Sunday, October 26, 2008

Gender in the Leonard Center

The Macalester Media Collective puts out occasional magazines centered around an issue or two that doesn’t get much press or attention elsewhere on campus. I sometimes glance at it, sometimes don’t, but this time it was entitled “Wither Gender? Saunesty in the ‘Nard Center.” Pretty much anything claiming to address gender grabs my attention and so I picked it up and threw it in my bag. Later I sat down to read it, and it is a bit disjointed, but it’s discussion of gender, particularly around the saunas, at the Leonard center was interesting. There is two short articles about the gendered spacing of the saunas, and one interview about the genderedness of the Center as a whole.
In discussing the sauna, they also touch on the gendered differences between the locker rooms. The men’s locker room has a big open shower room, while the girls has individual stalls. Someone also decided to put two separate saunas in the two locker rooms, rather than one mixed-gender sauna available. I understand that Macalester, especially at a bureaucratic level, is often not nearly as progressive as we’d like to think, but still, the separation of the saunas is interesting.
There is an interview between a guy and a girl at the Leonard center discussing their view of the gendered nature of the Leonard center. The girl talks about how the Leonard center is intimidating, and how there never seems to be girls there, and if there are, they are always on upright machines, like the treadmills. They guy talks about how it’s “sort of exhilarating to become just another guy in gym shorts,” and how he feels and unspoken bonding between any guys who happen to be working out at the same time. The girl said she wants to be ignored, and when she does go to the Leonard center she wants to get it over with as quickly as possible.
After reading this is asked one of my friends, who works out much more than me, if she felt the same way. She totally agreed, and said the reason why she never went to the Leonard Center was because she felt uncomfortable and like an intruder. She thought that a big part of this was the vast amount of weight-lifting machines that seemed inherently more masculine than the treadmills.
I don’t know if any of this can be changed, but it is something that I never thought about since I am only ever in the Leonard center for my Social Dance class, which is not gendered in the same way. There is not really anyone to blame for the gendering of this space, except perhaps society and therefore everyone/no one, but the blatant separation of genders and different treatment of the genders as evidenced by the differently constructed locker rooms surly contributes to these attitudes.

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