Students at one Canadian university are demanding that men be banned from the on-campus gym for an hour every day.
“The gym is a male-dominated space where many women and non-binary folks do not feel comfortable,” Sydney Schneider, programming coordinator of the Carleton University Students’ Association Womyn’s Centre, tells Heat Street.
Furthermore, Muslim women and others adhering to a religious dress code may also be more comfortable working out with no men present, Schneider said.
At Carleton University, based in Ottawa, the Muslim Students’ Association, along with a few other student organizations, also supported the gym proposal, though no one from the group replied to Heat Street’s request for comment.
Of 1,200 survey responses, most have supported the one-hour man ban at the Carleton University gym, the National Post recently reported. And the Ottowa Citizen recently editorialized in favor of the proposed man ban, calling it “a perfectly reasonable accommodation, a minimal imposition in order to make a diverse community comfortable.”
But a Change.org petition opposing the gym man ban has gained nearly 150 signatures. “The concept of segregating men and women in any way is inherently sexist,” the petition says.
Schneider denies that claim, telling Heat Street that “segregation comes down from positions of power and are forced upon people.” In contrast, “this initiative allows women and non-binary folks the ability to work out in a more comfortable environment.”
At least three other Canadian universities have female-only hours at gyms. But at Carleton, there’s just one athletic center on campus, the National Post noted.
So are man-only hours coming soon to Carleton, too? “Once we are shown evidence that men are oppressed by women in the gym environment, we will support a men’s only gym hour,” says Schneider. “This is an equity initiative which understands the place of privilege men come from and wish to make campus safer for women.”
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.