The gym is an increasing site for social research, with much work identifying the importance of understanding gender construction and performance in forming policy to address inequalities in gym access, and harms within gym-going cultures. This paper draws on findings from a multi-year ethnography in rural South-West England to address a gap in the existing gym cultures literature by exploring the intersections of rurality with gender and gym cultures, examining how the masculine rural intersects with the construction of gym spaces, and the interplay between rural masculinities and gym cultures, as fitness becomes an increasingly popular activity.

Beyond examining the intersections between rurality with gym space and cultures, this paper further examines how rurality and rural masculinities are linked with harm in these cultures, particularly in relation to the reproduction of aspects of hegemonic and toxic masculinity, and the harms these have not only on women and others seeking to access these spaces, but on the men who hold these ideas themselves. This exploration further looks at how ideas of masculine identity formation, and self-stigma associated with masculine ideals within rural cultures contributes to the harms and behaviours witnessed within gym-going populations. This article aims to contribute valuable understanding to both structural issues relating to gender and the gym relevant to policy discussions regarding access and inclusivity, as well as some of the ways in which harms among gym-going populations may be addressed in a rural context.

University of Lincoln, College of Social Science Research

Luke Turnock, University of Lincoln, School of Social and Political Sciences