Ryerson students debate women-only gym times

Religious accommodation among reasons for proposal


UNBC sports centre (Simon Hayter)

An initiative by the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) pushing for women-only hours at one of the two on-campus athletic facilities has some students worked up about working out.

In a Facebook post last month, the RSU laid out its case for women-only workout slots. They wrote that many women feel uncomfortable exercising in the co-ed space for reasons ranging from Muslim women who will not remove their head scarves in front of men to women who the RSU argued have to endure “societal standards of beauty.”

The campaign prompted anger online. “I’ve never even stepped foot in the Ryerson gym, but this still pisses me off. What’s next, women only library hours?” wrote one commentator on Facebook.

“We all pay the same amount… so we should all have the same opportunities to use it and all be given the same amount of available time,” wrote another on the social news website Reddit.

It’s not an entirely new idea. There is already women-only gym time at the University of Toronto, York University, Memorial University and at Ryerson’s campus pool. Ryerson already offers women a small private gym space restricted to a single studio that is sometimes booked out for other uses. The RSU would like to see a totally women-only space for regular time slots in one of two gyms.

Such accommodations are under scrutiny lately after a York University professor went public with his campus administration’s demand that he allow a student not to do group work because he said his religion forbade him from mixing with women. The professor found the request intolerable and so did Members of Parliament from all three federal political parties, who condemned York last week.

Despite the online outrage, outside the Ryerson Athletic Centre this weekend, many students favoured the proposal.

Kennedy Brooks, a second-year Performance Production student, said she would like a male-free weight room. “It’s really kind of off-putting to come in as the only girl in the weight room and just have all these guys look at you for a second,” she says. “It’s not necessarily that they’re eyeing you like a piece of meat or anything but sometimes just like, why would a girl wanna use the weight room?”

Meghan Ancheta, a Fashion Design student, supported the women-only gym time because it might help women avoid the pick-up artists who frequent the gym.

Abdi Warsame, a Business Technology Management student, said he would happily schedule his workouts around women-only periods. “I understand it completely. Because, religious-wise, [some women] really can’t expose themselves to other men—their legs, their arms, anything.”

To get student feedback and presumably garner support, the RSU has asked students to fill out an online survey that includes questions on everything from religion to sexuality to how often they go to the gym. Melissa Palermo, RSU president, says the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Where women-only space does exist, however, it’s not always widely used. At York’s Tait McKenzie Centre, a studio was revamped with some workout equipment that is women-only for three three-hour time slots per week. John Bruce, who works at the centre, thinks it’s a reasonable solution but says the space isn’t busy. “There [are] lots of times that we’ll have one or even no one in there for an hour stretch and probably the max we’ve had at any given time might be eight or nine.”

At Memorial University in St. John’s, Nfld. some men were upset when the fitness centre started women-only hours in certain rooms, prompting an editorial in The Muse student newspaper opposing the change. Lindsay Oldham, a fitness leader there, says not many took advantage of the space and the hours were quickly nixed, though she says the set-up wasn’t ideal as it was possible to see into the rooms.

Still, Palermo isn’t too concerned about the numbers. “We need to make sure that we have accessible spaces on campus whether or not the majority of the population is using them.”


Ryerson students debate women-only gym times

  1. Ah, nothing says equality like segregation and preferred treatment based on biological characteristics. It’s not even like they are offering each sex their own personal time slot… nope, only women are entitled to such special treatment.

    How about setting up an equal amount of male only time, and see how women appreciate that? I suspect it wouldn’t go over well in practice.

  2. I think it’s fine personally. It’s clear that women have a problem with men ogling them while at the gym, so if there is a problem then they should be allowed to have that time.

    Equality does not take the form of both sides doing the same thing. Men and women are built differently and can act differently in social settings. Often it is the case that there needs to be special treatment for certain groups of people. Often times this special treatment is allocated to disadvantaged groups. In this case, giving special treatment to women is necessary because certain women feel uncomfortable or are not able to use the gym for religious reasons. Lets not freak out over this and use this new policy to help these women have a positive gym experience.

    • I don’t know if its a good idea to go down the road of accommodating peoples “discomfort” with certain situations. Even if I were to accept for the sake of discussion that “special treatment” can be “allocated to disadvantaged groups”, I don’t see how special gym hours go to alleviate the disadvantages that those groups face.

