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.
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?