IWD Post – Sasha Akavikis

(Sasha Akavicis, Student Advisor and Elected Member)

In this mini-series of posts, the women of the clinic discuss the theme of ‘Break the Bias’, what this means to them, what International Women’s Day means to them, and experience they have that resonates with this year’s theme.

From a young age I was involved in competitive Gymnastics, during my time in the sport I was pretty sheltered from any gender biases as Gymnastics is largely dominated by female athletes. I feel being surrounded by such talented, confidence women from a young age has shaped the person I am today. As a result of being involved in the sport I developed confidence in myself, and my abilities and I have learned to always have faith in myself because if I don’t believe in myself then who will.

However, I feel this environment somewhat shielded me from the gender bias that still exists in sport, and it wasn’t until I left the Gymnastics world that for the first time, I was exposed to this.

Upon starting University, I felt overwhelmed and lost without a hobby to distract me from the stresses of course work and to give me something to do which I enjoyed in my free time, this was also the first time since quitting Gymnastics that I felt lost without the constant training and competitions. I decided to join a gym, mainly with the intention of getting fit and staying healthy alongside my studies. This helped me to work out a good work life balance as I always make sure I’ve planned and completed my university work in enough time each day to ensure I make time for working out. However, as I got more involved in the gym and began taking it more seriously, I began to experience for the first-time gender biases that still exist within sport.

I decided to move out of my comfort zone and move from the cardio section of the gym to the weights section, and I loved it, I felt so motivated and confident, and could not wait to progress and work towards my goals. However, when I started telling people about my decision to take weight training more seriously, I was taken aback by the comments I received. I can’t count the number of times I was told ‘why do you want to do that, you’re a woman, that’s for men’ or ‘why do you want to do that you’ll look too bulky like a man’. This infuriated me, there is nothing wrong with women lifting weights and training hard in the gym, it takes a lot of motivation, drive, and effort to consistently put in the training that is required. I have met some of the most strong, confident, and inspiring women through training at the gym and I feel so many young women may be put off lifting weights as to ‘not look bulky’ or ‘manly’. Part of me felt like maybe they were right, maybe this type of exercise wasn’t for me, after all I had been a gymnast for so long, maybe I would find something more suited to me to keep me busy alongside university. Unsurprisingly, these thoughts never lasted long, I love being in the gym, the confidence and motivation working out gives me is not something I was ready to give up over some sexist remarks from ignorant individuals.

So, I kept turning up. I kept working out. I kept pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I pushed past the biases and kept doing what I loved for me because at the end of the day that’s all that matters. Now, 5 months or so later of consistent training I can lift 1.5x my bodyweight which I never thought I’d be able to do, and it makes me extremely proud of myself to know that I pushed past biases and persevered to do what was best for myself, when I could easily have given up and let ‘the men do the lifting’.

I cannot wait for the next weeks, months, years to see my progress and hopefully I will be able to continue to ‘break the bias’ within not only a fitness setting but more widely in my everyday life.

By Sasha Akavicis, Student Advisor and Elected Member

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