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Goodlife Fitness Club: The Institutional Gaze Essay

We live our lives according to norms that are created in society, but what disciplines us to make us follow and abide by those norms? The ‘Institutional Gaze’ is known as the ability for an institution to have a constant, metaphorical gaze over everyone, which leads them to be able to control peoples behaviours at all times. Institutions create sets of rules, and regulations that they make known to discipline people in order to keep them to behave within what society views as normal.

By looking closely at GoodLife Fitness club we are able to see how they utilize the institutional gaze to discipline their members into behaving within the norms associated with being a good member in a fitness facility. GoodLife Fitness is a very popular fitness club and gym which is located throughout the lower mainland. They offer facilities and equipment for all type of exercise, from a simple workout, to yoga, and a multitude of other fitness classes.

On their website, and throughout their facilities they have posted their “GoodLife Fitness Centre Club Etiquette” which is a set of club rules and regulations which they expect their members to abide by. They state that they have created this set of fitness club rules and regulations to “strive to create an environment that is safe and welcoming. Our vision is to give all Canadians the opportunity to live a fit and healthy Good Life” (Good Life Etiquette, 2014).

To achieve this vision, all members of GoodLife must behave according the norms of fitness facilities. The rules and regulations aim to discipline members to follow the fitness facility norms and behave accordingly, so they act as respectful, good members, rather than deviant users of the facility. The fitness club uses norms to judge their members as inadequate or possible “deviants”. Norms of the institution are being respectful, making safety a number one priority, care for facilities equipment, as well as being aware of and being respectful to other members.

If members of GoodLife fitness do not follow these fitness facility norms than they can be judged as deviants. If someone does not follow the norms than they are trained through the clubs rules and regulations and disciplined to conform to the norms of the institution. Deviant members of the fitness facility are identified through their inability to follow the norms that are expected of them in the fitness facility, through examination, which “combines the techniques of an observing hierarchy and those of a normalizing judgement”(Foucault, 1977).

The disciplinary gaze is “part of a hierarchy of continuous and functional surveillance geared to securing the exercise of power” (Holligan, 145) comes from the the hierarchy of GoodLife Fitness, such as the weight room supervisors and other members of the institution who are using the facility, who are examining the members behaviours. The constant hierarchical surveillance from staff at GoodLife and security cameras creates the sense of a normalizing gaze (Foucault, 1977). As there is always multiple staff walking around watching you and security cameras that you aware of. A normalizing gaze, a surveillance that makes it possible to qualify, to classify and to punish”(Foucault, 1997).

Deviant behaviours which the hierarchy is examining for includes but are not limited to grunting loudly while lifting weights, not being respectful of the equipment, leaving weights all over the facility, and disrespecting staff. When an authority figure examines that someones behaviours or actions not following the norms, they are the ones to report the deviant behaviour. After a deviant behaviour has been reported by or to an authority, a report is written up on the individual and their inadequate behaviour.

After a report has been written the member is clearly identified as acting outside the norm and are described as being deviant. GoodLife Fitness acquires first hand witnesses to the deviant behaviour as evidence. From my experience as a member at the facility I can attest that there are also security cameras in the facility which could be used to gain more physical evidence. By reviewing the footage from the security cameras they can learn more about the subject to learn about their normality/ abnormality.

Those then who saw the behaviour which was out of the norm state what they saw and it is written down in a report which then becomes physical evidence of the behaviour. The disciplinary methods to deviant behaviours are outlined on there website as they “may terminate your Membership (if applicable) and may refuse you entry into a Club or eject you from a Club if you commit a serious or repeated breach of the Rules of Membership”(2014). However, another way they discipline the deviants behaviours is through the list of rules and regulations that GoodLife Fitness has developed.

The list of etiquette rules provide the practices and procedures that the member must follow so that they conform to the norms of the fitness institution. They reform the member with imperfect behaviour so that they conform to the norms of fitness facility. Such disciplinary actions listed in the rules and regulations are, workout bags are to be kept locked in lockers and are not allowed on the workout floor, wear appropriate exercise clothing and proper athletic footwear when in a Club.

By disciplining the deviant member to follow these rules and regulations they are able to turn the deviant member of GoodLife into a docile body. A docile body being “”Bodies’ that conform to social norms, and socially desired and accepted behaviours”(Ahadi,2015). The list or rules and regulations surrounding fitness facility etiquette was developed by authorities in the institution who have expert knowledge on what the norms are. The have required this knowledge through experience in similar facilities, along with education in the areas of safety, and education in physical education.

The practices and procedures that should be followed to ensure behaviour follows the norm is administered in the form of manual and poster. Manuals are given to each member and they are required to read the rules in order to use the facility. Posters are also posted throughout the facility to remind the members of the rules and norms that must be followed while in the facility. The case of the deviant behaviour is made visible through the creation of a online file that is kept in GoodLife Fitness computers and is regularly updated and assessed.

The idea of keeping files of out of norm behaviour came from the eighteenth and nineteenth century (Tagg, 1993). According to Tagg the files of deviant behaviour should include “forms of conduct, attitudes, possibilities, suspicions: a permanent account of individuals’ behaviour”(Tagg, 1993). This file is periodically reviewed to see if the member has taken the discipline seriously and is now conforming to the norms accustomed to the fitness facilities.

To maintain the now norm behaviour that the member has successfully been disciplined to follow, he or she needs to be conscious of their actions and the disciplinary gaze. Reviewing the rules and regulations periodically to remind themselves of the norms that are accustom to the GoodLife Fitness facility, and the consequences they may face if they continue to disobey the norms of fitness facilities. My case highlights the norms a member of GoodLife Fitness or any fitness facility should abide by while participating in exercise or activities alike.

Thus, the norms are broken down into good member vs bad member. Norms that are presented and suggested through this case study are that as a member you must conduct yourself in a respectful manner, in both your attitude towards others using the fitness facility, as well as dressing in a way that is respectful to all. Also the norm of maintaining safety as a main priority at all times is presented, as it is very important to associate exercise with safety. These norms are seen as ideological through there reinforcement through GoodLife’s code of ethics which lists all of these norms and more.

People read these rules and regulations posted throughout the facility and they see other people portraying these norms which makes them ideological, as people aspire to achieve ideological norms. By looking at how GoodLife works to have its members conform to norms it is obvious to see how the disciplinary gaze operates and how they use it to their advantage. Trying to communicate normal behaviour to hundreds of people who use a single GoodLife facility everyday is not easy.

However, through utilizing the disciplinary gaze, and the procedures GoodLife uses to conform people to follow the norms, it is made possible. Also, the power structure of Good Life is made both visible and invisible. It is made visible in the sense of weight room supervisors constantly walking around the facility making sure that everyone is following the norms. It is also made visible by the rules and regulation posters placed on the walls, as people see them and are reminded that GoodLife makes the rules and has the power.

However it is also made invisible, as people never know when or where the weight room supervisor is and when they are going to be watching their behaviour or not. This makes the power invisible, although the member cannot always see the authority figure, he or she knows that the supervisor is out there and could be watching them at any second. In conclusion, GoodLife Fitness uses norms to identify deviant members through hierarchy surveillance and examination.

They aim to discipline deviant members to improve and reform their behaviour to match with the ideological norms of how one should act in a fitness club, through disciplinary methods. After being made visible by being created into a case to be monitored it is the job of the institution to monitor him/her and the member to continue to be aware of the institutional gaze that follows him. In the end, the once deviant member going against the norm, becomes a model member of the facility, portraying the ideological norms that other members should strive to uphold.

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