Check out this little gem by Crimson editorial cartoonist Samuel L. Clemens:
(h/t to Future Feminist Librarian-Activist for saving the cartoon in time–apparently The Crimson doesn’t archive its cartoons.)
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?
Recent discussion has made me wonder about what closeted non-heteros want out of their BGLTQ organizations slash communities. Thus, an anonymous forum.
If you’re closeted, what kind of programming would you like to see? Support groups, confidential peer counseling, social events, discussions?
If you’re no longer closeted, did your campus organizations help you come out? How? Could the process have been helped by a stronger organization or community?
UPDATE: I wrote that first portion a little before midnight last night, so I didn’t flesh out my thoughts as well as I could have.
For background, this post comes as a reaction to recent discussion on my college BGLTSA’s open email list, which was prompted by an op-ed in our campus newspaper. Conversation has largely been dominated by out students and has mostly pondered how (or if) the BGLTSA should be better serving the needs of closeted students.
First, to address the article itself, and some of the things that have been said about college postings on Craigslist: Craigslist is by no way a representative sample of, well, anything. Dan Savage said it best on his podcast last week (the week before? I can’t really remember)–people who post to Craigslist often have very specific needs or desires. They’re not the same people showing up at clubs and bars, they’re not necessarily looking for a relationship, and they’re not necessarily going to call you the next night. It’s a self-selecting group serving a very specific purpose, and in the case of M4M and casual encounters (W4W to some extent, though I’d say it’s not nearly as pervasive), that purpose is casual, often anonymous sexual contact.
Now, the “bored at Lamont” and “masc Harvard jock” postings are part of that specific, self-selecting group–but they’re not all real Harvard guys. I know this is shocking. Men and women alike post to Craigslist under assumed identities (the recent Jason Fortuny controversy should serve as a good example) for fun, out of boredom, to protect their own identities, or because they get off on it. Of the remaining posters who are actually men at Harvard, I would guess a significant portion of them don’t actually plan to have a discreet sexual encounter in a Lamont bathroom. (A friend of mine makes a point of answering these ads, and although I suppose it could be in his approach, he’s never ended up hooking up with anybody as a result.) Some of them are posting for the reasons I listed above, and others are probably testing the waters to see what kind of men respond to such advances.
The bottom line? “Masc Harvard guys” are not the same population as closeted Harvard students. There may be overlap, but the two categories aren’t identical by any means.
Now, onto the BGLTSA. I honestly don’t think it should be altering its policies or events in a significant way. Granted, because I came out way before college, I don’t know what the experience of a closeted college student is like other than what I know from newly out women I dated as an undergrad. But when I came out, it was much more important to me to have the support of a network of friends and family than it was to have any kind of organization offering structured events and services. (I’ll admit that I stumbled upon the PFLAG website, but I later had a weird experience with a member of my local chapter that soured me a little on them as a group.) The people I knew who came out early in college depended more on organizations like the first year sexual orientation discussion group and CONTACT than on the BGLTSA.
This is already getting long, but I want to add that this discussion is getting conflated with the same old whining about how no one new comes to BGLTSA events. Closeted students aren’t going to come to BGLTSA events for a variety of reasons, and I think that’s okay. If you’re really disappointed with the scene, do something about it. Get off campus. Make contacts at other schools. Hang out in Boston. Go to Somerville or JP sometime. Ask your queer friends why they don’t “do the BGLTSA.” Create a new group. Run for the board. But do something.