If there’s one thing TikTok loves, it’s a gym video.
Whether it be tips from a professional trainer or rants about people’s attire, we can’t seem to get enough of the workout world.
And yet, clips about so-called “gym creeps” are proving increasingly divisive thanks, largely, to the likes of self-styled fitness guru Joey Swoll.
Swoll, who brands himself the “CEO of gym positivity” has amassed 6.4 million TikTok followers with his commentaries on so-called gym culture.
However, a theme has started to crop up more and more on his feed: calling out women who accuse men of staring at them during their workouts.
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In one stitch which he posted over the weekend, Swoll picked apart a video posted by a Florida mum called Nora Love in which she filmed a man whom she described as a “gym creeper” for “wandering around from machine to machine, staring at girls while they were working out”.
Chiming in, Swoll asked: “So let me get this straight, you followed him around the entire time watching him, recording him, he didn’t look at you and you didn’t catch him on film actually being a gym creep and staring at another woman – and he’s the gym creep?”
His post racked up 5.8 million views and nearly a million likes in five days, as viewers flocked to defend the middle-aged man, in many cases likening him to their own fathers.
The hatred Nora received off the back of Swoll’s criticism left her fearing for her family’s safety, as she explained in a series of follow-up clips.
Defending her original video, she addressed the influencer directly, saying: “Fun fact, did you know that Orlando, Florida, is the top city for human trafficking and sexual assault and crimes against women in all of Florida? And that in a one-mile radius around my gym is one of the highest concentrations of sex offenders?”
She continued: “Do you know the man in my video personally? Do you know whether or not he was an innocent old man, someone’s grandpa? Or do you know if he was on the registered sex offender list? Do you? I don’t know this, but I do know that I was uncomfortable.”
She went on: “This is why women don’t speak out. This is why women are afraid to speak up.
“If you took one glance at my profile you would see that my platform is all about leading with love. I have never posted a video making fun of anyone ever. My intention with that video was to spread awareness and you doxxed me.”
#stitch with @thejoeyswoll #stitch with @thejoeyswoll facts are important. 1) I did not follow him anywhere. 2) he was wearing jeans and hiking boots. 3) he never did a single exercise 4) the front desk girls did not see him come in nor did they know if he had a membership. 5) this happens all time time to women every day. 6) his full face and personal info was not revealed. He was not doxxed. I was. 7) i usually work out in the classroom to have privacy for this exact reason. 8) i have NEVER posted anything making fun of anyone ever. 9) I live in one of the major human trafficking cities in the country. 10) i will always speak up. Do better Joseph. #womensafety #womenempowerment #women #womensupportingwomen #feminism #selfdefense #safety #feminist #womenempoweringwomen #nomeansno #justice #rapeculture #fightback #girlpower #womensupport #womenrespect #womensafetymatters #humantraffickingawareness #womensafetyawareness #nodoesnotmeanyes #womenandmen #stopshamingwomen #stopdoxxingpeople @jaxajueny @taylorcassidyj @kiarafox @rebmasel @.womens.rights @bagelsandshade @catiereay @thetiktokadvocatebackup
In a subsequent clip, she said: “I can respect your goal and what you're trying to do with your platform, but you got it wrong with me. I did not follow that man anywhere, I didn't have to, I was minding my own business and working out and he just kept popping up everywhere that I was.
“So I started to pay attention to what he was paying attention to and noticed that there was one particular blonde woman that he was following or around the gym. He was following her. I was in this room for 30 whole minutes and witnessed this happen more than one time from the same gentleman before I ever decided to start recording.”
She added: “Did he look like he was there to work out to you in jeans and hiking boots?”
In further follow-ups, Nora revealed that TikTok removed her original video after Swoll’s “minions” reported it for “abusive behaviour”.
Voicing her shock at the action, she again addressed Swoll, saying: “So you dox me, put my family in danger – I post my response telling the truth about that video that you posted, that I was speaking on behalf of women’s safety – and my post gets reported and taken down?”
