Some women in Stellenbosch are not enjoying their gym experience. They feel that some sections are “reserved for men” and that men take unfair ownership of those sections.
The weights section and treadmill areas are where some women feel especially uncomfortable.
When asked about whether many women complain about sexual or other forms of harassment as well as whether or not the gym is segregated along gender lines, the club manager of Stellenbosch’s most popular gym, Bernil Klaasen responded that Virgin Active Stellenbosch has a younger clientele with an average age of 20 to 25 years old.
The majority of these are millennials who are more progressive in their thinking about gender issues. He said that harassment may be an issue at other gyms with older, more conservative clients.
Members of the gym said they did feel that the gym was segregated, with the weights section (upstairs) being seen as a “men’s area” and the treadmill section (downstairs) being seen as a “women’s area”.
Kyra Tarr, a 21 year old Politics, Philosophy and Economics graduate of Stellenbosch University said that women actually refer to the weights section at the gym, as “the boys section”. She also said that she does not mind going to the weights section as long as she knows what she is doing or is going with someone who knows what they are doing.
Lisa Mbana, a 22 year old former Virgin Active member, former UCT Radio Co-Host and current occupational therapy student at Stellenbosch University said that she had definitely felt uncomfortable before, especially in the weights section. “[Men] almost look at you like ‘what are you doing here’ And they look at you in a very condescending manner.”
The treadmill area seems to be a space in which women feel especially vulnerable.
Although some women said that they don’t venture upstairs and generally stick to the treadmills, some do feel uncomfortable. “I always make sure I choose one (a treadmill) at the back where no male is behind me to ‘check me out’ and men stare in a very rude way” , said Lisa.