This week when deciding what different jobs to look at, I figured I should start with my own (or rather, my future job). I’m a dietetics student, and I’ve definitely noticed that most of my classes consist of women. However, all the exercise science classes I’ve taken have been overrun with men. Why is that? Nutrition and exercise go hand in hand, yet these classes are so divided. So I decided to google “nutritionist” and “fitness trainer”. These were my results:
As you can see, most of the nutritionists are women and most of the fitness trainers are men. So, I think this is more than just a thing I’ve noticed in my own classes. I asked my grandparents if these type of roles were always so divided, and they told me they couldn’t remember a time when it wasn’t. My grandfather even seemed surprised that so many women fitness/strength instructors exist. Although this kind of irritated me, I understand why he’d be surprised. He grew up and spent most of his life only knowing of male instructors – and now he’s nearly 90. That’s a lot of years of inequality to erase. On the bright side, he never doubted that women were capable of being instructors, he just wasn’t aware they were.
So I began to think about why, after so many years, my grandfather’s perspective hadn’t changed. I came to the conclusion that the nutrition/fitness relationship is trapped in an inequality regime. Joan Acker defined inequality regime as the interlocked practices and processes that result in continuing inequalities in all work organizations. Like so many different work relationships (Doctor/nurse, professor/teacher, etc.), these inequalities emerged long ago and have failed to stop despite raised awareness of them.
I could see how the inequalities might start. Historically, women have cooked all the food and told their families what to eat, so it makes sense that early nutritionist were women. For men, they have historically been expected to be masculine, strong, and protect their family, so it makes sense that early strength or fitness trainers were males. However, times have changed. No one should be confined to one role or the other simply because of their gender. Many women are strong and fit, and many men know good nutrition. That’s all that matters.
Acker, J. (2006). Inequality regimes gender, class, and race in organizations. Gender and Society, 20(4), 441.