By Jessica Murray
My first trip to Ryerson’s Recreation and Athletics Centre (RAC) did not go exactly as I planned.
With my OneCard in hand and my gymbag slung over my shoulder, I swiped my way on into the RAC. As I made my way to the weight room, I peered through the glass doors and realized that there were no other women to be seen. Cowardly, I detoured away from the testosterone-filled room and found myself on the treadmill, a more gender appropriate piece of gym equipment (or so it would appear to be at the RAC).
After a couple of weeks, I soon got over my intimidation of the weight room (and of the people inside it). However, each visit to the RAC still produces the same sight: little to no female participation in the overwhelmingly male-populated room.
Anthony Seymour, Manager of Recreation at the RAC, has witnessed the same sight for years.
“In general, if you’re walking through the weight room you are lucky to see 15 to 20 per cent [of those working out] to be women,” said Seymour.
To encourage a larger female turnout, the RAC offers programs such as ‘Ladies!!!’ levels one and two, where females can learn about weight training and how to conduct an effective workout. Currently, three females have come out to participate in level one, and no one have signed up for level two.
Out of the 4,891 RAC student members, approximately two-thirds are male and one-third is female.
This disproportionate number extends to the court as male participants dominate intramural sports. Nick Asquini, the Intramural, Camps and Clubs Specialist for the RAC, reports that out of 900 student intramural participants, about 75 per cent are male and 25 per cent are female.
Aside from a modest presence in the weight room and in intramurals, female members are still prominent throughout the RAC in general. Seymour reports that over half of the athletic drill classes provided by the RAC consist of females. Additionally, males and females are matched for personal trainer use.
“I think a lot of the girls tend to stick to the track and cardio, and guys tend to stick to muscular endurance exercises and the courts,” says Momina Ishfaq, a first year engineering student and regular at the RAC.
“There are a lot of guys [in the weight room], and I don’t know how to use the machines in there so I feel a bit intimidated,” says Ishfaq.
Even women who know how to use the equipment and machines in the weight room usually choose to stay away from it.
“There are too many guys in there,” says Corina Chen, a second year early childhood education student. “Even if guys are not looking at me [while working out], I feel self-conscious.”
To the girls who worry about the looks they may receive as they approach the bench press, perhaps those aren’t judgmental glares.
“If anything, guys would be impressed if they saw a girl working out,” said Josh Kohn, a second-year business management student and member of the Ryerson soccer team. “When guys see girls in [the weight room], they look at them because there are so few of them.”
Whether or not the men glaring at us are being judgmental or just surprised to see a woman venture into their forbidden territory, we will never know for sure. However, I am proud to say that I have conquered my fear of entering the weight room, and I hope that others will follow suit.