Gender is weird, or Sam’s first reflections on her fancy new gym

So I’ve joined a fancy gym. You know, the kind with fitness classes you book online using an app, wood paneling, gentle upbeat music in the lobby, and a coffee/juice bar. There are even blow dryers and mirrors with good lighting for getting ready for work after your workout.

I actually appreciate the app but the rest of it isn’t anything I need in a gym. My usual workout spaces are university gyms, the Y, or, for a time, a CrossFit box (as they say.)

I’m there because they have a pool and aquafit classes but also spin classes and hot yoga, a decent weight room, and a sauna and a hot tub. It’s lovely really and I’m spoiling myself during my winter of mostly indoor exercise as I rehab the left knee after surgery and pre-hab the right one before it too is surgically replaced.

One thing about these kinds of mainstream fitness spaces that I find jarring is that they do gender in ways that aren’t usually part of my world.

What do I mean by that?

Well, it’s not just the change rooms.

They also have a women’s fitness room within the gym. It’s not as nice as the main gym. There aren’t as many options. Likely I won’t ever use it. It looks like lots of women do though. But it also means there are fewer women in the general weightlifting area. So a space that can feel male dominated feels even more male dominated because some women opt for the women only space. And then, as a result, more women opt for the women only space. I find that frustrating.

I get that you want to include women who for religious reasons can’t exercise around men but the upshot for the rest of us isn’t positive. And it’s certainly not positive for those people who identify as gender non-binary.

There’s a webcam from the fitness center daycare to the women’s only fitness space that got me wondering about dads who bring their kids to the on-site day care while they work out. It’s like when there are infant change tables only in the women’s washrooms. I’m not sure if there is a web cam of the daycare accessible from the main fitness room or the men’s locker room. My guess is no.

I was happy to see though that the aquafit classes that take place in the women only pool are more gender inclusive. They’re open to women and gender non binary members. There are also ‘open to everyone’ aquafit classes in the regular pool. I’m glad because lots of guys have injuries that could benefit from exercising in the water.

Non binary aqua bootcamp class description

I’ve been feeling more and more that I don’t belong in women only spaces. It’s not that I don’t identify as a woman. I do. But lots of the people I want to spend time with don’t. I don’t want to be in spaces that exclude them. Lots of my friends identify as gender queer or gender fluid or gender non binary and it feels different excluding them than it does excluding cis men.

I’m still thinking lots about this and I’m not sure what this means for me and my future in women only environments. I used to think it was okay as long as they were trans inclusive but that’s no longer enough for me, I think. And it’s not that I don’t think there should be such spaces but I am wondering more and more about my place in them.

Juice bar image from Unsplash

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