By Evelina Kulp and Jet Beers
Ladies only wellness, hair salon and gym; the number of ladies-only facilities in Amsterdam is growing. Previously, gyms solely for women attracted mainly women with a religious background, but nowadays the interest is spreading to non-religious women as well.
Beer Atalay is a trainer at the women-only gym ”Only 4 Ladies” in Amsterdam-Oost. She says a lot of women chose women-only gyms because they experience unwanted attention when they go to mixed gyms. “Women may feel like they have to engage in conversations with men that they aren’t asking for. Even just having men present and taking up so much space can make women feel uncomfortable. You can feel that somebody is watching you and your body.” she says.
She mentions the freedom of not having to worry or be so aware of your appearance as one of the big advantages of female gyms. “Here you don’t have to worry about looking good, you can just show up the way you are and focus on exercising. I mean, if you’re here to work out, you don’t want people staring at your butt when you’re doing squats.”
A few minutes away lies the USC gym at the HVA Amstelcampus, that is open to both men and women. Wagner Madureina who is a trainer at the gym doesn’t really see the reason for women-only gyms, and thinks it’s counterproductive to separate men and women. “Society is already so individualised. Nowadays it’s almost gone to to the point where you’re afraid to approach people.” he says.
He’s not convinced by the argument that women choose separated gyms to get away from harassment. “There is just as much harassment in female gyms as in mixed ones. And if you’re worried about getting looked at, you can’t even go out on the street. It’s the same thing.” he says.
Madureina also thinks that men experience just as much unwanted attention at gyms as women. “To make contact with other people that you find interesting is just human nature. But you can choose how you handle it.” he says.
Mythe Dekker, 26, has been training at the gym since she was a master student in 2015. She says she’s never been bothered or had problems with being approached by the men at the gym. “The gym is still sort of separated because most of the girls do cardio and the men lift weights. I might feel a little uncomfortable if I go to lift some weights though.” she says.
22 year old student Liesyenne Bloks says she isn’t bothered by the guys showing off and taking space, but hate when they stare at her body. “I’m always wearing a T-shirt size XL to cover my butt” she says. She has been going to the gym for three years.