Standing up for manhood? Why I completely disagree

Grace Garland on why she feels every other hour is men’s hour

Gymnasium of North London Collegiate School for Girls, Sandall Road 1882. Image: A History of Camden, John Richardson (Historical Publications 1999)
Women-only sessions are far from new: Gymnasium of North London Collegiate School for Girls in Sandall Road, pictured in 1882. Image: A History of Camden, John Richardson (Historical Publications 1999)
This is box title
'Research shows that women often feel intimidated by men in the gym' Grace Garland
‘Research shows that women often feel intimidated by men in the gym’ Grace Garland
“Peter Lloyd’s recent article on “standing up for manhood” prompted me to respond, not because I am promoting a book, but because gender discrimination is a very real and important issue, and one I think it’s important he understands better.

I will ignore Peter’s goading remarks about women being incapable of using gym equipment properly, because engaging with that is a bit like booking Katie Hopkins on a talk show. Instead I would like to address his sense of injustice, the poor dab.

Undisputedly belonging to the most privileged of groups – as a north London white male – I have no doubt Peter finds being told he cannot do something very strange and unnerving. For women, it’s just another day at the office. The office where we earn less. The office where we might be told what we can or can’t wear (are Primark leggings alright with you Pete? I rather like mine). The office where we are almost certainly not in the boardroom.

Like Kentish Town Sports Centre, many gyms across the UK have implemented women only sessions, and the reason for this is not because they think that “all men are borderline sex pests” as Lloyd suggests, but because research shows that women often feel intimidated by men in the gym.


As a regular gym-goer that’s something I have felt. Though I am sure most men would not like to think that they have made someone feel uncomfortable, the effect of putting a group of men in front of weights and mirrors, visibly oozing testosterone, often makes for a competitive and hostile environment.

The sort of bloke who divvies men up into alpha, beta and presumably other still more derogatory categories is the sort who implies he might be looking around making judgements. Quite frankly I don’t always want to sweat under his gaze.

I have not once used the weights area without feeling that the men present resent me using ‘their’ machines and I actually often cut my gym session short instead of venturing into a particularly busy weight room, yet no one gives me any money back.

Part of this I am sure is totally in my head, but the fact still remains that if the room were full of women, I would happily go in and assert my claim on the leg press. For me, and clearly many other females, parts of the gym feel like a men-only-club, and this single designated hour gives us room to use all the machines freely, pump some iron and sweat profusely without any sense of judgement – from the alphas or their counterparts.

I’ll conclude with the same retort I used to respond to a friend who asked me why Radio Four needed a Women’s Hour. It’s because, effectively, every other hour is “men’s hour”.

Grace Garland works at Kentish Town’s fast-growing tech company You can follow her on Twitter @thatPRgrace


  • Show Comments

  • Laura

    well-said! Peter Lloyd’s article was disgracefully idiotic and uneducated. Glad someone set him straight.

  • Christine Lacki

    Thank you Grace for articulating so well what a lot of women think!

  • Simon

    Sorry but I’m going to have to call out the author on a few bits at the start of the article before I address body of it.

    ‘The office where we earn less. ‘

    A woman entering the workforce will earn on average 1% more than her male counterparts. The pay gap myth is from earnings over a lifetime where women are more likely to spend more time away from work hence will earn less.

    ‘The office where we might be told what we can or can’t wear (are Primark leggings alright with you Pete? I rather like mine). ‘

    Has she set foot in a 21st century office? Women can get away with wearing pretty much anything whereas men are restricted to suit trousers and a shirt at best.

    ‘The office where we are almost certainly not in the boardroom.’

    In office work especially women are more likely to get promoted faster than their male counterparts, the reason why there are less women in the boardroom is because the people in there started work in the 70’s and 80’s when granted it was not as easy for women.

