Women Only Gyms and Gender Equality

Recently, I’ve looking into a gym around here called Blast Fitness. What makes this gym different is the women’s only section.

Within the women’s locker room, there is a homey room of free weights, weight machines, cardio equipment and floor mats. I never thought of a women’s only section as being a benefit, but I had to try it out. I’m not going to lie, that section is the reason I will join Blast.

A nagging developed in the back of my head once I came to this conclusion. I wondered if it was equal to have a women’s only section without one for men and if it was somewhat sexist  to prefer the women’s only gym.

I had a long discussion with a coworker on this issue through which few answers were gained. What it came down to was the needs and/or demands of women which may differ from men and the different reasons why men and women might feel intimidated in a gym.

Gyms are associated with masculinity. Most people imagine big, muscular guys grunting over weights when they think of gyms. It’s a sort of ‘boys club,’ especially to people who have never entered a gym before.

Walking into a gym, it’s not hard to see why this stereotype exist. When I was given my tour around Blast, I saw men all over the weight equipment without a women in sight and women dominating the cardio section.

I will admit, right or wrong, I didn’t even both with the weights in the general section. Instead, I went straight to the women’s only section. It’s been a while since the last time I was in a gym, and I wasn’t sure how all the equipment worked. With only a few women besides myself in that room, I didn’t feel so out of place as I read the directions on the machines and fumbled around until I got the movements right.

Now, the real questions present themselves. Why am I and, presumably,other women, intimidated by men but not other women? Do men have a similar intimidation that is being ignored?

I don’t have a perfect answer for that first question.  Yes, those men in the general fitness area intimidated me greatly. That, added to the intimidation of being a newbie with little knowledge of how to use the equipment, intimidated me greatly.

This photo, “not what it looks like” is copyright (c) 2014 istolethetv and made available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license

I am disappointed in myself as I type this, but there’s a truth I can’t avoid. I feel like seasoned male gym members will laugh or roll their eyes at me as I try to figure out a machine. I feel like they will judge me as a weak woman who should be satisfied with the cardio equipment since I clearly don’t understand what I’m doing with weights. In fact, I have been in gyms where all those things have happened.

There is also a bit of a sexual element. Most women don’t go to gyms in order to be gawked at while they work out. Regardless, like everyone else in the gym, women lifting weights are going to be flexing legs, abs and pectoral muscles.  There might be some grunting when lifting particularly heavy weight. Having people stare at your ass or your breasts as you perform a shoulder squat isn’t welcome.

All these things, some of which are based on experience and some of which may just be stereotypes, are why many women are intimidated by men in a gym. The only question left unanswered here is why women would feel more comfortable fumbling with a new machine in front of women than they would in front of men. I don’t have an answer, so maybe one of my dear readers can answer for me.

The second question I asked related to men’s intimidation in the gym. In what forms does it exist and would a men’s only section relieve that intimidation?

Since I identify as a woman, I’m not going to have the perfect answers here. Everything I have is an assumption. I assume men who are viably out of shape (such as being obese or extremely skinny) would be intimidated by all the fit people in the gym. Like women, I assume being new and not knowing how to use the machines correctly might also be a source of stress.

None of those issues would go away with a men’s only gym. The only issues that would be resolved would be those associated with women. The question then becomes, is there a large amount of men who are intimidated by women in thy gym? Are they intimidated to such an extent that they avoid joining a gym?

My gut says no, and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because 80% of people in the gym are men. They out number the women and that might make those women less intimidating. Perhaps men are more likely to help out other men if they have questions or maybe it’s that many men have been comfortable with weights since high school P.E. and simply are intimidated in a weight room.

I can’t help but come to the conclusion that men do not see women as a source of intimidation at the gym. As such, there is no need or demand for a men’s only section. A women’s only section is not unequal or sexist because it addresses a need that exist for women but not for men. I’m really interested in your thoughts on the topic, though. Dear readers, my opinion is set in play dough. I simply don’t have enough knowledge of male intimidation to set anything in stone.

Do you think it’s wrong for gyms to have women’s only sections without also having men’s only sections? Why are women intimidated by men at the gym but not other women? Are men intimidated by women in the gym and ,if so, why?

 

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115 thoughts on “Women Only Gyms and Gender Equality”

  1. This is interesting. First I’m hearing of a women’s only section in a co-ed gym. I’ve been training in gyms for about 17 years off and on so I’m over guys staring/stalking me in the gym although I still get annoyed by it. If women’s only sections will get more women working out, I’m all for it.

    1. Yeah, I was impressed. Men don’t even walk by it. You have to walk into the women’s locker room in order to access that section.

      I’m not very athletic, so I always feel awkward in gyms until I get into it. I plan to use the room as a transition. When I’m ready to use different equipment (because there’s a greater diversity of equipment in the general area) I’ll have no problem going out there.

      1. TK, I relate to feeling intimidated by men in the gym but not really by women. I think we feel intimidated to use the machines and weight equipment in front of men because we do not want to be a stereotype. I think most men think typical women don’t know how to use the equipment and also we do not want to be gawked upon a sexual object either. Women just feel more comfortable excerising when men are not around, in my opinion hence why there are more women’s only gyms than men’s only gyms.

        1. I agree. I do think that’s why there are women’s only sections and gyms. I wonder, though, if there is a market for men’s only gyms as well, though.

          1. There should be… Maybe men prefer the same privacy of not wanting to be gawked at by women. I’m not going to lie, I could easily get distracted by the buff men lifting weights in the gym and not realize that might make them feel uncomfortable. Also, the guys that are not the ideal body type who are at the gym to gain muscle or loose body fat might feel the need to work out away from women. They might feel inferior working out next to the buff guys.

  2. Yes, of course men are intimidated. Let me offer my opinion on several of your points. The gawking. There is an element of the male population that will always do that. It’s unfortunate that it occurs when you are there to work, and that just adds more pressure as you try to push yourself during the workout. For the record, I’m a musician who likes athletics. So, I’m equally intimidated by the guys in the weight room. Perhaps I get a different type of gawk, probably one of disdain. Am I intimidated by women at the gym? Of course I am. There is an element of the female population that are in phenomenal shape, dress up and wear makeup at the gym, as if it were a social event. They are in the minority but the do exist. It’s extremely intimidating to be out of shape, not looking your best in sweats and a t-shirt, and be within eye shot of these women. Best of luck to them, they’ve worked hard to be in that physical condition but I’m really self conscious in these situations and it’s not helping my workout. I don’t think it’s wrong to have men only/women only sections. For anyone who feels uncomfortable working out with mixed groups, it would give them the comfort zone needed for their workout.

    1. The things you mention, the looks of disdain and the intimidation of being out of shape while surrounded by people who are in shape, would those go away in a men’s only section? Are women who are fit in gyms enough of an intimidation that many many choose not to join gyms so they don’t have to work out in front of them?

      Those are the real questions. Of course it would be great for there to be a men’s only section, but would it solve anything?

      1. I don’t know if they would go away. I suppose that I would have to consider if those looks or glares are part of the competition aspect among men when women are present. As far as joining/not joining, I can’t really consider that, since it’s a matter of economics. I go to the place that I can afford and deal with the rest.

        1. That works for you partially because the intimidation isn’t bad enough for you to avoid joining a gym. I wonder if there is a large amount of men who choose not to join a gym specifically because they are too intimidated.

