Friday, May 20, 2022

'It's mainly a male-dominated space': MSU student advocates for female, non-binary gym spaces

January 25, 2022
IM West on Oct. 26, 2020. The Gym is briefly reoppening to students until Thanksgiving.
IM West on Oct. 26, 2020. The Gym is briefly reoppening to students until Thanksgiving. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

ASMSU General Assembly Representative and English junior Ella Woehlke is writing a bill that will outline a plan to add a workout space for female-identifying and non-binary students in MSU’s recreational facilities. 

Woehlke said that if everything goes as planned, the bill should be introduced to the academic committee early next week.

“I’ve just always felt kind of uncomfortable in the gym because it's mainly a male-dominated space,” Woehlke said. “Which is unfortunate because female health is so important.”

Woehlke said she thinks having a designated space for women and non-binary students would make students feel safer.

“I kind of was inspired by my own experience but also the experiences of others and the shared experiences because there are quite a few girls out there that feel the same way I do,” Woehlke said.

MSU is currently planning the construction of a new recreational facility. Woehlke said it would be ideal for the university to incorporate a safer gym space when they begin constructing it, so she’s trying to introduce the idea before the project starts.

“It doesn't even have to be anything huge,” Woehlke said. “Just those well-used machines, those being put in like a separate room, maybe with less mirrors and (more) encouraging quotes.”

Neuroscience senior and ASMSU Vice President for Student Allocations Harsna Chahal is helping Woehlke draft the bill. She said she knows many students that would be happy to see this addition.

"We're not just striving for a safe place for women to work out, but for anyone in the LGBTQ+ community,” Chahal said.

Chahal said she wants to make sure that the space has the same equipment as the other gyms and is well-maintained and kept clean. She will also be pushing for more extensive research on the topic in order to show the university what students want.

Political science-prelaw freshman Alex Seidleck said that she feels better after working out at the gym, but she’s had several uncomfortable experiences that make her not want to go. Having a safer space would make her want to work out often.

“Having like that separate space, that feeling of being uncomfortable could be eliminated,” Seidleck said.


Woehlke said that if the bill is passed through committees, it will be voted on by the entire general assembly. If this happens, she would like to see more feedback from students. She also created a form that students can fill out with their personal ideas and experiences.

“Everyone's welcome at those meetings,” Woehlke said. “Even people who want to voice their opinion on the bill, they are welcome to come and support or not support the bill and just kind of voice those opinions. And I really encourage that.”

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