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Gymtimidation Is Real At Carleton University

by Elizabeth Greenaway Read Profile arrow_right_alt

A few different student groups at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, are demanding at least three to five hours of women-only gym time every week in the campus fitness center. It all started in early November when the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) Womyn’s Centre, Muslim Students’ Association, Graduate Students’ Association and Rideau River Residence Association came together to coordinate a project called “Where’s Our Women’s Only Gym Hour?”

Why women-only gym time? An editorial in the Ottawa Citizen reveals the reason for the initiative:

“Imagine you’re going to the university gym for the first time, perhaps after making a New Year’s resolution to get yourself in shape. You don’t know much about how to use the equipment, and when you walk in, the entire football team is there lifting weights. It’s probably intimidating.

Now, consider what this might feel like for a young woman. Or how it would feel for a young woman who’s also religiously observant, and wearing conspicuously modest clothing.”

Another piece in the Ottawa Citizen goes on to explain:

“Other women may have a history of gender-based violence, and Schneider said the gym tends to be ‘a male-dominated space’ where some elements of rape culture — ‘staring, cat-calling and lewd comments’ — are more prevalent than in other areas on campus.”

Think it’s ridiculous? The editorial has a specific message for opponents of the initiative:

“Opponents of this proposal should be asking what they’re doing that is making their fellow classmates uncomfortable at the gym.”

The groups have started circulating petitions and are encouraging female, femme, non-binary and two-spirit students to take a survey about their feelings in the gym.

Female gender may sound familiar – it’s from the good old days, when we had two genders, male and female. “Non-binary” gender means you don’t identify with male or female genders. And the other two? We’ll let the Carleton University Students’ Association explain – the terms are defined in their survey:

“Femme: anyone with a feminine gender expression or identity.

Two-Spirit:  a culturally distinct gender that describes Indigenous North Americans who fulfil one of many mixed gender roles found among various Native Americans and Canadian First Nations indigenous groups.”

I’ll give that a moment to sink in.

My first question is how will “female-only” gym time be enforced? What if several members of the football team are feeling “femme” and identify as females on a particular day – are they allowed in the gym during women-only hours? Also – just curious – when the football team identifies with the female gender, will the females be less intimidated?

I’m not sure what’s more pathetic – the fact that these women want segregated gym time or the fact that the previous paragraph is full of totally valid questions when it comes to higher education today.

Just so we’re all clear, this is absolutely a call for segregation of women and men in the gym – and yet we, the conservatives, are the ones threatening to take the nation backwards after so many years of progress?

To many, the term “conservative feminist” is considered to be an oxymoron. The open-minded liberals can’t wrap their heads around the fact that a conservative can be pro-woman and passionate about women having the same rights as men. Many of us do – the difference is that many liberal feminists want women to be held higher than men.

Exhibit A – Women currently have equal rights to the gym at Carleton University as men. Now some of the women at Carleton University want the right to private gym time, free of men. Equal gym time isn’t enough.

This is further proof that conservative women are tougher than the self-identifying liberal feminists, who are constantly crying for a safe space when they feel even the least bit uncomfortable.

I am woman. Hear me roar.


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