            1. I don’t either. All I got is that I’m calling women’s sections fair because they identified a market: women who avoid the gym due to intimidation of men. They decided that market was large enough that they could make a bigger profit with a women’s only section. At least, I assume that’s how the thought process went. So, does the same process work for men. Men are less likely to admit things like that due to societal standards of masculinity. Men aren’t supposed to be intimidated. So, I wonder, if there is a silent but large number of men like that, would they feel comfortable in a men’s only section? Or would they somehow feel emasculated or cowardly? (I’m not saying they should feel that way. They shouldn’t. But societal pressure is a powerful thing).

              1. My opinion is to let the free market work its way. If it’s successful, then people favor it. I think that having a woman only section is fine, as would be a mens only section. I would imagine it would be dependent on the membership volumes as well as the physical size of the gym.

    2. I agree with you, weight2lose2013. The intimidation factor for me has always been more connected to how I feel about myself. When I am slimmer and in shape and trying new exercises, I look less at those around me and feel far more comfortable in my skin. When I am a little heavier, like I am now, I don’t even feel good in my clothes, much less comfortable in gym regalia. I do want to give a shout-out to ChapterTK for posting this thoughtful piece though. I have had ogling and even flat out rudeness to contend with in the past. But I have also had very helpful gents who were very willing to demonstrate how to properly perform certain moves. I do not hesitate to use free weights. And I do not hesitate to ask how to do certain exercises correctly. Also, gym employees should be around and willing to help with that too. From time to time, I have guys refuse to show me because they think I’m trying a pick-up line on them. I just smh and move on at that rate. Lastly, youtube is full of great exercise demonstration videos too. I will watch and re-watch and try at home before going to the gym to use certain machines or moves. Good form and performing the exercise correctly is uber important to prevent injury to your body as well as your pride.

      Great post. Thanks!

  3. If they have a women’s only section is fine.
    I Used to workout now I am one of the fatties. Ha ha.But I am not ashamed. A new machine is looked over with out shame by me as they mostly all work the same.

    Intimidation in my mind is a form of shame.

    Yes I check out ladies. Sorry I am a man. But do women not check out men?
    Women in a gym often gets men “peacock-ing” or show off. So men do not get intimidated. They just try harder to look better.

    is it maybe not the stereotype of a muscular man hitting on a woman (sexually harassing) by touching inappropriate when helping her get to do the exercise perfectly.
    If that be the case those men should be suspended from the gym.
    I seen them struggle with machines. But I get a creepy look when I try to offer help? As if I was hitting on her.

    The peacock-ing is I think the fear of all women. the macho testosterone behaviour that feels like sexual harassment.
    But I cannot look in a woman’s psyche.

    I either helped or got you to ask more questions.

    1. Man, I just typed this awesome answer and then it disappeared. Long story short, most women have experienced the gawking and inappropriate touching to suspect a man who tries to help. I want to say that’s just a stereotype, but it’s also experience. I have been hit on and even asked out in a gym (while working on a glute machine no less). Working out is supposed to relive stress, not create it.

      1. I seen it happen. I know it happens. It is that peacocking.
        I do not go to a gym to pick a girl up.just that the men think women do to check out the muscles.
        it s that sex class thing. it is like the testosterone is doing all the thinking. and we all know where that it has something to do with a smaller head

        I Can agree with a woman only men just want to peacock and show off in there they need not another men only room.

        1. I wonder if it’s related to the assumption man (but not all) men have about why women work to look the way they do. Too often, it seem like men think women put on clothes, makeup and work out for the pleasure of men. While there are certainly some women who do, I’d argue most women don’t give a rats ass what men think of how they look when they walk out the door. They looked themselves in the mirror before they left to see if they thought they looked good. We dress for ourselves.

          1. There might be that mentality among men. IS that woman come to tease and as mentioned most likely think the women come to pick up a macho man. A gym has 80% men there.

            One could easy say the entire gym culture is still supported by the stereotyping of the sexes.

  4. I do think that its wrong to only have a women’s section and not a men’s section. From my understanding, a lot of men go to the gym for obvious reasons: staying/getting fit. But I also think they go there for companionship. In the gym they can be themselves and act with others in a way they might not carry themselves in front of women. So based on this, men might see women as intruding. Women go out shopping or get their nails done (etc.) to spend time with each other. Women get upset if a man intrudes and isn’t welcome. Perhaps it is the same idea for men when they are spending time with their companions. Maybe that’s why they seem intimidated…

    Women may be intimidated by men in a gym because they perhaps feel alone. If that woman is the only one in the entire room full of men, she may feel angst because she is singled out. Perhaps not intentionally, but nonetheless she is. If there were either more women in the room or no men at all, she may feel more at ease. It is natural and kinda hard to explain. I know this is how I fee in those situations. I don’t really understand why I’m more at ease in a room with more women than more men. My thoughts usually fly to my appearance and what others think of me when there are more men. I tend to become a little insecure. But if there are more women, I feel at ease and am not worried with those things… I don’t know. Its hard to believe that I am the only one who feels this way… no matter how silly or irrational those thoughts are…

    Hope this helped. 🙂

    1. But why is it wrong? If men aren’t interested in using a men’s only section, why have one? We don’t make tampons for men just so men can have tampons like women. I think, if there is a demand for a men’s only section and no one is listening, then it’s a problem. However, if men aren’t interested in a men’s only section, creating one would be a waste of money. The question then is, why are women more comfortable in women’s only sections than they are in the general section.

      A friend just told me that there are usually less people in the women’s only section, which creates less intimidation. Maybe women’s only sections double as a beginner’s section. Do men want/need a ‘beginner’s section’ as well?

      1. Good point that if men don’t want/need it, that it would be a waste of money. I agree with that.

        Many women may be uncomfortable in the general section because they may feel less judged. Let’s say that I’m a beginner and that you are too and we are in the women’s section, okay? I am trying to figure out a new machine and I am struggling. You might feel empathy or even sympathy and may even offer to help me. I would probably accept that your feelings and actions and be grateful.
        Now say that I am in the general section. I am yet again struggling. A man may feel the say emotions as you did, and so, decides to try to help me. I might take this in offense and think him sexist, or even a perv for attempting to hit on me, or that he might just be making me the end of a joke for his friends.

        As to men wanting/needing a beginners section. That is their call. I don’t know about that.

        1. I think your second example is sad but true. A man who only wants to help should not be treated like scum, but you can’t always discern that. Many women have experienced men offering to ‘help’ only to hit on them or make them feel uncomfortable. Many women who haven’t experienced have heard enough stories to fear that. So, it does happen. I wish it didn’t. I’m again reminded of the few times I worked with a male trainer. When he was trying to show me how to do a proper squat, he would ask before touching. He’s say “I’m going to place my hands on your hips to show you how this works” and usually said this after seeing me do it wrong. In that way, he was asking permission and giving me the opportunity to say “please don’t.” I’m not saying men should have the same knowledge as personal trainers when they just want to help. It just comes down to respect. Don’t be inappropriate and, if you feel you need to touch her to show her how to do something, be respectful and tell her what you are doing before you do it.

          That comment was longer than expected… I just feel bad when a man actually has good intentions but is assumed to have bad intentions because of the past experiences of the person he is trying to help.

          1. YES! Thank you. Someone gets it! It all revolves around respect. This whole issue comes down to respect! respect for yourself and others.

