Kalamazoo College's Student Newspaper
By Elaine Ezekiel, News Editor
The feminist blog Jezebel.com referenced the Kalamazoo College Women in the Weight Room program in an article last month about recovering anorexic women in college.
The article says the College “designate[s] a few hours each week where the gym is women-only.” Though the Anderson calendar sets aside four and a half hours a week for “Women in the Weight Room,” in reality, the program has fizzled.
Women in the Weight Room began in 2005 as a combined effort of Stephanie Anderson and Physical Education Instructor Carrie Brankiewicz ‘04 who had just graduated from K and joined the the Hornet Coaching Staff.
Brankiewicz says Anderson approached her saying she had female friends who were intimidated when trying to lift weights or who had been sexually assaulted on campus and did not feel comfortable working out in front of men.
Volunteers staffed the hours, and they escorted men from the weight room during the designated times, but this process made waves when a transgender-identified student wished to work out during the time and was denied access to the room. Brankiewicz says this resulted in a campus-wide meeting, and the program was opened to all students.
“Women in the weight room is open to anyone who may want a safe space to work out. It’s geared towards women, and that was the point of starting it,” she said, “but if you’re a transgender individual, then you’re more than welcome to come.”
The schedule posted on the Anderson website says Women in the Weight Room is currently slotted on Sundays from 3-5 p.m. and Tuesdays 8:30-10 p.m. The hours are not staffed, and over the past weeks, few women appeared to use the time. Brankiewicz says this is a result of lack of staff, funding and student interest in the program.
Two female students working out in the gym during the Tuesday timeslot expressed ambivalence to the idea. Anna Avila says she and Marianne Lemberger ‘14 try to work out about four times a week, but they don’t use the weight room.
“I don’t wait to gain muscles; it’s more for the exercise,” said Avila.
Still, the program has sporadic support from students and staff. Last spring, the Index’s Kelsey Donk reported on an “Occupy the Weight Room” demonstration in Anderson where about ten women gathered together in the name of creating an equal opportunity workout space at K.
Men’s Basketball Coach and Anderson Building Coordinator, Eric Dougal also supports the concept.
“It’s a tremendous idea. I mean, there’s no doubts that eliminating the men from the weight room makes it a little bit more inviting and a little bit less intense of an environment,” he said.
He says a contributing factor to this intimidation is what he calls a lack of weight room etiquette. For example, weightlifters sometimes let the heavy weights drop onto the floor at the end of a set.
“Not everybody has taken a weightlifting class,” he said. “If you take a weightlifting class, they’ll tell you if you’re letting the weights slam, you’re not controlling it.”
Dougal and Brankiewicz agree that perhaps the real solution to intimidation in the weight room will come with the completion of new athletic center, when the sports teams and more casual trainers will be able to work out with much more space.