The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
The University of Missouri Recreational Center, lovingly referred to as The Rec, ranks amongst the top college gyms across several websites. It’s easy to see why. With The Jungle Gym, Tiger Grotto and several fitness training programs, there’s nothing students can’t find to aid them on their fitness journey. One other thing that The Rec has an abundance of? Testosterone.
No matter the time of day, you can always find rooms packed with guys lifting and training. There is nothing wrong with that; they have every right to be there, just as any other MU student. However, some women on campus consider it to be an intimidating environment and would rather skip the workout than be in the same room as 30 grunting and panting men. This is especially true for sexual assault survivors or women who are new to working out.
“I think it would be a good idea for Mizzou to introduce women’s-only gym hours,” MU sophomore Belle Salak said. “I never go to the weight room by myself. There’s only ever guys in there. I’m uncomfortable just thinking about how they’ll interact with me. They stare and judge, [and] I hate it.”
A 2019 study by OnePoll found that nearly half of a 2,000-person sample experienced some form of “gymtimidation,” a term used to describe feelings of anxiety or intimidation in relations to exercising at a public gym. Of that same sample, 17% of respondents said they experienced gymtimidation specifically around members of the opposite sex.
Nobody wants to have their butt stared at while squatting or their form judged when they lift. Reserving women-only hours in the weight rooms for a few hours each week could alleviate some of the worries that women on campus feel. It would create a safe space for them to workout and improve without feeling judged or stared at. Women don’t see gyms as a place to find a husband, but as an environment where they can grow and better themselves, both mentally and spiritually. We don’t workout to appeal to men; we workout to feel good for ourselves.
The popularity of women-only gyms reaches far past MU. The hashtag #womensonlygym has over 21 million views on TikTok, proving the high demand for a safe workout space. Women on MU’s campus would benefit from a community where they feel comfortable enough to try out new machines, exercises and routines. We are all paying for the same membership, and yet many of us don’t feel comfortable enough to use it.
There are two million fewer women than men who are active, but 75% of women want to work out more, according to Sport England. The fear of judgment is the primary exercise barrier that women face, usually at the hands of men they find intimidating.
MizzouRec could do right by many women on campus if it introduced women-only gym hours. Guys would find other times or locations to exercise during these times, and any woman-identifying student who previously felt too scared to workout would finally get the opportunity to try out MizzouRec’s highly-rated facilities.