            And haha. I know. Both of my comments were longer than I anticipated they would be. But yes. I feel bad too. Because not all men deserve to get a bad rep. Most ARE trying to just be nice and help out. :/

            1. That kind of attitude is why I wrote post like the one on the fear of men. It’s sad that, because women are taught to fear men (i.e. they only want one thing), they too often immediately assume a man is not helping just because they are a good person. What’ so perplexing to me, is that it’s often men who perpetuate this stereotype. In my own experience, men (including my father) have been the ones that have told me ‘men are animals.’ They are the ones who tell me, ‘what do you expect’ when I wear something I feel makes me look good. I like being attractive. I like being pretty. But being attractive doesn’t mean I am any less deserving of respect. And I’m not saying that all men are disrespectful to women at gyms and other places, but that women have been told time and time again to expect those actions – especially if they are attractive.

              The problem, then, isn’t really men or women, but society. It’s our society, which expects men to act like animals and tells women to fear them, which only goes to hurt all genders.

              1. Yes. My father says the same exact thing. And I say to him “Well, if I like looking nice and some guy thinks its for him, I’m sorry, but he is sadly mistaken.”
                I was never taught to “fear” men. Rather be wary of them. Which I guess could be argued is the same thing. And I think its irrational and wrong to label all men just because a few of them do (as you said) do stupid things that carry on the stereotype.
                A lot of the times its that men act like this because (sadly) that’s how they’ve been raised. If you were raised a certain way, you don’t question it. It doesn’t cross your mind to do so. At least not until you’ve learned something different. And those actions do hurt all genders. I completely agree with there.

                1. Once enough people tell you to be wary of men and you hear all the stories about the things men do, when a man comes up to help you our at the gym, is your first instinct to trust them? Perhaps fear is the wrong word. The problem is twofold. As you said, women are told to be wary and men are taught ‘being a man’ requires you think a certain way about women. Some would say, a real man respects women, but there’s a lot of pressure out there for men to objectify women as well. I’ve heard stories about men who are vocal about how they value the intellect of a woman more than her looks. They then have their sexuality questioned. There’s not an easy answer to any of it. Society is always slow to change.

                  1. Yes. All of this is true! And that is the problem. Everyone is supposed act the way Society deems fit. And that is BS. A real man/woman should stand up for what they believe is true. They should go aganst the grain if need be. Not enough of us do that. Because of fear. And THAT is why Society is slow to change.

      2. I think there is a hidden demand for a men’s only section. I know that I am far more comfortable working out when there happens to be only men around. Most of this is because I feel a sense that I need to look good / masculine when there are women around. So I’m more apt to skip a part of my workout if it makes me look or feel awkward when I know there are women watching.

        There is a feeling of intimidation that happens when women are around a group of men. Some men feel the need to exert a sense of dominance, and while it’s subtle, I think it definitely affects everyone’s comfort level.

        Due to the stereotypes (or perhaps societal expectations?) that exist for men, most men aren’t going to actively demand a men’s only section. It would mean admitting to a level of discomfort or intimidation that our gender “isn’t suppose to feel”.

        I can also see how a male only section may not be popular (at least initially). Most men who are intimidated aren’t showing up to the gym at all. So you would not only need to create a male only section but figure out a way to market/advertise it to those who have ruled out going to the gym. That could be a difficult endeavor and most likely not worth the time, effort, and money. This is probably why you only see a women’s only section; because it makes financial sense. Whereas a male only section simply isn’t worth the investment.

        1. I think most people are intimidated to show up at a gym in the first place. There’s no way to erase all discomforts in a gym. If there is a desire for a men’s section comparable to a women’s section, I think it should exist. I know I like it partially because I’m more comfortable around my own gender but also because I’m more comfortable around less people. It seems to me men might feel the same way, as you just proved. It sounds like it might even benefit your health in a way, because you won’t be as tempted to skip a part of your workout just to avoid feeling foolish.

          I do think societal expectations on men are partially to blame. I often think of patriarchy as being something that not so much about glorifying men and glorifying a strict code of masculinity. Men are pressured by society to internalize any feeling that isn’t considered manly, like admitting you’re intimidated to desire a men’s only section. Even more, people are less likely to listen and will just tell them to ‘man up.’ That kind of attitude is everywhere. A man who is poor and/or can’t provide for his family isn’t masculine. People are more likely to look down on that person than a female counterpart. I could go on with the examples.

          Society changes slowly, but I like to think we can work towards a better future. Certainly we can work to build a world where no one has to hide their emotions and people are willing to offer help to all people, regardless of gender.

  5. Nice thoughts! I pay more to go to a women’s only gym near my house and it’s been well worth it. It’s interesting to consider how people would react to a men’s only gym though.

  6. Do you think it’s wrong for gyms to have women’s only sections without also having men’s only sections? Why are women intimidated by men at the gym but not other women? Are men intimidated by women in the gym and ,if so, why?

    This could be rather lengthy answer to your questions: The first thing that comes to mind is “cake and eating it too.” Women cannot demand equality while having a section that is ONLY used by them. From my many years of experience with various gyms, intimidation is everywhere from every angle. Women are intimidated by other women. Men are intimidated by other men. And yes, some men are actually intimidated by some women for many reasons: she is in excellent physical shape; she is strong with an equally strong sense of confidence; or she is not in the least interested with how loud you scream while bench pressing double your body weight. Of course, gyms are all about the aesthetics of the body. If a person feels badly about his/her body walking into the gym, he/she will be intimidated from the start; ironically, that is why the person is there.
    Now, in relation to being gawked at . . . my answer is simple: don’t dress like a stripper in the gym and not expect some staring (especially if you are in shape). I know. I know. It sounds sexist. You should be able to wear what you want, right? Sure, but that is one of the points: men who look good don’t mind someone staring at them, so why should women? Equal right? So workout. Let the gawkers gawk and the haters hate.

    1. The problem is when some people feel the need to cross the line going from the occasional sideways glances to unwanted advances. While the latter may not be common, in addition to the normal insecurity that most people feel while working out, people might not want that looming spectre of unwanted attention to add to that stress. Creating a safe space alleviates some of the fear that it COULD happen (regardless of whether it is happening or will happen or not). And really, dudes are way more likely to approach ladies in these environments rather than the other way around. I have had a lady loom over me for a bit and approach me in the gym once; that she was a personal trainer who was making a move to offer free starter sessions for gym newbs didn’t make the attention any less uncomfortable. I just really think that people don’t like attention of any sort when working out because it’s such a personal thing in a situation in which we are hyper-conscious of ourselves and surroundings.

    2. Dictionary Definition of Sexism: 

      sex·ism [sek-siz-uhm] Show IPA
      noun
      1. attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles.
      2.discrimination or devaluation based on a person’s sex, as in restricted job opportunities;

      So, does the availability of women’s only sections and no men’s only section perpetuate a stereotype of the sexes? Does it discriminate or devalue on the bases of sex? Does it restrict opportunities based on sex? Just because there is no men’s only section does not automatically make it sexist. There are no tampons for men, but that’s not sexist. There’s no need or demand. A men’s only section would be a pointless investment for a business if no one used it. I think it only becomes sexist if men are demanding their own section just like the women, but businesses aren’t complying.

