So the idea of women-only gyms is hardly new. But the story that piqued my interest wasn’t about some chic city gym–it’s one of the undergrad gyms at Harvard. As of January 28th, the Quadrangle Recreational Athletic Center (QRAC) has women-only hours (six in total) three days a week. I swear I saw a “serious” piece in the Crimson about the move, but at the moment I can only find this short article from FM, the much more casual (and interesting, usually) magazine edition. (There was also a column about it yesterday by my least favorite columnist, but I refuse to link her. Surprise! She thinks it’s a bad idea. But then again, most of her columns can be loosely translated as “Feminism is icky.”)
Although the article I found doesn’t attribute the new hours to the demands or needs of a single group, it does claim the change is particularly beneficial to Muslim women, which makes sense. (Although that should really be orthodox or fundamental Muslim women, right?) And I swear that the mystery Crimson piece mentioned that the women who pushed for the hours said they’d be comfortable with instituting men-only hours as well.
Personally, I think this is great. I agree with critics that the hours in question (3-5 on Mondays, 8-10 AM on Tuesdays and Thursdays) are actually pretty peak workout times for some folks, so the timing is probably pretty inconvenient for some men. But if men-only hours were instituted at similarly peak times, that would resolve the issue, right?
Except that I’m betting I’m in the minority of people who think this is a cool idea. ZOMG! Separate and not equal! Sorry, I just don’t buy it. I know I was always much more comfortable lifting weights with my team in our designated time slot than I ever was in the weight room at the MAC, particularly because that room is right outside the men’s locker room. (They did do some construction recently, so I have no idea if that’s still true.) And I tend to go to my gym now at what I perceive to be off-peak hours, because I really don’t like working out with the gargantuan men who seem to frequent my gym. I’m sure they’re perfectly nice fellas and all, but I don’t feel like I can go at my own pace when some giant dude wants to use my machine.
I guess that the problem in discussing single-sex spaces is that we can easily come up with reasons why women would benefit from them (freedom to dress less modestly/more comfortably without subjection to the male gaze, not worrying as much about harassment or assault), but the only benefits to male-only spaces that I can really come up with are that dudes can talk like dudes, without worrying about chicks hearing them.
Am I missing something?