Women-only gyms – Sexist or not?

Being one of only two women in a office of men leads to some interesting discussions. 

We got on to the topic of women-only gyms and insurance. The men all felt this was completely sexist and discriminatory. I don’t know how I really feel about this. I had a look through the Feministing archives to see what sort of things have been said about it in the past.

On one hand there are many women who don’t feel safe and would prefer to just get on with their workout in peace and without worry. One of the men in the office, who nearly lost his life to black male who hijacked him, said that this traumatic event meant he didn’t feel safe when a black person walked down his road as he has no way of telling whether this person is a criminal or not. Would it be okay to simply make his street a whites only area so he could feel safe and not have to worry? Or could he form a straight men only gym if he feels ogled by gay men in the changing room of his current gym? Although they are completely different issues, the logic is technically the same.

On the other hand this seems to be an easy-out to a problem that would be better addressed head on. Wouldn’t it be better to have a co-ed gym where women (or men) were given practical ways to deal with unwanted attention? But will this be enough to ensure their protection?

Are the differences between gender enough of a reason to promote things like segregated gyms, even if the logic it uses can’t be applied to other areas? Most places still have segregated bathrooms based on the similar issues as to why people might want segregated gyms.

As for the insurance issue, I did point out that all insurance companies will discriminate based on various categories a person falls into – age for example. 

I’m interested to hear what other people think about this topic. It may be more progressive not to segregate, but what about safety? Is gender enough to advocate for certain types of segregation when other types based on age or race are considered inappropriate?

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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