the verge of wondering why someone can’t just do the thing, that maybe their pack is way heavier than mine at the moment and what they are doing is actually an amazing effort considering how much packweight they have strapped to them. That in fact if I was wearing their pack I might just collapse.

I was aware of privilege before, I think we all are. However maybe I was so unconsciously affected by it that I haven’t been able to look with empathy at those not as fortunate as me. My pack isn’t light, but it isn’t one of the heavier models. I’m committing even more to not draw conclusions, to not leap to judgement and frustration without first asking myself, what’s in that person’s pack?