There’s an ongoing debate on my campus about a program called “Women in the Wegith Room.” It takes place twice a week, Sunday afternoons (in which a female student worker volunteers her time to come in and work, because normally the gym wouldn’t be open on Sunday afternoons), and Tuesday evenings. Pretty much, it’s supposed to be a safe place for all women to come and workout without men around. Now, the reason the program was started was so that women could workout in a safe place. Many women feel it’s a safe place because it’s an all-female atmosphere, with women teaching them how to use the equipment in case they didn’t feel comfortable at other times. Others because they have been sexually assulted, often times by a male student. This is meant to be a safe enviornment.
Last year, a male student tried to get into Women in the Weight Room, saying he identified as a woman, and should be allowed in. Though in this particular case, the male student admitted to pretending to be transgendered to prove a point, it started an ongoing debate about the existance of Women in the Weight Room. Last year they held open forums on what the school should do, and students came to express their opinions. A large number of men on campus thought that it wasn’t fair to them that they be excluded. The Women in the Weight Room coordinators pointed out that it was only 4 hours a week that they were not allowed to come (including 2 hours that the gym wouldn’t otherwise be open to anyone). After last spring, I thought that most of the debate had ended. Women in the Weight Room continued to occur.
Last night I recieved a facebook invited to an event that was eloquently titled, “Fuck Ladies’ Night in the Gym!” I immediately got angry at the phrasing, and went to the event to see what the hell was going on. Turns out one of the international students doesn’t think women should have their own time in the Gym and is boycotting it by getting together a group of men to infiltrate the program.
I have never been sexually assaulted. And I have stopped caring who is in the gym when I go. But all the same, I love going to Women in the Weight Room. One of my women friends would only go to Women in the Weight Room because she had been sexually assulted by a student. That student also happened to be the male student who pretended to be transgendered to try to get into the program. For her, it was a matter of feeling safe whether Women in the Weight Room continued. I feel like it is important that we give the women on our campus this safe haven.
Not only would I like to hear your opinions on this program, but I’d also like to ask advice: how should I respond to the international student, a man who is my friend, who wants Women in the Weight Room to end? I didn’t know what to do, and as of yet, I have not responded. I feel strongly that this program should continue, and I feel like he should understand why it’s around (since he wasn’t here last year to hear the debate). What should I say? And what do you all think?