Equipment preference causes gender separation at gym

Students utilizing their preferred gym equipment. Photo credit: Emily Conroy

The Wildcat Recreation Center offers various exercise options for all students, but there are noticeable areas that the differentiating genders gravitate to — men stay in the weight room and women upstairs on the cardio floor.

The WREC underwent many changes recently. One of the changes was the relocation of some female-friendly equipment, such as lighter dumbbells, yoga balls and stretching mats. The equipment was moved from the first floor where the heavy weight machines are located to the second floor with the cardio machines.

When asked if the equipment move made downstairs less welcoming for women, Justin Barney said that it didn’t make much of a difference in how women perceived the already male-dominated floor.

“I think regardless of the mats, it’s not very female-friendly,” he said. “(Downstairs is) a little intimidating — bunch of guys down there lifting heavy weights and maybe two or three girls that are doing the same — but most of (the girls) just come (upstairs) and do their thing.”

Brooke McClure, a senior nutrition major, spends a majority of her gym time on the second floor and when asked about her preference, she answered without hesitation.

“Downstairs is intimidating (because of) all the guys,” she said.

While the intention behind the move is unclear, there is a preconceived notion that women have a place upstairs and the men have theirs downstairs.

There is no written, spoken or even silent rule that women and men must stick to specific areas of the gym. The thing that seems to keep the genders separated is their own personal comfort levels and activity preference.

Barney has explored many new activities during his two years of frequenting the facility despite his initial lack of comfort.

“The first time I did yoga, I was shaking I was so nervous,” he said.

Barney wasn’t nervous because he didn’t know the poses, but because he didn’t want to be perceived as someone with ulterior motives considering the class majority was women.

“I was a little worried about being ‘that guy’ in the room going to yoga to check out the girls,” he said.

Barney has since grown accustomed to the class as well as the WREC in its entirety.

“I feel comfortable in the whole gym,” he said.

When asked about her initial impression on her first day at the WREC, Kendy Duarte, a junior business administration major, noticed the separation.

“It was a little intimidating when I walked in just to see no girls downstairs,” she said.

However, like Barney, Duarte is not letting the idea of being surrounded by the opposite sex hinder her interest in lifting and pressing.

“I don’t think that would stop me from going down there, but yeah, it would be nice to see more girls downstairs,” Duarte said.

So while gender segregation at the WREC is obvious, it does not appear intentional, but merely situational.

There are particular areas that have both genders equally pumped to utilize no matter the circumstances and that’s the WREC’s climbing wall and pool. Both are highly recommended to anyone looking for fun and intermingling during their workout.

Amanda Rhine can be reached at [email protected] or @am_rhine on Twitter.