Women’s Only Gyms: Creating and Preserving Space

August 1st, 2018 by

Research and testimonies show that women are feeling uncomfortable in more spaces than ever. But the tides of change are making big waves in the fitness industry.

According to a survey done by ExerciseBike.Net of 1,000 gym – going women, roughly 18.5% reported having a negative experience at the gym, which spurred them to alter their regimen in some way, NBCNews reports. Even more women made moves to consciously dress differently for their sweat session, practice different exercises, switch gyms, or in some cases — stop working out completely, after being harassed.

Within the broader context of movements sweeping the nation such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, and the Women’s March, just to name a few — those working in the fitness industry can’t help but wonder where our place is within the fight towards equal, safe, and  harassment – free spaces. Before true progress can be achieved, we need to first try and understand the various facets of the problem.

Casual Sexism

For starters — the casual tone taken by many in discussing male/female interactions within fitness spaces perpetuates toxic rhetoric. Even outlets entrenched in all aspects of the industry — such as Men’s Journal — completely miss the mark at times. Articles like: “Is It Ever Ok to Hit on a Woman at the Gym? Yes, Here’s How,” aim to provide a comprehensive guide for their male readers about ‘how to successfully hit on and pick up women’ in their respective gym scenarios. It includes some no – brainers, such as, ‘wear deodorant,’ and ‘don’t be creepy with your staring’ just to name a few, that truly diminish and further disrespect women. Being conscious of basic hygienic practices and manners doesn’t obligate anyone to diminish their workout in order to give someone the opportunity to try and score a date.

However — you’d be wrong to assume this is the only article of its kind. A quick google search of “How To Pick Up Women at the Gym” yields hundreds of infuriatingly sexist articles. Perusing the results is not recommended, unless you’re looking for a spike in blood pressure.

In the spirit of fairness and open dialogue, it is important to mention that although they exist is less quantity, articles advising women on how to hit on men at the gym exist as well. It is truly sickening to think that in the eyes of some, phrases like “[The gym] It is an untapped resource, a hidden treasure of men possessing that possible perfect “husband” package we all aspire for,” are acceptable, and even qualify as helpful and empowering.

Social Entrepreneurship 

Journalists, lawyers, educators, and quite frankly — women all across the world —  have been calling our attention to casual sexism and systemic misogyny for what feels like eons now. However, recently — female entrepreneurs specifically within the fitness niche –  have stepped up to the plate.

One such force for change includes Bedriye Hulya. A Turkish feminist and fitness enthusiast among all her other accomplishments, Hulya is also the founder of B – Fit gyms. As reported by endeavor.org, “B-fit is the first chain of women-only gyms in Turkey, and uses a franchising model which empowers other Turkish women as they are entirely women staffed and managed.”

Here in NYC  – Uplift Studios entices women with qualities that could make most feel comfortable — free – flowing wine, a varied, upbeat workout, and a judgement – free zone. But they don’t stop there. Uplift aims to provide a network specifically for women — an ‘all female society’ of sorts — that as the founder, Leanne Shear, explains, is aimed at providing women with the networking and social opportunities that have so long been available to men within their ‘old boys clubs.’

Strength in Numbers

However — although these creations are a victory for women, and are part of the movement to improve the rift sexism creates — this is only a start. Our friends at IHRSA report, in 2017, 174 million clients were consuming health club memberships worldwide. In the United States alone, approximately 60.87 million Americans populated gyms and fitness related spaces. What would happen if 60.87 million people were working towards easing the burden felt by women? By altering the oppressive structures in place, and urging their local fitness institution to become part of the conversation for equality, comfort, and progress within gyms.

Although we’ve come quite a long way — the days of women being shamed for sweating and only using the approval of their husbands as workout motivation appear to be long gone — there’s still a lot of work left for us to do. A world where women do not feel safe while performing their daily tasks is not a world that is equal.

Here at Zeamo, we are excited to be part of the equation of progress. With daily gym passes available worldwide at a wide range of prices, we provide accessibility for diverse needs, encouraging more people to start, and maintain, their fitness journey. We look forward to maintaining and advancing our role in this discussion.