The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

Girl Gains creates safe space for women and non-binary students in the gym

Photo Courtesy of Girl Gains UVM
Girl Gains UVM is a club designed to foster a comfortable gym environment and support women and non-binary people who want to work out.

College students are busy. Homework, classes and lack of motivation are all obstacles that may prevent students from going to the gym. Unfortunately, so is an uncomfortable environment. 

Being in a male-dominated space can be intimidating, so Girl Gains UVM is working to build a comfortable gym environment and support women and non-binary people who want to work out, said sophomore Sophia Parr, a mentor for Girl Gains. 

There are a variety of factors that may prevent women and non-binary people from feeling comfortable at the gym. 

“The weight room in specific can be intimidating […] as a woman,” said first-year Greer Hotaling. “I feel like I don’t fit in there and I feel like I’ll be judged.”

There is also a concern about being sexualized at the gym. On the anonymous social media app Yik Yak, posts have been made commenting on women’s appearances when they workout. 

“Any girls at the gym eyeing anyone rn cause you guys are so good looking,” stated a March 12, 2022 Yik Yak post. 

“Especially the ones with the tight pants and low cut tops,” stated a comment on the March 12 post.

To combat these obstacles, Girl Gains is trying to get more girls and non-binary people into the gym to show them that the space does not have to be intimidating, Parr said.

SGA, Campus Recreation and Girl Gains instated specific times at the fitness center for women and non-binary people. (Photo Courtesy of Girl Gains UVM)

“A lot of Girl Gains was mainly just getting more women and non-binary people into the gym, showing them that it’s not a scary place and helping them get more comfortable in a place that’s very heavily dominated by men,” Parr said.

As part of this goal to address concerns about barriers to gym participation, Campus Recreation, SGA and Girl Gains implemented specific fitness center times for women and non-binary identifying patrons in April of 2022, said Cyrus Carey, associate director of Campus Recreation.

These reserved hours are from 8:00-9:30 a.m. on Sundays and 10:00-11:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, according to the online schedule for the fitness center. 

“The goal is that these times help people feel comfortable inside of the fitness center, have a chance to get familiar with the space and equipment and have an opportunity to exercise in a less crowded environment,” Carey said. 

For sophomore Brooke Brescia, a member of UVM Girl Gains, this reserved gym slot creates a welcoming atmosphere and environment, she said.

“I feel more comfortable being a woman in the gym,” Brescia said. “I just feel more empowered.”

However, these reserved hours have received some criticism from other UVM students, particularly on Yik Yak. 

“If you do not identify as a woman or non-binary, stop going to the gym during the women/non-binary hours. We don’t ask for much, just 2 times a week at normally not even that busy hours. Just go an hour later. It’s really not that hard to respect that,” stated a February Yik Yak post. 

The post received 87 upvotes and replies from 13 individual users. While some agreed with the post’s statement, others disagreed.

“I lift when I want this is America,” stated a February Yik Yak comment on the post.

Another commenter argued that as they pay for the gym they should not be restricted to certain hours to use it. All UVM students pay for their gym membership through their comprehensive student fees for the fall and spring semester, according to Campus Recreation

“I pay for facilities—I use facilities. Simple,” stated a February Yik Yak comment on the post.

While the Fitness Center is technically reserved for only women and non-binary students during the specified hours, Girl Gains is not allowed to deny any patrons access during the time regardless of gender identity, Parr said.

“There’s no rule that [guys] can’t go [during the specified hours],” said Brescia. “It’s just kind of a courtesy thing that they don’t show up. I have seen men a couple of times during those hours.”

Carey explained that the fitness center has also received a variety of feedback, and while it has been overwhelmingly positive, some still disagree with the reserved hours.

“Patrons are not denied access to these times and we hope that each attendee takes the time to consider the intention of this initiative and make an informed decision related to their usage,” Carey said. “We are always open to feedback and looking for ways to make our facilities and programs as inclusive, welcoming and safe as possible.” 

Other Yik Yak users were more supportive of the reserved hours. 

“The facilities are open for 18 hours almost every day of the week. Women/NB specific hours are extremely inconvenient times only 2 hours out of the ENTIRE week. Go any other time. Please,” stated another February comment.

Despite mixed opinions, Girl Gains continues to offer a supportive community for women and non-binary identifying students, Parr said.

In addition to the reserved hours, Girl Gains also hosts workshops, gym walk-throughs, mentor times and more, according to the @girlgainsuvm Instagram.

“Anyone wanting to get into the gym era of their life should definitely join,” Brescia said. “It’s pretty awesome.”

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