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More women than ever are reporting harassment at the gym, but are women-only gyms the answer?

women-only gyms have received a lot attention on Tick recently with the hashtag #WomensOnlyGym reaching 21 million views and growing. Every day, women take to social media to share their experiences in fitness. These include sexual harassment, feeling stared at, feeling uncomfortable, or feeling like they don’t belong.

A study by Origym, titled The Gymtimidation report, found that 6 out 10 women in the UK were harassed when working out in mixed gyms. Surprisingly, 31% of women who were surveyed believed that there is a benefit in having women-only gyms. They also believe that they feel more secure and comfortable working out in women-only spaces. Would all-female gyms really help? Or would they create more division?

A 2021 survey by Sport England on the gender gap revealed that a large percentage of women feel incapable of exercising without having to deal with harassment, intimidation, and embarrassment. These barriers are most often associated with male gym-goers.

Origym discovered that half of all women leave the gym when they feel uncomfortable. Gym-timidation Report found that women and transgender gym-goers were most likely to report encounters with men who make a pass at them and follow them around the gym, as well as sexual comments.

Charlotte, 37 years old, was uncomfortable using the sauna at her local fitness center after a man kept following her in multiple times. She says, “I was using a pool and a man kept waiting for me at the side.” “He came in when I entered the sauna. It was just me and him in there. He asked me to come out. I declined and left the sauna. A few months later I returned to the sauna and was greeted by the same man who offered to help me. After that, I felt very uncomfortable.

 

“Women may feel safer, but single-sex clubs wouldn’t address the larger problem of sexual misconduct.”

 

This begs the question: Would women-only gyms prevent this type of behavior? While women may feel safer in a single-sex inclusive gym, single-sex gyms would not address the larger problem of sexual misconduct. Harassment would continue in other places and on the streets.

This raises the question: Should women be responsible for keeping themselves safe if it is primarily men who are bothering them in the gyms of the UK? Women are now being forced to remove themselves from unsafe situations by creating all-female spaces. This is not a matter of mixed gyms cracking down on bad behavior.

Stef Williams, creator of the fitness app WeGLOW, says that it’s sad that women feel they have to go to a separate fitness area. We should support women so that they don’t feel the need for separation. This could be through educating them about how to use equipment and making sure all fitness areas are inclusive. I wouldn’t want any woman to feel that they have to go to a male-only gym. They might interpret that as an indication that they can’t or shouldn’t exercise in other spaces.

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