College turns gym into 'man-free space'

For one recent afternoon, Pitzer College closed the Gold Student Center (GSC) gym to all males to create a safe space for women and gender non-binary students.

Pitzer College Residence Life and the gym itself announced the Friday event on Facebook and displayed on posters around campus, proclaiming that the idea was “designed to support the health of women and non-binary people.” There was a three-hour closure of the Pitzer gym to men to make “people of other genders feel safe to explore the gym, learn about the equipment, or just workout in a man-free space.” The closure occurred between 2:00 PM and 5:00 PM, generally high-volume hours for the GSC.

This experimental gym day was announced shortly after the University of Manitoba in Canada offered its students gyms hours exclusively for women, trans, and non-binary students.

Activities during the first hour of the male-free afternoon included “short rotations between different types of equipment…with instructors at each location who can instruct people on how to safely use that type of equipment, and answer questions that anyone might have.” The following hours were free workout time in the gym, but only for those who identify as women or gender non-binary.

The event was organized by two Pitzer resident advisors, and was also sponsored by the Pitzer College Residence Life Staff and the Gold Student Center. Last week, the Independent attempted to inquire with the organizers about why women and non-binary individuals have difficulty exercising with men, if there have been any incidents in the gym where men have made other genders feel uncomfortable, and where Pitzer males will work out during that closure, but has not received a response from either.

One male Pitzer student who spoke to the Independent on the condition of anonymity said that he did not believe that women or non-binary people would feel uncomfortable at the gym.

“In my own experiences, I don’t feel that the gym is so male-dominated, both in actions and presence, that women and non-binary people are excluded from participating in daily workouts. While there are times that there are mostly men in the gym, I feel that there are times, though less of them, when there are many or most[ly] women present as well.”

“All this being said, I am not a woman and as such can’t as easily identify with the feeling of being excluded or turned off from a gym mostly filled with men. Furthermore, I do understand the idea of giving a day to allow other identities to learn how to workout in the gym given that it is mostly men generally and it allows underrepresented groups to take the first step in joining the community that is the gym,” he added.

There has been no indication whether the school or resident advisers plan to continue allotting hours for women and gender non-binary people in the future.

The move by Pitzer College to bar men from the gym even for just one afternoon appears to violate its own non-discrimination policy protecting students from discrimination against sex, and a host of state and federal civil rights legislature, including Title IX.

The Gold Student Center is usually open seven days a week during the school year to people from all five undergraduate colleges, regardless of gender, race, and sexuality. During the closure, male Pitzer students had the option to access the gym at Pomona College—another institution in the Claremont University Consortium—located on the other side of the consortium’s campus, about a 20-minute walk from Pitzer’s campus.

This article was originally published in The Claremont Independent, a conservative student newspaper affiliated with the Leadership Institute's Campus Leadership Program. Its articles are republished here with permission.

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