So it’s come to my attention that my campus is struggling with the concept of women’s only workout hours.
My campus has two gyms; one smack dab in the middle of everything and the former Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. Okay so our second gym is a bit of a walk. Maybe 10 minutes at most.
Anyways, sometime last year the gym at the centre of our campus introduced an hour and half time slot for only women to use the gym. When I say gym, I mean the facility with all the machines and the track upstairs. The basketball courts, squash courts, treadmills and the pool don’t have this imposed time constraint. The times change daily from an hour an half in the mornings to an hour and half in the afternoon the following day.
The athletic facility added this for two specific reasons: religious-related reasons and harassment issues.
Certain religions require women to cover up certain parts of their appearance to men. Women’s hour gives them the opportunity to work-out while still following their religion. All the power to these women.
The other reason is that apparently women at our gym are prone to dealing with unwanted staring or crude comments from males working out at the same time.
Let’s be clear here: I understand and agree with both sides. I know that men are paying the same amount of money as women to use the gym and yet they can’t access it all the time. But I also understand the reasons they implemented the hour in the first place.
However, I have been told several times from people I ask that it is about equity rather than equality. There’s a big difference between the two.
Equality would mean women’s workout doesn’t exist. It would mean that everyone obtains the same share of time for the money they pay.
Equity on the other hand is about being fair. It means giving time to the women who may not feel comfortable and the women who have religious reasons. That is fair by standards.
The argument then stems from these two concepts. Most anti-women’s hour argue equality, the others argue equity. But let me highlight something important about our society.
We are not yet ready for complete equality.
We respect and value women in our society beyond a doubt. But cases of harassment for women are still higher than that of men. That is not to say that the reverse isn’t true. But our society doesn’t hear about it as much.
We can give men and women the same space but the issue lies in the unfairness of circumstance. Is it fair for a woman to be gawked at based on her physical appearance? Yes it’s unfair for men to have to wait an hour but in retaliation I would point out that I don’t have access to the gym all the time thanks to my timetable. Should I demand that we have a ‘journalists only workout’ because of the unfairness of my timetable? I mean I’m paying the same money as anyone else, shouldn’t I be able to go to the gym on my class time?
Before we can be truly equal, we need to learn to be fair. My campus is well on it’s way to becoming equal but until equity is established between the genders, equality is still some ways away. If we eliminate the discomfort that women feel, only then can we share the gym without problems.