Gyms are often a male-dominated arena. Jokes about gym bros and general gym culture often surround masculinity, leaving no space for women. This is not a problem unique to Brandeis but widespread in our society. So it is not a novel solution to create spaces specifically for women in these environments where they are typically marginalized.
Many gyms have launched programs that are geared solely to women so they can exercise without men being around. This creates a generally more “comfortable, positive atmosphere” than co-ed facilities. Now, this solution is being brought to Brandeis by Kyla Ginsberg ’25 who spearheaded the campaign for women’s only lifting hours in Gosman Athletic Center.
The idea started as Ginsberg heard peers talk about their discouragement about going to the gym, as she explained to The Brandeis Hoot in an interview. “I talked to many people that felt intimidated by the gym environment,” said Ginsberg. This spurred Ginsberg to reach out to Katherine Page, a fitness coordinator at the university. Page worked in tandem with Ginsberg to make the process “smooth and easy to implement,” said Ginsberg.
“I was hoping to create a happy, supportive space for women to exercise without feeling like they didn’t belong there. So far I think I’ve succeeded,” Ginsberg explained.
Since starting the program, the hour designated for women has been heavily attended, Ginsberg explained to The Hoot. The success of the initial women’s hour has caused the weight room to open a second hour on Thursdays between 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., Ginsberg told The Hoot. “The overwhelming majority of people are very enthusiastic about the change,” Ginsberg said.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in the gym as a student-athlete and there are worse gyms, but Gosman is still a very male-dominated space. I’ve noticed that it’s much quieter and more relaxed at the women’s hours. Nobody is there to prove their macho-ness. I personally enjoy not feeling like I have to be macho to assert myself in the space,” said Artemis Reynolds ’23 who attends the women-only lifting hours told The Hoot.
Sometimes, the behavior of men in the gym can be off-putting for others trying to lift, Reynolds explained, especially for women who men can target in the gym. “The staring and the grunting and slamming are bad, but the worst part is how [men] make women feel bad for using the equipment unless they have perfect form and are lifting an ‘impressive’ amount of weight… As someone who looks a lot like a man, this is more my outsider perspective, but also what I’ve heard from the women there,” Reynolds explained.
Some community members have been attending the women lifting hours in groups with their friends as the word spreads about the designated hour for women. Reynolds noted that the turnout is “pretty good.” Maddie Silverberg ’24 spoke with The Hoot about attending the women’s only lift hours. She explained she had heard about it from a friend who works in Gosman and has since attended with a group of friends. Silverberg noted that prior to the women’s only hours she had only “dabbled” in lifting but didn’t feel entirely comfortable with lifting in the gym. However, working out and going to the gym helps Silverberg when she’s stressed, she explained. “It really calms me down and makes me feel a lot less anxious. I also feel a lot more powerful after going [to the gym],” said Silverberg.
Working out and exercising not only promotes a healthy lifestyle but also spurs a sense of community. Silverberg explained to The Hoot that prior to the women’s hours she left a lack of community at the gym. However, with the addition of the women-only hours she feels “more comfortable and confident.” During the hour there are “more people hyping you up and it’s way more supportive” compared to the co-ed gym atmosphere.
“I have complicated feelings about the gym. Being trans, I was really worried about making any other women uncomfortable,” said Reynolds. “It has been very positive though. I like that people see me there and immediately know that I’m not a man. Typically men in the gym will try to bro-talk with me and I usually just go along with it because it’s easier. This way I get to just lift with my friends and encourage the other women.”
Though, some students have noticed some pushback from other community members after announcing the women-only hours. Reynolds told The Hoot that she has heard some men in Gosman complaining about the designated hour for women only. “Men in the gym complain a lot and quite a few make tasteless jokes about ‘identifying as a woman for an hour,’” said Reynolds. She then went on to say that she thinks the comments are “just another way to make women feel guilty about using the space.”
Ginsberg also explained to The Hoot that there have been negative comments from the male community. Though, she noted she has not heard anything negative outside of online comments.
“I was nervous to go, but I love the idea of women supporting women and not being judged or pressured by men. I don’t think a lot of men realize just how much they make the gym and hostile environment for non-men,” said Reynolds.
Praise for the women’s-only hours was reiterated by Silverberg who told The Hoot that she feels “like these hours helped [her] feel stronger than when [she] worked out alone. The hour makes my friends all want to come and it becomes a hanging out experience that we look forward to.”
Reynolds noted while she enjoys the hour reserved for women, she wishes it could be more inclusive for non-binary folks. While Reynolds noted that she felt the general purpose of the hours was to have a men free zone, she hoped the event could become more inclusive to explicitly include non-binary folks.