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Friday March 15th, 2013
SWOLE PRIDE: BODY BUILDERS FIGHT BACK AGAINST HARASSMENT



Every week, nearly two dozen body builders huddle together inside Kyoto Night lounge hours before the club opens to the public. Kyoto's owner, Tom Range, has offered his club as a sanctuary to these well built men. "Everyone thinks that only women are objectified," says Tom. "But the truth is, body builders are increasingly on the receiving end of aggressive sexual harassment, as well as plain old regular harassment. As a body builder myself, I've been victimized repeatedly because of how I look. It's unacceptable."

Fed up with being treated like a second class citizen, Tom wrote a manifesto on his blog that called for a new social movement dedicated to defending body builders from harassment. "After I published my manifesto, I was flooded with positive feedback. Body builders from around Montreal started reaching out to me, sharing their own stories of victimization and humiliation."

John Edwards is a 6'2, 275 lbs mass of muscles. "I work very hard to look this good," says John. "That doesn't mean that my body is an open party that everyone can grab or touch. But when I go out dancing, that's what happens. Women just come up to me and start fondling my muscles, like I'm public property. Well I'm not. I'm private property. I own my muscles. They're not yours. Don't touch them without my permission."

John was one of the first people to contact Tom after he published his manifesto. "Tom's manifesto resonated with me. I told him that we needed to get organized, to band together and tell people it's not okay to harass body builders."

At the duo's first meeting, ten body builders showed up -- and they came up with a name for their movement. "We're Swole Pride," says Lance Langier. Among body builders, swole is slang for well built. "Big is beautiful, and we aren't going to apologize for our muscles. We're not going to take crap from people who disrespect us for working out and eating healthy diets. We're letting the world know that it's okay to be a body builder."

Darren Rose, owner of Montreal's Iron Temple gym, says that the swole rights movement is misguided. "Body builders do have to put up with some pretty stupid behavior," says Darren. "If you're the biggest guy in the room, a lot of insecure men who feel like they have to prove themselves will try to provoke you and start fights with you. And yes, women do often come up to you to ask if they can touch your muscles, which is weird. It'd be like if men went up to random girls and asked them if they could feel up their breasts. It's inappropriate. And the worst is when they don't even ask, they just grab you. It's jarring when that happens. However, in the grand scheme of things, I don't think that body builders are oppressed. I think we just live in a society that encourages its members to dehumanize everyone, full stop. And if body builders want people to stop treating them poorly, they need to help build a society where we all start treating each other with respect."

Tom doesn't disagree. "Darren has a point, we do live in a society where respect and civility are in short supply. And that's something that I'll talk about at the next Swole Pride meeting, for sure. However, for now, I just want to create a safe space where body builders can share their stories of harassment with each other."
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