      Your answer about clothing is too simple. No amount of clothing will hide the fact that I have breasts and a butt. No matter what I wear, a number of men feel they are free to gawk and comment on them at the gym. I was wearing a sweaty, baggy t-shirt and sweatpants at the gym the day a man stopped me to ask me out. What a women wears does not stop men from starring. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that a woman be respected regardless of what she is wearing.

      You touched on intimidation a bit. Do you think any of that intimidation would be alleviated for men with the existence of a men’s only section?

      1. I agree with you on many areas . . . lines are crossed and not every avenue can be covered. “Regardless of what she is wearing” is an interesting statement. She also must respect herself. I see women all of the time in gym settings who are there to put on a show. They know it and every person in the gym knows it.
        No, I don’t think intimidation will end with that. Men intimidate men, and women intimidate women. It always has been and always will be, but that is not just in the gym. I see it all of the time at CrossFit. Women who look very good will choose a place by a women of, let’s say, lesser conditioning for many reasons. It’s obvious. My wife even comments on the women who do that. It’s ridiculous.

        1. I don’t think clothing is an accurate indicator of whether or not a women respects herself because what is and isn’t considered respectable clothing is subjective to the observer. I’m not suggesting that women go workout in a bikini… but work out clothes are as they are for a reason. Women should have to sweat their asses off in pants if they’d feel more comfortable in shorts. If a women has a big enough bust, she won’t be able to hide cleavage unless she wears a turtle neck. Wearing tight pants prevents the cloth from getting stuck in the machines. Wearing tank-tops instead of baggy shirts provides more movement. Baggy clothes can too easily get in the way.

          Never mind the fact that a woman who made a point to look ugly would A) still be stared at for being ugly B) would still be subject to rude comments. I don’t wear tight fitting clothes to the gym and it still happen to me. It’s not because my baggy t-shirt isn’t quite baggy enough. It’s because, for some reason, having boobs and a butt makes people feel like they can freely comment on them.

          It seems that women don’t intimidate women as much as they are intimidated by men, otherwise what would be the benefit of a women’s only section? It wouldn’t solve a problem. I was a member of a CrossFit gym before finances got in the way. I hear each one has a different culture. I didn’t feel out of place at all there, even though most people were stronger than I was. I was intimidated by the weights but the people didn’t bother me so much. I think that’s because my gym fostered a good community and often separated us into groups to work on something before putting us through the workout. It gave us an opportunity to learn from each other without competing.

          1. No, that’s not what I was saying. Anyone has the right to wear whatever they like. I was commenting on the attire and the actions with the attire. I’ve seen many women at the gym who like attention and do certain things to garnish it. My wife wears workout clothes that are tight and somewhat revealing, just like mine do sometimes. CrossFit is definitely the place that I have seen more equality and encouragement than anywhere else.
            My wife use to be a member of Curves, an all female gym. I remember her still be bothered with how others talked about the less conditioned ladies in the gym and isolated them. She was bothered with how they slowly quit coming and never came back.
            Sometimes I feel that it is less sexism and more of a technical term: jerks. 🙂

            1. I know there are some people who go to gyms for attention, but how do you judge that? How do you tell the difference between a woman who is wearing tight clothes for herself and her workout and the woman who is wearing those clothes for the attention of others. Even if she is wearing them for attention, shouldn’t the men who approach her still treat her respectfully.

              Please forgive me if I seem resistant to the idea of going to the gym to show off to other people. It’s just that that’s never been my reason nor any of my friend’s reason. I’ve just never spoken to someone who goes to the gym for attention so I don’t understand that experience. I’m not sure I could point out someone asking for attention in a gym if I tried.

              The curves story is sad. My mom tried that once but stopped because she didn’t like the atmosphere and the gym didn’t have a lot of weight equipment.

              Lastly, I think you hit the nail on the head. People can just be rude jerks. Maybe the stereotypes gets thrown on men just because there are usually more men in the gym. If one out of 10 men and women are jerks and there are 10 women and 30 men in the gym, obviously a higher number of men will be jerks even though the same percentage of men and women are jerks.

              1. I understand that it’s hard to tell the difference. No one is going to admit it . . . but for example, I’ve been at a bench before, minding my own business, and a woman come all the way into the free weight area and begin her hamstring stretching routine (butt the the audience) and then walk out to go get on a treadmill. What’s the point? OR come up to me or one of my friends, asking how a machine works with an “airhead giggle” guise and begin a discussion of how strong we are and how can she work the inside part of her thigh (pointing to it). Girl, please.
                I’m done with “gyms” in particular. I cycle. I CrossFit.
                Yep, I think we both agree on the jerk ratio. Funny. Sad. But true.

                1. That makes sense then… but you didn’t mention anything about what she was wearing being the source of her showing off. It was the jerky way she acted that made her a show off… it’s also equally rude.

                  1. Well . . . what she was doing wouldn’t have been as effective had she been wearing jogging pants. I was mainly speaking of the “action” part of my last comment. 🙂 You’re right though . . . equally rude.

  7. Interesting article! I sort of had to smile as I couldn’t help thinking I was reading a bit in National Geographic… and the gym is really the place that focuses on our bodies, how we look and in doing so it taps into many different mind places and exposes us at our very cores. We show off, we hide. We help, we gawk. We dress up, we cover up. You get it all at a gym. I say if you go, hold your head high and do your thing. After all, you are already 20 minutes better than that couch potato at home :).

  8. I think the worst intimidation is being surrounded by beautiful and statuesque people of either sex when you yourself are clearly out of shape. It can make you question your own self-worth, least of all your dedication to fitness.

      1. You know, I really might think there might be a market for cubicle gyms, in which each machine is slightly partitioned off, so that there is no one watching you and no one for you to watch.

        1. I’m not sure if that’s sarcastic or not, but I’m going to go ahead and say, I wouldn’t mind that. I think I’d miss the TVs, though…. Also, it’s take a lot of money to construct each cubical. The demand for that would have to be pretty high.

          1. No sarcasm at all. I think it would be a great idea, and there’s money to be made in that model. Cubicles themselves are relatively cheep in comparison with most gym equipment. Considering that many gyms these days have dozens of flatscreen tvs, and some even have theatres, there are tradeoffs that could be made to make such a gym financially viable.

            1. Hmmm… very interesting. The only concern I would raise is…. would you gain enough gym members who were previously turned off by the original gym model to replace those who prefer to work out in groups?

              1. Really, you could ask the same about women’s only gyms. Or mirror-free gyms. Or any of the other niche gyms that have found successful spots in the marketplace. I’d imagine that one of the larger gyms could try a room so setup as a pilot program to see how it went. If it did not prove successful, they could always auction off the partitions and keep the machines.

  9. In my experiences, I always thought if I went to an all female gym I wouldn’t be so intimidated or creeped out by creepy gym-goers. I always got stared at while at the squat machine and got approached by men I didn’t want to speak to. What I mean by that is there were men who would interrupt my work out just to get close to me or ask a weird question. I know that it’s pretty easy to meet people at a gym, but that was never on my mind. There were only 2 instances where men were actually helping me and me with my form and I didn’t feel creeped out at all.

    One time a personal trainer told me that he had a crush on me, and while (I hate to admit this) I was a tiny bit flattered, it was the beginning of the end of me going to the gym. It bothered me because I go to the gym (which was across the street from me at the time) to work out, not to find a date. The intimidation caused me to not want to push myself and try new workouts or even wear certain things. While I miss being close to a gym, I don’t miss being approached and leered at like a piece of meat.

