Barbell_Group_Fitness_Class

Photo by LocalFitness via WikiMedia | CC-BY-SA-3.0 

As a former competitive gymnast, the gym was a safe place where I practiced a sport I loved. I was in that gym five days a week for four hours a day, training and getting stronger from the time I was three until I was thirteen. Both men and women, boys and girls, trained there. We existed and practiced in harmony. No one felt out of place or disregarded by their fellow gymnasts because of one very important thing: respect.

I was hard-pressed to find that level of respect again after leaving gymnastics. Large corporate gyms offer machines, personal lessons, programs, discounts— a myriad of things that mean nothing if you can’t feel comfortable while exercising. Our very own Pottruck is no exception. This is why Pottruck should have a level entirely for women and their workouts — a space for those of us who feel insufficient or strong-armed in other areas. 

Of course not every male in the gym is concerned with what a girl is doing or how she looks while she’s doing it. But all it takes is one person and one snide remark to make someone uncomfortable enough to stop. This basically tethers men’s fitness to a higher status than women’s, which is a glaringly obvious and unacceptable assumption. Walking on a treadmill shouldn’t elicit a derisive remark from a fellow gym-goer, yet more than once a man has approached me and said something akin to, “You call that running?” No matter how hard I try to convince myself that embarrassment shouldn’t be the go-to reaction, I walk away from the gym trying to hide my reddening cheeks.

The sliding scale of burden that women and nonbinary people regularly shoulder when going to the gym ranges from slight embarrassment to full-on shame, even though they’ve done nothing but participate. 

My twin sister recently showed me a raging Facebook debate on the University of California Los Angeles Class of 2021 page, where one student suggested the idea of an all women and nonbinary people’s lifting program, in an attempt to include a previously alienated subgroup of interested participants from the activity of heavy-lifting. Many comments of supported that initial proposal, with girls from all different walks of life championing the idea. However, over eighty-five comments from spurned men also accompanied the proposition. Some were saying that it was equally as isolating to exclude men from a group simply due to their sex, which they claimed was worse than just sharing a lifting space. 

Here’s the issue: Excluding men from a group that already privileges them is not isolating. It is not the same thing, and it is not up to them to decide if women should or want to work out amongst only other women. 

Three thousand miles away from this Facebook debate, my mother was pumping away on a treadmill at her new gym, which happened to be an all-women’s gym. I accompanied her for a free trial, and found most of the women there to be my mother’s age or older. I was by far the youngest one there most days, aside from the employees, yet no one made any remarks about my age, pitiful weight-lifting, or gym shorts. The atmosphere was different. It was respectful.

Considering the act of exercise is typically for individual satisfaction or betterment, other people shouldn't be given the opportunity to stop you in your tracks. Girls shouldn’t be nervous or intimidated to enter the weight room in Pottruck. You should be able to wear what you want without worry. 

With four floors and 12,000 square feet, I think Pottruck can spare the space. 


SOPHIA DUROSE is a College freshman from Orlando, Florida studying English. Her email is sdurose@sas.upenn.edu

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