Separate, but Equal

Are Gender-Specific Facilities Fair?

I wouldn’t classify myself as a feminist, nor do I promote any radical gender reform, but I believe in gen­der equality. As I watched television the other day, a commercial came on for Lucille Roberts Women’s Fit­ness Center. I have never really given much thought to a gender-specific fa­cility before but it got me wondering if promoting such facilities was in our country’s best interest. How can men and women be equal if we keep creat­ing these places that separate us?

Lucille Roberts Women’s Fitness Center opened in 1970 by a woman named Lucille Roberts. Roberts’ goal by opening the facility was to pro­vide women with a comfortable and affordable place to exercise and lose weight. According to the Lucille Rob­erts website, “…we are ladies only because we believe women should be comfortable working out. Our mem­bers can jump higher, squat lower and sweat without feeling self-conscious.”

Curves, another popular women’s -only gym is said to be “an overnight success, as it gave women a support­ive and comfortable atmosphere in which to work out.” Today, Curves is the largest fitness franchise in the world with over 9,000 clubs in over 70 countries.

Personally, I like the idea of a wom­en-only fitness center. I wouldn’t have to put any effort into the way I look when going to the gym, I wouldn’t be self-conscious about the way I run on the treadmill and I wouldn’t fret if I got a little sweaty. A women’s facil­ity would cater to my needs and I see the reasoning behind them, but I feel uneasy when I think about the impact gender exclusive facilities have on our efforts to achieve gender equality.

Now, before all you men start storming Curves and Lucille Roberts with pitchforks and torches, I ask you to recall this past summer, August 20, 2012 to be exact. Does Augusta Na­tional Golf Club ring a bell? If not, let me fill you in.

Augusta National Golf Club is a club located in Augusta, Georgia. Up until August 20, 2012, Augusta had been a highly exclusive all-male facility. While women could play as guests, they could not become mem­bers of the club. After years of much scrutiny from women’s rights groups, Mitt Romney, President Obama, and many other public figures, Condo­leezza Rice, the former Secretary of State and Darla Moore, a South Caro­lina businesswoman were admitted as the first female memebers of Au­gusta.

This was a great step towards women’s equality, but what took so long? Additionally, I have not heard of any other women joining the golf club since, which is disappointing and leads me to believe that Augusta is not concerned with gender equality or the repercussions of its exclusivity.

I just don’t understand the separa­tion of men and women by creating gender-specific facilities. Can some­one truly be denied admission based solely on their gender? It sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen (and trust me, they have happened). If a man wants to join Curves he should be able to, and if a women wants to join Augusta she should be allowed.

I don’t know the implications that gender specific facilities have on our country or if there are any implica­tions at all. I suppose it has more to do with the reasoning behind each facili­ty being gender exclusive. For women only gyms, the argument is that some women are uncomfortable exercising in front of men, and as for Augusta, it seems that simply being exclusive was the only motive to being all-male.

Being gender exclusive just for the sake of being exclusive is counterpro­ductive in our battle for equality, and if facilities continue to be gender ex­clusive without having a valid reason to do so, then our fight for equality will never be complete.