    I would like to go to an all female gym to try it out. The only time I’m intimidated by other women is when I compare their skill sets to mine. Other than that, I don’t feel threatened or intimidated by other women at the gym. We all know we’re there to work out and have fun staying in shape.

    1. That’s a huge problem. It’s one thing to strike up a conversation while a person is resting or between machines. It’s a whole other thing to interrupt someone’s workout. That would drive me insane. I’d honestly probably leave the gym if that happened too much because I wouldn’t be getting a good workout. I don’t plan to meet people at the gym, but I’m open to it. There’s a time and place to randomly engage strangers in conversation, though. In the middle of a squat is not one of those times.

      The time I was asked out in a gym, I admit I was a bit flattered too…. although it was super awkward that I was working out on the glute machine at the time. I couldn’t help but wonder what he had been looking at. It was the beginning of the end for me as well. I turned him down and every time I went to the gym after that, it was uncomfortable if I saw him. It completely screwed with my vibe.

      Blast doesn’t have a female gym so much as a female section. It has enough equipment, but not nearly as much as in the general section. It was still uncomfortable to fumble around and get used to the machines, but I didn’t feel like anyone was starring. It’s like the section also doubled as a ‘beginners’ section without calling it that.

      1. I think a section is a good start, and I don’t think it’s sexist to make a more inviting space for women who want more privacy in a gym. It might end up being a problem if some men want the same type of space and deem it unfair if women have their own space. I hope it goes well in the end.

        My former gym was LA Fitness and I should have cancelled my account there sooner. The environment was too much at times and when I signed up they were only concerned with squeezing money out of you. The trainer who liked me or anyone else who approached me always did so after they saw me with a boyfriend. I think they thought “If she likes him, then I definitely have a chance”. They thought wrong. 😛 It was also uncomfortable seeing those guys in the gym after I turned them down or ignored them. The trainer actually asked me “What did I do?” when he noticed how distant I was towards him. Ugh. I’m glad I never dated anyone there. I would have been too paranoid about guys saying things about me.

        Other times I was on the weight scale that was right next to the weight training section, the same guys would joke about how I didn’t need to be on there (I’m 5’3″ 100lbs.). I politely laughed, but I thought “Dang it! Why can’t people leave me alone!”

        1. The fact that someone would hit on me specifically after seeing my boyfriend would really piss me off. Do they expect me to cheat and do they really think they’re that hot. Looks aren’t everything.

          I get the comment a lot that I don’t need to go to the gym. I’m 5’2.5″ and go back and forth between 110 and 115. I just want to be healthy and a little stronger. Being skinny isn’t everything either.

  10. I think there is one scenario you can say that a man would feel intimidated by a woman present in a gym environment. When I was in college, the school gym offer those 1hour cardio, strength training class classes along with other workout classes. Most the people who attended these classes are woman. Now can you image a guy attending these classes? Well I did, and it felt weird being the only guy in room filled with girls. It would have been cool if I could read minds to know what they were thinking when they saw me, the only guy in the room.
    Now you mention about your ass and breast being stared at. In this work class that I attended there was no way to avoid not staring at a pretty girl’s ass or breast because we would be moving in different positions, that was what was right in front of me. Now being a regular gym member I’ve notice that the layout at the gym I go to, no matter what machine you are using or if you are stretching, any guy/girl can stare at your ass, breast, and cleavage.
    One thing I wish you would have commented about is, don’t women set themselves up in getting stared at by what they decide to wear as their workout attire? As a female, before you go the gym, do you look at the mirror and see if your workout attire will catch some attention from guys/girls? If you are doing crunches, wouldn’t you want to see if you are showing to much cleavage or showing to much thigh?

    1. You knew, though, that most of the people in the cardio class would be women, right? And yet you still chose to take it. Was the reason so few men took the class because they were uninterested or because they were intimidated by so many women? That’s my questions with the men’s only gym. IF men are intimidated enough by women in the gym to avoid going to a gym, then creating a men’s section makes financial sense. If not, then it wouldn’t be a good investment to make. There’s no demand.

      I mean stare as in stopping and just looking there for minutes on end. That’s different from looking. Of course people look and notice. That’s not a big deal. It becomes a big deal when that turns into rude stares.

      Lastly, I’ll tell you what I told secondratecyclist

      Your answer about clothing is too simple. No amount of clothing will hide the fact that I have breasts and a butt. No matter what I wear, a number of men feel they are free to gawk and comment on them at the gym. I was wearing a sweaty, baggy t-shirt and sweatpants at the gym the day a man stopped me to ask me out. What a women wears does not stop men from starring. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that a woman be respected regardless of what she is wearing.

  11. I use to be a gym junky, I was a long distance runner, and would regularly compete, this meant that I alternated on running days and strength training days. I learned to used a lot of the weight machines and yes, I have been gawked at. It was uncomfortable, but I also had no problem telling them to keep moving, it wasn’t welcomed. Often I would get an apology, and on a rare occasion I would get asked out. I think the most embarrassing thing I encountered though was when I went to the gym with my dad one day, and he got hit on, weird. Now this could go one of 2 ways, and sometimes it depends on the age of the person in mind. First, people work on their body to attract attention from females, or men. Second, people work on their body because they are health conscience and it is part of their life. The latter of the two, would hope to find someone with similar interest in finding a partner with the same mindset. The gym can be a good place to find that if you regularly go and notice someone. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not condoning the gym as a place to pick up the ladies or men, but it does happen. Do I think their should be a separate area for men if there is one for women? Absolutely. They do it for the locker rooms, bathrooms, etc… I mean why not, men get just as insecure as women do, if not more in some cases. Is it right to have the separation to begin with? I think it’s up to the individual, how they feel, and why they are at the gym in the first place.

    1. When I think of my interest in the women’s only section, part of the allure is that there aren’t as many people there to see me make a fool out of myself. I imagine, one I get comfortable with the equipment, I’ll have no trouble going out in the general gym.

      I do think it’s unfair for there not to be a men’s only section if there are men who would value that kind of benefit. Just like I’m using it as a sort of beginners section, men may want the same thing. But, is the demand there? There’s no reason for a business to spend money on a men’s section if no one will use it.

      I get that it happens. There’s nothing wrong with conversation or even asking someone out at a gym, at the right time. In the middle of my reps is not the right time.

      1. I think men would use it but are too afraid to ask for it. They might feel they’d have to turn in their ‘man card’ because sadly thats how society can be.

        Very true I definitely giggled as I imagined being in the middle of a set and losing count over some cheesy pick up line.

        1. I think society is part of it. Even if there was a men’s only section, if men felt they would, as you say, lose their ‘man card’ by using that gym, then it would still remain empty even with the desire to have that kind of gym there.

  12. Hmm… something I’ve never really thought of before either! But, I think guys have the same problem… but differently. As for women, I know that a lot of them, at least my friends, would love women only sections because they don’t want guys staring… and they feel safer around other women. On top of that, they probably feel less awkward asking other women how a machine works. For guys, the dynamic is different, especially if you are just starting. You feel bad fumbling around with the machines in ANYONE is looking, guys or girls. Women looking is just bad for guys, we get embarrassed quickly like that… but also with men, because we compare ourselves to each other so often. I’ve been put off from the weight room so often because I know that I wouldn’t even lift as much as other guys, even if I knew how to use those machines. For men, and women too, it would probably be best to go with friends, because there is no judgement, and the laughs a friend shares with you would put off the judgement others give you… hmm… you gave me something to think about! Thanks!

