Two law students at McGill, Soumia Allalou and Raymond Grafton, recently approached their university student union about creating women-only hours at McGill’s fitness center. Their proposal was met with widespread criticism, and rightly so.
In fact, an online petition opposing women-only fitness hours was created soon afterwards, and I fully support it. It’s upsetting that in a society striving for equality and inclusiveness, a public gym funded by both sexes should shun away one sex at certain times of the week. What’s further upsetting is that this problem already exists at SFU.
It’s Saturday morning and I have just met up with my best friend. We’re planning on pumping iron at SFU’s fitness center, and we arrive there at about 8:30 a.m. When we walk through the doors to the fitness center, we’re told to leave. Why? It’s women-only hours.
We’re actively trying to create a society that’s more inclusive, so it’s contradictory to create women-only hours in a university gymnasium that is funded by students of both sexes. In her proposal to McGill’s student union, Allalou tried to reason that women have less access to equipment, are “intimidated” in the weights section, and feel less comfortable in the gym environment, implying these women may be subject to harassment by men.
Firstly, men face the same difficulties obtaining dumbbells, barbells, plates, and machines. There aren’t gender rules to dictate who gets access to these things. I’ve seen plenty of men aimlessly stare at a piece of equipment only to watch it then be taken by someone who has the courage to ask the current user for a chance to use it. It’s not a gender problem, it’s an inability to speak up.
Gender-only hours advance the attitude that the two genders are radically different psychologically and physiologically.
Secondly, being intimidated in the dumbbell or weights sections merely comes with being inexperienced at the gym. I’ve also observed plenty of men who hesitate to enter the dumbbell area because they notice the flurry of activity. Again, once gym-users of any gender break out of their comfort zones, they’ll realize that everyone generously shares weights.
Finally, if you’ve been harassed in any way at the gym, then report the individual. Verbal or sexual harassment is by no means okay, but it doesn’t mean all men should be punished because a few of them have done wrong. Having worked out regularly for six years at five different gyms, I can assure everyone that men are generally polite and helpful to women in the gym.
To further explain how ridiculous women-only hours are, I’ll reference an activity that is dominated by women: yoga. It doesn’t make sense to say there needs to be a men-only yoga session because men are shy and inexperienced with yoga. And it’s not the case that women are extremely better at holding poses or more flexible in some innate way.
Women who engage in yoga are simply better at yoga because they practice yoga. To have gender-only hours advances the attitude that men and women are extremely different psychologically and physiologically.
Women can be just as strong as men. SFU should understand this, and should take note of McGill’s example in not setting women-only hours at their fitness center. Ideally, they should follow suit.