St John’s JCR is currently considering a motion that would see gender-specific hours being introduced in the college gym.
According to JCR President Christina St Clair, the motion brought to the JCR General Meeting two weeks ago has generated significant debate in the college, with questions being raised regarding the reasons for the request, the implications for gym users and the wider message it sends were discussed.
Opponents to the request cited the negative effects of gender “segregation” during the JCR meeting. Further opposition then occurred when the reasons for women wanting a women’s hour were inappropriately conflated with women not being able to use the machines rather than the wider reasons of feeling uncomfortable, intimidated and body conscious.
The college has also survey has been conducted to review whether gender specific hours in the gym are necessary or valuable, and to assess the amount of support behind the motion. The JCR Committee is working alongside the MCR Women’s Officers to write, conduct and analyse the survey results.The survey contains questions regarding which of the two gyms and the specific day and time during the week that would be best for gender specific hours without inconveniencing many people.
The survey received over 200 responses in only a few hours, a greater response rate than any of the other four surveys conducted by the JCR this term on other issues. Once the survey has been completed, the JCR committee will discuss how this matter should be approached.
St Clair has also stated that she is “very pleased to be conducting this survey and to gain some more information in an anonymous way. A lot of people often do not share their views at JCR meetings due to a lack of confidence or patience. Some discussion has occurred over Facebook but I do not think Facebook message threads are the most valuable way of gauging JCR opinion…I am particularly motivated to pursue this fully and to listen to those specific groups in the JCR who have particular needs that often many people cannot recognise or relate to.”
St Clair added that, “personally, I am massively in favour of getting more people to use the gym. I would like to think that we can find a way to help more people across the whole JCR to do exercise. University can often be quite stressful and I’m a firm believer in exercise as a stress reliever. I hope that the students of St John’s can support each other in improving both their physical and mental health.”
Speaking to The Oxford Student, first year St John’s student Crystal Chan commented: “I don’t think there will be a big implication even if there’s a woman only gym session. It’s not a proactive way of promoting the use of gym to self-conscious women after all.”
St John’s has two gyms, one of which was installed in 2011. There is also a third specialised gym that is used for training by rowers. In addition there is a games room, table-tennis table and two squash courts, designed for use by all current St John’s members (students and staff) and their spouses.
According to the College Gym Rules posted on St John’s website, access hours are from 6am to 11pm with the cleaning times being 9:15am to 10:15am, contrasted with other colleges, whose gyms are available 24 hours, minimising the availability of the gym further could be a reason for males to object to the motion.
Discussions on these issues also raised the issue of a general lack of knowledge and confidence among people of all genders regarding how to use the gym equipment properly. Following this discussion, an additional motion for “beginner’s hours” was also proposed alongside the proposition that the gym have gender-segregated sessions.