    1. I don’t work out well with friends. I zone out to my music and completely leave the room. Being interrupted by conversation would throw me off. Everything you say makes sense to me, except I don’t find myself intimidated by women in the gym. I think it’s because the really fit women were using the general section. There were more variations of ages and sizes in the women’s only section.

      I don’t know what that is, though. Why am I more intimidated by men than women? Is that a reaction based on biology or on some sort of social construct?

      1. I think it is just easy to be intimidated, and women and men that are just starting out might get intimidated easily… I know that whenever I start out, I feel like a wimp within seconds, but feeling comfortable with other people wouldn’t make that happen… maybe women only sections are made so that women feel comfortable with each other? Without having to feel uncomfortable around men? I really don’t know! I think it also depends upon the people.

  13. I think this women’s only section was thought up by the male population. What better way to decrease the amount of females taking up their space than give them their own and make them feel like it’s for their own benefit?

    1. I’m okay with that, so long as I have equal access to all the same equipment. Since I can use the general section whenever I want, I have access to everything the gym offers.

      I never thought of those sections being a male creation, though. That throws a whole new spin on my questions.

  14. Is it just me or is the majority of ‘gym culture’ literally about the over-sexualized nature of men/woman connections? I know so many men and women who go to the gym to be seen or to gawk. I’m sure there are a ton of people who go to the gym purely to work out….. but I wonder what the real percentages are in relation to people who go for nothing more than working out and people who go there for other reasons.

    1. I’ve never thought of it that way, but I’ve also never met a person who goes to the gym just to gawk or to be looked at. Maybe I just don’t hang in those circles. I certainly don’t want to be gawked at. I’m just looking for some muscles and stress relief.

  15. Where to begin?

    If I get dressed to please ‘myself’, why is my self pleased with what I am wearing? My eyes are in the wrong place for looking at it and most of the time I will forget, pretty much, what I’m wearing. And if I’m really dressed to please ‘my self’, why are compliments on my appearance such a buzz?

    We know that the ‘self’ is a molded perception. We know that at a vulnerable age our perception of self can be hugely damaged. When a girl who has always been called fat walks around in a loose sack of fabric that disguises her shape as much as possible, is she really trying to hide her body from her self? When someone older wears clothes far more appropriate (in the general view) for someone much younger, who is it they are trying to fool?

    It is far more likely that the ‘self’ we dress for is formed and shaped by the understood – and misunderstood – perceptions of others, that we dress for that externalized other rather than ourselves. It matters to our selves how we are perceived, even when we pretend it doesn’t.

    I am a man and if you are a woman you will, very, very often, attract me. I will like your face, your eyes, your hair and your curves. The thing is, though, I must pretend I do not. You may have used make-up – in dressing for ‘yourself’ – and darkened/enlarged your eyes, darkened/enlarged your lips in a way which, though you may not know it, actually suggests you are sexually aroused. You may be wearing a top cut so low that your nipples are all-but showing, pants that cling to every curve, some figure-hugging translucent thing that makes it perfectly visible to anyone that you are wearing a thong, but I must pretend not to see you, pretend to be blind and deaf to the signals you are sending.

    And there is a reason, of course. The lie has too long and too often been told that women dressing in a certain way are ‘asking for it’ and that men can be stimulated beyond reasonable control by exposure to a skimpy outfit.

    But it is a lie. I am a man and entirely a man, even if no longer young, but for all of my life it has been absolutely true that any female in my proximity was entirely safe, regardless of dress or behavior.

    Twerk in front of me, strip in front of me, tease me as you will, and the only time ‘no’ will cease to be an absolute imperative is when, in ejaculatory terms, it comes after the event. Does that change if I am drunk? To be drunk enough to act against a woman’s consent I would be too drunk to accomplish anything.

    Anyone who says otherwise is not a man.

    Yes, I look. Though I’d rather pluck out my eyes than offend you I have a lowish pain threshold and know that no-one would perform the operation under anesthetic, so I’m kind of stuck with seeing and stuck with finding pleasure in the sight of an attractive woman.

    What I wouldn’t give just to be able to smile in recognition of that attractiveness and not have the smile misunderstood, or to be able to say without agenda “My lady, you do look lovely.”

    Have your women only sessions at the swimming baths, your women only gym sections, but when you do it is because of that lie and it does nothing to contest it, only supports it. We should be looking at ways of undermining it and finding our way back from the darkness of suspicion.

    Good bless,

    1. It is very rare that I think about anyone else when I get dressed in the morning or go to the gym. On very rare occasions, such as a fancy event, I’ll try and dress in attire appropriate for the event. When I look in the mirror in the morning, I don’t think farther than, “I look good in this” and walk out the door. I could really care less if anyone else thinks I look good in it. Compliments are always nice, be they about how I look or about something else, but I don’t dress for comments. I don’t dress for my friends and I certainly don’t dress for men. I dress in what I feel good in. That’s it. It’s presumptuous in any situation for someone to assume I am looking for attention because of how I look.

      You could argue that my idea of beauty is shaped by media and the people around me, but I’m still not thinking about them when I get dressed. I’m not trying to look good for them. I try to look good because it makes me feel good.

      There’s nothing wrong with being attracted to people. Just because you find someone attractive at a gym does not give you permission to act rudely towards them, though. What is considered ‘respectable’ attire is subjective. I wore skinny jeans to work this morning because I like how they look on me. Some people would consider pants scandalous dress for a woman. Just because they think it’s not respectable attire does not mean I have no respect for myself. I get to decide that. I and have plenty of respect for myself.

      Long story short, you can’t look at someone and automatically know why they decided to dress that way. If their a stranger, chances are they didn’t dress that way for you.

      1. Hi. I’m sorry; I think you misunderstand me and where I am coming from. That saddens me, since I went to great efforts to be clear, but I can live with it 🙂

        Take care of yourself, dear lady. I wish you every happiness.

  16. Personally, I am not intimidated as much as uncomfortable using the weight room at my university gym. Most of the weight room is occupied by college guys who stare at girls when they lift weights or use the machines. I know I shouldn’t be uncomfortable or embarrassed because I have earned my place as much as they have, but that doesn’t stop me from blushing or avoiding the “sexual machines”. That being said, I don’t believe we should have separate rooms. In order to promote equality we should place women and men on an equal scale and that starts from things as simple as working out. I am not really sure why I feel this way? Maybe I should spend more time reflecting on this topic…great post though!

    1. If is serves a purpose, I have no problem with women’s only rooms. I just think, if the same problem exist for men, they should have one too.

      But yes, in a perfect world, we could all respect each other enough that we wouldn’t have to worry about stares or comments. It’s a world worth aiming for.

