Single-sex gym time?

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?

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6 Responses to Single-sex gym time?

  1. kkrahel says:

    I don’t really have a problem with women-only hours when there are many gyms available at those same times and when the benefits are so many. I think the response that there should be men-only hours is pretty silly. It seems like the strongest argument is that if there are women-only hours at a specific time, there should be men-only hours at another gym at the same time. There are two problems with this. If one gym is women-only, there is no restriction on men going to another gym at that same time, even if women are present that gym the men don’t really lose anything (besides things like “dude-talk” whatever the fuck that would be! most “dude-talk” ends up being really sexist in my experience- but it may have changed since I haven’t engaged in “dude-talk” even when I’m only around other men in a long time). Much more importantly, if one gym is men-only and the other gym is women-only, then we have a terrible situation where you need to prove your gender in order to go work out in the gym (of course, the current situation is only better in a few ways, but at least there isn’t someone at the door checking your genitals in the current situation).

  2. pandanose says:

    Well, yeah, the feminist assumption is usually that “dude-talk” is sexist, which is why it doesn’t happen as often in mixed company.

    And, yeah, I don’t think it’s really that big an imposition to have the QRAC unavailable for quad men for such short periods of time–seems to me that Hemenway is just about as far away for them as the MAC is for frosh in Greenough.

  3. Peggy Archer says:

    Well, I for one hear a LOT of ‘dude talk’ at work and I can assure you it’s incredibly sexist, but that’s never been an issue for me at the gym, since most men seem to have better sense than to break into a chorus of taco jokes while there are actual women within earshot (I don’t count – I work with them so I get the full conversation).

    Why I’d like to have women only hours at the gym I use?

    The smell. Seriously, some of those dudes smell like a dead mule that’s been out in the sun for a couple of weeks. Nasty.

  4. pandanose says:

    Ah, the joys of being “one of the guys.” I sometimes don’t count because I’m a dyke.

    The smell is a good point, although it’s not an issue at my gym (as far as I’ve noticed–though I’ve mostly stopped using the big weight room, so I don’t know about things in there). When we had weights for crew I was always really grateful that we used the room before the football team, not the other way around…

  5. Not just the Muslim students but the observant Jews and Anabaptists would benefit as well.

  6. following your blog, great stuff!

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