By Avery Jonas ’16
The free weight training is a male-dominated space, especially by male varsity athletes; this is a well-known and easily observed pattern. Many a time, I entered the fitness room to see male athletes that participate in team sports populate the entirety of the free weight space. Due to gender dynamics, mostly male athletes weight train, exacerbating the already hyper-masculine environment instead of allowing other, non-male, non-varsity students to use them as well.
Those who attempt to train on the floor of the area will quickly discover that they are under room-wide surveillance. Not everyone feels comfortable working out in such a public domain, exposed to people’s stares, comments and silent judgement. Those who are somewhat comfortable may feel the need to prove their athletic ability to onlookers; male varsity athletes, however, will never have to justify their presence in the space. The institution — not Andover, but sexism — unfortunately entitles them to the training room. The large free weight training and movement space, the location of the aerobic and strength machines in the Cage and the Smith Center, respectively, and the location of the spinning bikes within the room so that they face the mirror, gives the impression that weight training, a generally masculine activity, is valued over the other forms of training and exercises available to the student body. This further prioritizes the physical wellness and needs of male athletes over others.
Fitness spaces that serve are open, free-for-all territory end up becoming male-dominated because of institutionalized male entitlement to space, in particularly athletic fields of play and dominance. A student who is neither male nor an labeled athlete might have a hard time feeling as though they can use the training room without judgment. I encourage Andover, the athletic department or the administration, to strategically find ways this stigmatized space on campus equally and equitably accessible to all.