  17. Hi TK,
    I don’t see a problem with a women’s only section. I think considering it “sexist” would be thinking about it too seriously. Working out IS a guy thing. It’s expected of us to be, and we also have a greater capability, to become strong with our bodies. As to the looks you receive from guys, I’m sorry that there is quite a lack of respect. Beauty that can easily be associated with any woman’s appearance is indeed meant to be noticed and enjoyed, but of course respected. Our culture needs more of a change in this regard, I believe, such that a woman should be able to work out her body without attracting the wrong type of attention. Until men start learn how to view women with respect, I think a women’s only section would be smart. Don’t worry about not getting a certain machine right on the first time however or how silly you might look. Even if you weren’t in the weight room, wouldn’t you feel self-conscious trying to figure out how to work something right anyway? I also think women tend to be more self-conscious in EVERYTHING they do because women need emotional encouragement and stability more than what guys do, and they can’t receive that if people are laughing at them. I hope this was somewhat helpful 🙂
    Aul

    1. Women have the capacity to be just as strong as men, we’re just better with type two. I forget all the science, but there are two types of muscles , ones for strength and ones, which are the big ones that men are good with, and long lean ones meant for things like long distance running. Women are better at that one. But either gender can work out any muscle and get just as strong with enough effort.

      I agree that, even if there was perfect respect between the genders, the discomfort of trying something new will still be there. It was certainly there for me yesterday. There’s no way to erase all the discomfort in a gym. Being uncomfortable is part of the process.

      1. Yeah, I can see what you mean that women can be stronger in some areas, but I don’t think you could get just as strong as some guy bench-pressing three hundred pounds, despite how much effort you might put in to try to get there.

        Well I’m glad you realize that 🙂 ! Also, once you get used to using certain machines and you go regularly, no one will question your presence there. You’ll be in with the pros 😉
        Aul

  18. Men definitely feel equally intimidated in the gym. My boyfriend always feels judged when he goes to the gym because he isn’t as big as the other men in there and likewise by women too, think it’s just natural to be intimidated by the opposite sex.
    I don’t feel intimidated by men in the gym, but I do in front of skinny girls – stems from bitchy girls at school who used to pick on me in P.E.
    Think men and women should be able to go to a gym and feel comfortable, but that will never really happen not when people suffer from insecurities and are under scrutiny by either gender.
    I’ll be happen with women only gyms as long as men have their own gyms too and aren’t penalised for it. That way people have the choice to be unisex or not. That’s equality.

    1. I agree, that men should be able to have their own gyms if there is demand for them. If that gym is just going to remain empty, a business won’t invest in it. The first thing that needs to change is how society regards men. They shouldn’t feel emasculated when they admit they are uncomfortable working out with both genders. Once it’s okay for them to admit that and a demand rises, then gyms will be open to having a men’s only section as well.

      Of course, a men’s only section won’t save someone from intimidation from their own gender.

      1. Exactly. Likewise for women, it’s a shame that getting fit and healthy at a gym can be such an uncomfortable and judgmental environment, for anyone. No one should feel like that, no matter where they are starting from, after all, it’s an individuals journey.
        I think a gym is a gym even if it’s an only men, or only women one, can’t see why they won’t get business.
        I think I’d only be annoyed if they did penalise men for having their own gym. If men want it then we shouldn’t refuse if we have our own. If women don’t complain or if men don’t mind sharing then it’s not too much of a problem.

  19. I don’t see how it simple answer. I see it as common sense. If you yourself have respect for yourself, you will take a few minutes and look at the mirror and ask, is this outfit showing to much. yes women should be respected, but women should respect themselves first. Yes guy are jerks, but that something you can’t control. I bet all women have trash talk and dis-respected other women for what they are wearing. Maybe we have a disagreement here between us, but over all nice post:)

    1. You’re right in that, women look at themselves before they walk out the door. I say it’s a simple answer because what you think is respectable attire and what someone else thinks is respectable aren’t always the same.

      Disagreements are okay, though, so long as the discussion is civil. ^_^ I’m happy you enjoyed my post.

  20. I’m sorry I find the whole idea of female only gyms (or sections/times/days) really insulting on so many levels.

    I have been going to gyms more most of my adult life and I find views that are expressed by women when they demand female only sections not only judgmental and demeaning to men, but downright sexist.

    You say mean are judgmental about women in the gym but what do you think these views about men are?

    A gym I used to go to introduced a womens only day where men were essentially banned on that day. I work shifts and odd times and can only attend at certain times, so I went anyway and threatened to sue for sexism and discrimination (they didn’t have a men only day to balance it out and can you imagine any other business banning women based on their gender?). They acquiesced very quickly and let me in.

    The attitudes of certain women in the gym that day were disgusting. I got a lot of dirty looks and one woman even berated me for coming in, demanding her right to exercise without men around. (For the record as I explained to her in not very polite terms that surprisingly I was there to exercise to and had absolutely no intention or compulsion to stare at her fat backside in any way so she should get over herself.) The simple assumption that I am automatically a pervert because I am a man, that I will automatically want to pick up women instead of actually (surprise surprise) do some actual exercise in a gym of all places, is wrong.

    Women can’t demand equality and expect preferential treatment.

    Women say they want respect, well try treating men with some respect too.

    1. I think a lot of women assume things about men in gyms partially based on personal experience and partially on societal views of what it means to be a man. I lot of women have grown up being told to be wary of men. They’re told they only want one thing and to watch themselves. When those women go out in the world and experience a man who treats them like piece of meat, mostly women take that experience to confirm what they have always been told. Plenty of women have experienced unwanted and unwarranted advances in a gym environment and that’s not respectful either. I think it would take a wider culture change among both genders, though, to erase that kind of disrespect on both sides.

      The idea of a whole day for only women in a gym seems like bad business to me. What could possibly be gained from banning more than half of your customers for a day? I do think having a women’s only section is fine, though, but men deserve one, too. It’s not just about the genders. It about getting used to the equipment and not wanting to be seen fumbling around by the regulars. If there is reasonable demand for it, it would make good business sense.

      1. Well surely that should be a beginners section then regardless of gender?

        You can never have true gender equality with segregation!! And a section based solely on gender in womens gyms (by default discriminating against the other gender) is never reasonable. I completely agree a womens day is bad business (they did it on the demands of a small vocal minority, literally 4 or 5 women!) just like womens only gyms are bad business. Why turn away half your potential customers?

        And I agree that women have had bad experiences of men, but guess what? Men have had bad experiences with women too, does that mean men are justified in discriminating against women? No. Does it mean men are justified in peddling disrespectful prejudices? Of course not. So why is it seen as okay for women to do the same?

  21. I’ve had memberships at a few gyms (and I don’t mean that as a humble brag – just that I’ve lived in a few different places, so different gym options were available) and I have to admit that I do like having a women’s only section in a co-ed gym. I don’t have that at the moment, but I do kinda miss it. It wasn’t so much about intimidation for me — it had more to do with the fact that the women’s section was often less crowded. It *is* intimidating to try out new equipment or new techniques, and no one wants to look like an idiot in front of a crowd (regardless of gender). I had less of an audience in the women’s section back then, so I felt more comfortable trying new stuff. That said, the only time that I’ve ever heard someone comment on my physique was in the women’s only section — two women were discussing my lack of a boobular region. Loudly. (How do I know that they were talking about me? The lack of a crowd! We were the only three people in there.) You had to identify as a woman to be in that section, but apparently you didn’t have to be nice!

    Anyway, I’m totally comfortable in my co-ed gym now, even doing classes (some include weights) or trying out new machines. Part of that came from having a buddy who tried new classes with me. She tried the class with the weights first, so she told me what equipment to grab the first time I went. That helped. It’s silly, since it’s not like anyone would have pointed and laughed if I had asked a stranger, but it really did help.