The mum-of-three explained that she’d been forced to deactivate her social media accounts because of the torrent of abuse she’d received.
Since it got reported and taken down… #g#greenscreens#stitchith @thejoeyswoll #s#stitchith @thejoeyswoll facts are important. 1) I did not follow him anywhere. 2) he was wearing jeans and hiking boots. 3) he never did a single exercise 4) the front desk girls did not see him come in nor did they know if he had a membership. 5) this happens all time time to women every day. 6) his full face and personal info was not revealed. He was not doxxed. I was. 7) i usually work out in the classroom to have privacy for this exact reason. 8) i have NEVER posted anything making fun of anyone ever. 9) I live in one of the major human trafficking cities in the country. 10) i will always speak up. Do better Joseph. #w#womensafetyw#womenempowermentw#women#w#womensupportingwomen #f#feminisms#selfdefenses#safetyf#feministw#womenempoweringwomenn#nomeansno #j#justice#f#fightbackg#girlpowerw#womensupportw#womenrespectw#womensafetymatters#h#humantraffickingawareness#w#womensafetyawarenessn#nodoesnotmeanyesw#womenandmens#stopshamingwomens#stopdoxxingpeople@jaxajueny @taylorcassidyj @kiarafox @rebmasel @.womens.rights @bagelsandshade @catiereay @thetiktokadvocatebackup
And, indeed, she’s not the only woman who’s been forced to switch off comments or remove content as a result of Swoll’s public shaming.
Last month, Twitch streamer Jessica Fernandez issued a public apology for accusing a fellow weightlifter of being a “feral weirdo”, after Swoll condemned her to his fans.
Making a stitch of Fernandez’s original video, he told her: “[You’re] trying to make yourself out to be a victim, which you're not. There are women harassed in gyms. You're not one of them. You need to do better.”
Fernandez was hounded across social media in response, with critics publicly, and viciously, tearing her apart for “slandering” the unknown man.
In her lengthy statement, admitting her “gross mistake”, Fernandez name-checked Swoll and his “community” for giving her the “wake-up call she needed”.
But, as many commentators pointed out, she probably didn’t issue the apology because she’d been shown the error of her ways, but because she needed to do something – anything – to diffuse some of the hatred and bile she’d fallen prey to.
\u201cI will be coming out with a response to this whole gym situation in a few days. I'm sorry.\u201d— Jessica49 (@Jessica49) 1674477584
Of course, the majority of men who work out in gyms are not sexual predators, and Swoll regularly criticises male users as well as women.
Still, it isn’t hard to see how, by regularly singling out lesser-known female TikTokers to his far larger fanbase, he is setting them up for misogynistic harassment, as a number of Twitter users have pointed out:
\u201cJoey Swoll will be like \u201cI call out misogyny\u201d and will proceed to invite thousands of misogynists into his replies after devaluing the feelings of women\u201d— Ev // \u05d0\u05d1\u05d9 \u262d \u2721\ufe0e (@Ev // \u05d0\u05d1\u05d9 \u262d \u2721\ufe0e) 1675100731
\u201cI hate that Joey Swoll has made women calling out genuine instances of creepy men a joke, like we\u2019ve just taken about 60 steps backwards to the point there\u2019s even women mocking other women now. It fucking stinks\u201d— clo \ud83d\udc30\ud83e\udd0e (@clo \ud83d\udc30\ud83e\udd0e) 1675543397
\u201cJoey Swoll basically made a safe space for misogynistic men to invalidate women\u2019s experiences of being uncomfortable at the gym. I hate it here.\u201d— 444\ud83e\uddda\ud83c\udffe\u200d\u2640\ufe0f\ud83d\udda4 (@444\ud83e\uddda\ud83c\udffe\u200d\u2640\ufe0f\ud83d\udda4) 1675372069
We're all for defending innocent people, but is it right to publicly undermine how a woman feels based on a one-minute video she's put together?
Swoll's fans hail him as a defender of people's rights, his detractors point out that he has the power to leave women fearing for their safety.
Indy100 has contacted Swoll for comment.
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