Pissing Off The Gym Segregators


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Memo to a whole bunch of people: “Orientate” is not a word.

Memo to a whole bunch of other people: It’s pronounced KILL-oh-meeter, not kill-AWE-mitter.

Check this out. Gotta love them Kiwis.

Well I spent my birthday weekend falling in love with driving. Who knew? Saturday night I puttered along in my rented Hyundai Accent all the way to Arnprior, Ontario, but was too chickenshit to drive back in the night (on those unlit country roads). So I holed up in a motel room, ate spoiled pastries and watched cable TV. That’s livin’, baby!

Now, pretty much the only political discussion forum that I read regularly is over at Rabble.ca, a left-oriented site that I occasionally write articles for. Even though the people who post there tend to be somewhat in tune with my particular political orientation, I learned the hard way a couple of years ago that it’s not a place where I personally would want to actually post comments, since you can never be progressive enough for some people. But, like I said, I still read the site daily; the forum is probably better and more civil than other similar sites.

But I couldn’t resist joining the discussion on this relatively banal topic: are women-only gyms discriminatory against men? Women-only gyms have been popping up everywhere since, it seems, many women prefer to exercise in the absence of men –for a lot of reasons including being free of harassment, free of being ogled and free of the whole macho environment.

I usually have the attitude that people should just suck it up and be adults and stop running away from society, which is how I see most segregated institutions. If you don’t like the environment then change the bloody environment, don’t run away from it. And if women think they’re free from ogling or sexual attention in a women-only gym, then baby they are so deluding themselves. I used to argue that if men-only insitutions are discriminatory (as used to be argued during the more militant 70s) then surely a women-only gym qualifies on that score, no?

But when my elderly, overweight mother finally found the courage to go to a gym for the first time in her life a few years ago, due in no small part to the existence of a women-only gym, I quickly changed my tune. I now firmly believe that the existence of women-only gyms have a net positive effect on society, as it encourages fitness amongst a great many of those who otherwise would not seek it. Also, the microbial libertarian within me supports the business owner’s right to choose whatever theme or membership he or she desires.

However, what still riles me is the existence of women-only workout rooms in a co-ed gym. This is how it works: a man joins the gym, pays a fee, and has access to the communal equipment. A woman joins the same gym, pays the same fee, but has access to both the communal equipment and her female-only segregated space and equipment. Does anyone else see a problem here?

Yes, it has been explained to me that the women-only equipment is not as good as the communal stuff. That’s so beside the point. By having access to both the high quality communal facilities and the mediocre women-only equipment, the women have functionally shorter waiting lists for the same membership price. I really think that this would not survive a court challenge, though why anyone would want to take such a whiny case to court is beyond me.

So here’s my solution: gyms can continue to offer women-only areas, but give the women an option at the point of membership purchase: for a surcharge she can have access to the segregated space, with an understanding that the equipment therein is poorer than the communal equipment. The size of the surcharge should adequately represent the functional decrease in waiting times the subscribers will receive, relative to that of the men who must use only the communal machines.

Thoughts?