      This sounds like its more about “discomfort” than correcting injustice. Will we accommodate those who are “uncomfortable” around black people? Aboriginals? Muslims? I would hope not.

      It also seems to rely on a stereotypical view of men that they are a bunch of creepy oglers which is problematic in itself.

  3. I feel that we need to provide women with their special accommodations. In fact I think that it behoves men to make these accommodations, as men are cleaer bigger, stronger, faster and smarter.

    • And they spell better than women?

  4. Anyone who has spent a large amount of time in a gym knows that the vast majority of males who go to workout could care less about the sex of the people around him. Moreover, most men are also quite aware of the stereotypes surrounding them so they make sure to avoid ogling or looking.

    Also, if we are going to separate for women, are we going to have hours for homosexuals, transexuals, and different ethnicities?

  5. Granted there are some men AND women who “ogle” a bit. Speak to those people and stop treating all people as though they were all showing disrespectful behaviour.

    Ladies… you wanted equality, you got it. Now grow up, stop complaining, and asking for special treatment. Deal with it and stop expecting authorities to do your work for you. My comment is echoed by many women who attend mixed gyms, where I live. Some of you could also learn to “dress for the job” and not for the “camera”. When women make comments about another woman’s dress (or relative lack of it) – it’s time to realise that they don’t want to look at you either.

    As for religious reasons… well, now you’re testing my patience. I have taught in West Africa, worked with immigrants / New Canadians, had friends and students of many ethnic groups and colours – I don’t care what you believe in or what your customs WERE – you are now in Canada. Stop trying to destroy / change the great country we have built here – a country you wanted to come to, remember? Don’t keep trying to change it. If you must dress a certain way around men – build your own gym, bring a portable curtain (Canadian Tire), or exercise in private. When will you learn to accommodate and be part of our society? Our tax dollars should not be involved in this caper.

    I am thankful I no longer attend a university (seven years of training). Free speech is out the window, special interest groups wield too much power, there is too much appeasement in general – we must make everyone happy and be more inclusive even if it inconveniences many others and goes against our cultural mores; and too much chicken-hearted caving in and enabling by so-called worldly administrators who cower behind a curtain of political correctness (a term from Communist China’s late-Chairman Mao Tse Dong’s little red book. Ironic, isn’t it?

  6. Ahhh Ryerson. Rye high.

  7. If there’s going to be female only gym times, there should be male only gym times as well. Sure, women complain about not exposing themselves to men while they’re working out, and I understand that, but what about the men who’re trying to get into shape and are uncomfortable with working out around people who’ve been at it for a while? Are there going to be private gym times for them too? Probably not since they usually just suck it up and workout at home or at the gym and just focus on their goal(s). Why can’t women do that? Can’t afford weights? There’s plenty of workouts you can do where you don’t need weights. Most I need when I’m working out at home is a chair, a couple of books, and a flight of stairs; a secondary use for the text books you bought for your classes.

    Women aren’t even the only ones who deal with getting hit on at the gym. Sure, most guys like the attention; some guys even go for the attention. There’s still some guys who don’t want to get hit on, either because they already have someone, or they just want to focus on their workout; maybe even other reasons like their orientation. Still, there’s no male only gym times. There’s even religious restrictions for males of some religions who can’t ogle females, and vice versa. If you’re going to make gym times for women only because they’re uncomfortable, you should make gym times that are men only, starters only, and co-ed. There’s a problem with that, though. If that happens, some students might have to change their courses around so they have time to work out, and their whole routine will have to be altered to fit the gym schedule. Might be a good idea for high schools since everyone’s classes end at the same time, but not so much on the college/university level where people have early classes, late classes, and even days with no classes.

    If college is meant to prepare you for the real world, the basics should be like the real world. In the real world, not everyone gets what they want, and not everyone has special accommodations. If you want women only gym times, sign up for a women only gym; same goes for men. If you can’t do that, workout at home.

  8. Naturally, this effort to advance discrimination and special-interest preference comes from the Ryerson Students’ Union — the authors of a policy rejecting the concept of misandry (the hatred or fear of men).

    Now here they are, wanting to exclude men. Which motive does the RSU want to own up to — hatred? Fear? Both?