No gents in Ryerson gym

A small controversy has erupted over a proposal to create women’s-only gym at hours at one of two campus athletic facilities at Ryerson. The hours were requested by female students for a variety of different reasons ranging from religious modesty to unfair cultural expectations of women.

Women should have the option of working out in the exclusive company of other women. Ideally however, women’s-only hours would be a stand-in until a permanent women’s-only space is established.

The case for a gender segregated option in campus gyms is overwhelming. A women’s-only space results in a different dynamic that may be conducive to a more relaxed workout for some. Some women find the exclusive presence of other women is a positive social change; others have more immediate concerns about being pursued or harassed by men while working out.

Broad tendencies towards gender segregation should be avoided for several reasons, however. Reinforcing a strict gender dichotomy is never ideal. Humans should not be fixed in place; ideally they would be able to move freely through identities and space. In more concrete terms, gender segregation, especially at younger ages, results in poor socialization and discomfort around the opposite sex.

In effect, we can’t hide from each other. Excluding a gender from an entire gym for hours at a time should be a last resort as it reinforces gendered stereotypes and a dichotomy. Not all men are creeps, and not all women are body-positive.

As an alternative to gender segregation, gym staff could get increased training in order to deal with situations where women feel threatened or otherwise uncomfortable.

Ryerson already has a women’s-only workout space. However, it has limited hours and can be rented out by third parties which further limits its availability.

If Ryerson can’t expand access to this resource, then women’s-only hours are acceptable until a suitable alternative is found.

Journal Editorial Board

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