backstroke, body image, breaststroke, bullying, communities, conflict resolution, confrontation, doggedness, epithet, exercise, family, fast lane, fat prejudice, fearlessness, freestyle, friends, gain fitness, health, healthy-living, insult, intermediate lane, lap lanes, lifeguard, responsibility, slow lane, stubbornness, weight loss, YMCA
I want to thank each and every one of you who commented, retweeted, reblogged, shared on Facebook, and responded privately. I have never had this kind of a response to one of my blogposts. I will reply to each comment you posted.
I have touched a sensitive nerve among women (and men) of size, and all the people who love us.
I so appreciate the outpouring of love, support and concern. I want to reassure you that there is NOTHING and NO ONE that will stop me from exercising my membership rights at the Flushing Y.
I pay, therefore I swim; end of story.
As I said I would, on Sunday night, as soon as I posted Are You Prejudiced, I forwarded my post to the Flushing Y’s Executive Director, Coordinator of Membership & Communications, Senior Director of Membership/Healthy Lifestyles, and Coordinator of Aquatics.
This is the note I attached to the forward:
My Bad Experience at the Flushing Y Today
Dear Mr. Nelson, Ms. Martell, Mr. Stabenfeldt, and Mr. Garcia,
Attached below is a blogpost I wrote and posted about an incident that happened to me at the Flushing Y this morning.
I want to reassure you that your staff was very sympathetic and kind to me. The lifeguard I referenced in my post, Opal, acted in the only way she felt she could. I spoke with Blair later, on my way out of the pool, and she assured me that the behavior I experienced would not be tolerated under her watch. Luisa, at Member Services, was kind enough to give me Mr. Stabenfeldt’s and Mr. Garcia’s email addresses when I told her what happened to me.
My question to you, after you read my post below, is this:
Is the Flushing Y a “safe” environment (emotionally, socially, culturally) for an overweight person to go to lose weight and gain fitness?
If you contend that it is, how will you handle experiences like the one I had today in the future?
Thank you for your time. I would appreciate a response.
~Claudia Karabaic Sargent
On Monday afternoon, Mr. Stabenfeldt left a voice mail on my cell, expressing concern and offering to meet with me. I called him on Tuesday morning and arranged to see him before the mid-day adult open swim session.
I brought a legal pad and my swim fins, along with my usual swimming accoutrements. (The swim fins were for my twice-a-week drills; the legal pad was for meeting notes.)
I was very encouraged by our meeting. Mr. Stabenfeldt reassured me that there is, in fact, an official Code of Conduct that specifies that violations in the form of the use of derogatory language and/or the use of threatening gestures may result in suspension or termination of membership. This Code of Conduct is currently posted only in the Fitness Center. I asked why that was; he said they had just finished re-branding all the Y’s materials and were in the process of posting the new materials.
I said that the Code of Conduct should be translated into Spanish, Korean, and Chinese (at minimum– this is the most ethnically diverse county in the USA, after all) and posted in all public areas, including at both the large and small pools and in every locker room and public area.
Mr. Stabenfeldt printed out a copy for me; I scanned it and am posting it here for the record. So far, I have been unable to find it anywhere on the Flushing Y’s newly redesigned website, but it may be caught up in the rebranding.
I will follow up if this Code of Conduct is not posted in the public areas within the week. I think it’s an important document for both members and staff to be able to point to in a discussion about civility and (in)appropriate behaviors.
He told me that they have a Manager-On-Duty (M.O.D.) system in place; that means there is an executive-level manager on site at all times. He said that if something like what happened to me ever happened again, I should ask for that person immediately.
I said that information should be posted as well. Members should be aware that there is a higher level of recourse if they are not getting the response they need from the first level of staff.
I asked why the young lifeguard never gave me the option to speak to the M.O.D.
He confirmed my thought that she was new; she had only ever worked with the kids’ swim teams on weekday afternoons. Sunday was her first adult open swim. He and her supervisor were taking the opportunity my incident presented to reinforce training with all of their staff.
He apologized for what happened to me and reassured me that the kind of behavior to which I was subjected was not and would not be tolerated.
I thanked him, and the Membership Coordinator who briefly joined us, and left his office to go up to the locker rooms.
I changed and then went down to the large pool, and swam for ninety minutes (1/2 hour breaststroke laps, 45 minutes of freestyle stroke and butterfly kick drills with swim fins, 15 minutes mixed stroke laps).
There were no bullies in sight.
If any should come along and try to mess with me again, you know I’ll deal with them. Not just for myself, but for every one of you who was ever bullied out of a physical activity you truly loved.
We have rights, too, and we should NEVER be afraid to exercise them.
Happy Independence Day!
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