    I have also seen people go to the gym to pick up. Totally. I’ve seen it happen (as in, an actual pick-up took place in front of me while I was on an elliptical machine) — and good for them. Hope those lads and ladies are happy. So, it can and does happen at some co-ed gyms. That might even be why some people choose a co-ed gym (?), but I also agree that it shouldn’t be expected.

    The total opposite can happen, too. I’ve known many a shy dude. I’m not sure that a “men’s only” section would make them more or less inclined to join a gym, but I do think that some good orientation for beginners would be helpful in order to reduce that intimidation (regardless of gender).

    Closing argument: I think it depends on the culture of the gym. They aren’t all the same. Some are very testosterone-y, some are laid back and boutique-y, some are SUPER judge-y, some are pick-up-y — and all of that can even change depending on the time of day or day of the week. People should know that it’s okay to shop around.

    1. I think having a men’s only section and a women’s only section could be a good way to develop “beginners” sections without actually calling it that. They’re almost always going to attract people who are new to the gym and, in my experience, they are never going to have as much as the general section. Maybe gyms would get more business that way.

      It really does depend on the culture, though. I’ve been to a few gyms just to try them out. Some have been very testosterone-y and one was pickup-y. I like the one I found. Even the general section is pretty laid back. And, while there’s nothing wrong with asking someone out, there should still be a level of respect. Talk to someone when their getting a drink or something instead of when their in the middle of their reps. I think there is some disrespect towards both genders, now.

    1. At first, I thought being out of shape wasn’t a good enough reason for a men’s only section because having one wouldn’t change anything. Now, I realize those sections have more benefits than just separating the genders. For example, they usually have far less people than the rest of the gym. I just wonder if men would actually use it or if it would be a waste of the business’s money.

  22. I worked in a women’s only gym for years in Canada. There is certainly a more relaxed be yourself feeling about being in a womens only gym, where as in a co-ed you almost feel like you are in a bar sometimes as opposed to a gym and have to look good while working out – ridiculous. My husband never liked to go to the gym, he was intimidated by everyones higher level fitness, and he works out in our home which is now my private studio. Men get intimidated by men too, they just stay away.

  23. The fact that you’ve had 83 comments means something. Not sure what. It would be interesting to add race, marital status or age to the mix. Would I, say being 54 and married, be more concerned than someone 26 and unmarried?

    1. Yeah, I didn’t expect this to blow up like it did. I figured I was just thinking way too much about it. I guess people have a lot to say about the way the genders interact in a gym environment.

  24. I think I’ll have to agree with the folks that are saying men get intimidated by men as well. Being on assignment I always end up utilizing one of the embassy gyms, now at a small compound like where I usually am it really is no big deal. But at some of the large embassies where it’s a community gym for the entire facility it can be intimidating to be one of the skinnier guys, I tend to just go in do my work out and head out. But I know some of my co-workers who are really into the gym, and when they go they are there for the next 4 hours, working out with them is yes intimidating because I know I’m the slimmest guy out of the group of guys who can benchpress two of me.

    1. Do you think having a men’s only section would relive any of that intimidation… or, more importantly, do you think there are a large number of guys out there who are so intimidated that they avoid going to gyms all together? I’m really starting to think having a men’s only section would be a good compliment to a women’s only section, just like there are separate locker rooms.

      1. Hmmm good question, I don’t know if that actually would aleviate some of the intimidation for the male side, but I can see how it might help a bit. I can definitly support the idea of a section for woman, not that I’m one of those guys who tries approaching someone while in the gym (your not there to date in my mind your there to workout) but I imagine it’s a positive thing not getting leered at by random guys.

  25. As a Trans Female I think a female only section is a good Idea, based on the reaction I am bound to receive in a mixed gym.
    However, what reaction will I get in the female section being a 6’4″ Trans Female? People will stare at my breasts and ass in both areas, but for what reason?

    1. You make a very good point, which would also make men’s only sections a good idea as well as I assume a Trans Male may have similar reasons for wanting to stay out of the general section. I’d like to think women, regardless of height, will get less stares in a women’s only section. I’m honestly not sure, though.

  26. If anything it’s other mrn I sm intimidated by even as a man. It’s difficult walking in with the idea of just getting fitter when there are sll these really fit guys flexing their muscles. There is a men’s only gym near me, and is frequented only by built up muscly meat heads. It is on s main road and has a complete glass front and the weights in the window so people walking past them see them working out. The slogan for the gym is ‘Does personality make you look good in a Tshirt?’

    1. So, there are such things as men’s only gyms. Good to know. It’s also sad that it doesn’t solve the problem of male intimidation. It sounds like the comfort women’s only sections provide women wouldn’t be provided to men in a men’s only section.

    1. Are you saying they do exist or that they should exist? I know a lot of gyms offer free daycare to the people who use the gym, but I get the feeling that’s not what you mean.

      1. They do exist.

        And no, I don’t mean like Gold’s Gym and the like that just offer daycare. I mean like gyms that are oriented towards families. The last two gyms I have been a member of are like that.

        It made a difference for me before and after my back surgery. Seriously, I’m an obese man, and the last gym I was at, people were totally supportive of what I was doing (i.e., that I was working towards recovery). The only reasons why I left was it was too big to help my son with autism, and the gym I’m a part of now, my insurance covers membership there.

  27. Hi TK, have found this excellent article rather late, as a thin scrawny guy, I usually did the cardiac circuit, and did have a few beef bums try and push me off machines because ” we are doing important training.” (does this mean that others peoples fitness needs are of a lesser value?) but mostly there was just friendliness and comradeship, and as for myself I do not take particular interest in the anatomy of the people around me, whether male or female, I just get on with the fun!

    But actually, I think many women quiet like there own space in the gym, or a women’ s only gym, so this seem to say that you are on the right track. It seems though to bring up other problems of a similar nature.

    In our rather shallow society, it seems to me that a few very powerful people and organizations control, or try to control the way we look, and the way we dress, they way we speak, the way we think and even such things as the type of music we listen to. Have you ever walked into a general clothing store and noted how much space is given over to women’s clothing and how little to men’s clothing, and how the same all the clothing is. How the models that get put in the advertising appear to have the same body sizes and looks. Some enterprising young Colombian models, recently banded together, and are modelling the cloths and style that they feel comfortable in and are trying to get the women of there country to do the same, and giving some of the money they are making over to charity. It would be wonderful if this could happen all over the world.

    Men’s clothing is very boring, and I used to wear all sorts of clothing, even some bits and pieces that aren’t normally be seen as clothing, but worked, and i looked quite different to most people. President Mandela helped a lot with his very interesting Mandela shirts. My wife through up her hands in despair at my lack of dress sense. So I have had to become more conventional, but I also started to run a charity bookshop for Help the Rural Child, who also did not like my sense of dress, so now I conform.

    Well i think that is enough for now, so well done on your blog, I love it, keep it up, and lots of blessing, Charles.

    1. There is some history behind that. Men used to be into fashion as well. Just look at the founding fathers. They were wearing fancy lace, wigs and even makeup! The dawn of the corporate world changed that. This was a world that originally only men were involved in and ‘business attire’ started to take shape. Women remained into fashion while men were constable trying to separate themselves and look more professional. This eventually evolved into the fashion we have today. I think men’s fashion is starting to come back, though.

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