Stanford Introduces ‘No-Men’ Hours at Gym to Promote Inclusivity

Students walk on campus at Stanford University Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, in Stanford, Calif.
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Stanford University has introduced male-free hours at the gym, allegedly to produce a more inclusive atmosphere where women can train without the annoying presence of men.

Advertising the program as “Women’s Only Training,” Stanford says that “panels and dark window shades will be used to ensure privacy.” And although the training is rigorously for women only, it is “a trans-inclusive space,” the university proclaims, so biological males who identify as females can feel free to participate.

Stanford Recreation and Wellness is also offering a “woman certified personal trainer,” who will be available to supervise the studio for the duration of Women’s Only Training, answer fitness-related questions, and lead an introductory-level workout.

One of the personal trainers for the women’s-only hours is Irina Vitman, who praised the new policy for the safe space it creates for women and for its “inclusivity.”

It’s a “safe space” to make women feel more comfortable, Vitman said, “so that there’s no guys ‘macho-ing’ around. It’s a little less intimidating to use the free weights.”

The new program is the brainchild of two “Inclusivity Committee Chairs” at Stanford’s Recreation and Wellness department, Jennifer Sexton, director of fitness and wellness programs, and Daralisa Kelley, associate director of recreation programs.

The two women reportedly created the program after some Stanford women complained that they didn’t feel comfortable in large, co-ed gym spaces, and also as part of a wider effort by an inclusivity committee to address the needs of different groups on campus.

Camille Townshend, a mechanical engineering student, said she found the atmosphere in co-ed gyms stifling and she did not feel comfortable with men around.

“Everything was being used and all the testosterone in the air was super suffocating — the kind of culture you find in the gym, it feels very aggressive and not very welcoming,” she said.

The women’s-only training hours proved to be the solution.

“It was a very welcoming way to start lifting,” Townshend said. “And now I’ve been doing it for three weeks.”

“It’s actually gotten to the point where I don’t go to the gym if it’s not 1 to 3 on Monday or Wednesday,” she added. “I mean, I’ve never had a workout schedule, and now I do.”

Economist Mark Perry, a professor at the University of Michigan-Flint, has claimed that the new “no-men” hours at the Stanford gym may violate both the law and “Stanford’s own statement of nondiscrimination.”

The irony of promoting the program under the banner of “inclusivity” was not lost on Perry.

“So in the new upside-down world on college campuses, ‘excluding’ half of the campus from a university facility for four hours per week is celebrated as advancing ‘inclusivity’?”, he said.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter

.