The XX Factor

Small Sign of Progress: A Congresswoman Is Working Out With the Guys

Tulsi Gabbard works out with men.  

Photo by Thos Robinson/Getty Images for Women’s Campaign Fund

A small sign of social progress: In a recent New York Times fluff piece about how Rep. Markwayne Mullin has created a bipartisan congressional workout club dedicated to hardcore training and muscle-building, the presence of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii is covered without comment, even though Gabbard is clearly of the lady persuasion.

This is actually a pretty big deal. Writer Ashley Parker notes how these “huffing, grunting gym rats” working out together provides a networking opportunity that could lead to more bipartisanship. One of the ongoing obstacles to getting more women in power is that so many networking opportunities subtly exclude women by being “boys club” activities, like golf outings. These kind of outings put women in a strange double bind, where if they don’t go they miss out on the networking, but if they do go, they have to worry about being treated like an oddity for their gender. (Even though plenty of women love sports, women are still subject to more scrutiny than men for having possible ulterior motives for going to sporting events.) Gabbard’s unremarkable presence in the Mullin workout group suggests that this may be changing for the better.

That the workout in question is so hardcore makes this story all the more progressive. There’s no mention of any ridiculous fear that Gabbard will “bulk up” too much, and her enthusiasm for the workout is treated exactly the same as the men’s, complete with pictures of her doing a box jump just ahead of Republican Rep. Aaron Schock. Parker’s little Styles piece about gym rat congressional critters shows how easy it is to cover female politicians without resorting to sexist tropes. More stories like this, please. 

Correction, July 7, 2014: This post originally misspelled Rep. Aaron Schock’s last name.