    Anyway back onto topic. I as a skinny male (not so much around the middle) avoid using the free-weights section of the gym because I feel as though I would not be welcome, as though other men there would look at me as some sort of joke for not being able to bench my own body weight but as a member of ‘the most privileged of groups’ I can’t point the finger at anyone apart from myself. I’m not going to ask for the rules to be changed because I can’t get over my own insecurities. I have one of 2 options. 1. don’t use the free weight area or 2. I accept the fact that I’m creating a false idea in my own head of what this area is like so I can feel less guilty for avoiding it.

    If you want the gym culture to change ladies all you have to do is start using all the areas regardless of your misguided pre conceptions.

  • Grace Garland

    Hi Simon. Thanks for your points. Not sure what information you are using as you do not cite a source, but this article might help you understand my points a little better:

    “The pay gaps continue to be alarmingly large for men and women doing the same senior role.”

    Glad to hear that women can ‘get away’ with wearing what they want, but not sure I would agree that men are subject to the same scrutiny over attire: (this is just one of many similar cases)

    Recent research shows it’s not just established companies rejecting women on the board:

    Thanks for your words of support re using the gym though!

    • Emile

      Hi Grace,

      Simon is correct, the ‘gender pay gap’ you refer to (and cite in the Guardian article) is the median figure for each separate gender in all employment, not the often assumed comparison of pay for equivalent jobs. You’re confusing the difference in earnings regardless of jobs (that is the gender pay gap) with assumed unequal earnings for the same work, when the truth is there are no real comprehensive figures for this due to the complexity of defining jobs and similar candidates across the board and also data protection. Please don’t misunderstand the statistics! Here’s an article to explain the reasons for the disparity in the median figure across gender defined work forces, and its down to lifestyle choices I’m afraid and not discrimination.

  • Matt

    “It’s because, effectively, every other hour is “men’s hour”.”

    This isn’t necessarily fair. There might be a number of men who would prefer an hour without women around, too, for whatever reason. Maybe they’re shy or intimidated. It doesn’t really matter, in the interests of fairness men are still receiving a worse service than their female counterparts and if you were a genuine feminist you’d be calling for true equality.

    • Ruth

      There’s nothing I love more than someone telling someone else how to be a ‘genuine’ anything. No one has the right to define someone else’s beliefs, and how is the assertion that ‘every hour is “men’s hour”‘ not fair? Open your newspaper and see how many female faces are in there in positions of power- then open tabloids, and see if the women in positions of power are talked about without a mention of how they are dressed. THEN have a look and see how many women of colour are among those faces. Check your privilege.

    • Kirsten

      The original author, Peter Lloyd, did mention this in the article this is a response to. It is linked to in the first paragraph of this article, and he mentions this in the fourth paragraph of his article.

      But I don’t want to raise your expectations. he doesn’t discuss the options presented to the gym, or why they are or aren’t being implemented. He doesn’t mention details of this settlement, or why he did not insist on this being implemented. We can assume *he* benefited, but did any other male?

      It seems to me that he stood up for HIS manhood, but not all manhood, as it’s not clear that he followed through until the system was fair.

      In the end, he is just peddling his book, but given his selfish “settlement” here, I am not sure why anyone would buy it.

      • Kyri

        At the end of the day the gym in question is a public Service (gym) and therefore the public should be able to use it regardless of gender, I myself use the gym and have been inconvenienced by this, put it this way it’s like saying that I wouldn’t go to a gym that was predominantly gay because I’m straight, people need to address there insecurities and get on with it…

  • Gina

    The men can still use the swimming pool during women’s hour (well they could when we frequented this gum a year ago). be adventurous try something different!

  • Elaine Jacobs

    Not all the women who want to use the gym are white, middle class, assertive… there are quite a lot of women of different cultures living in Kentish Town, who find it very, very, difficult to work out in the presence of men. Give them a break! One hour a week!

    Me, I’m lucky, in that I can choose when I go to the gym. And there are times (eg, 10.00, 11.00) when I prefer not to go, because it is very testostorone-fuelled. I’m not saying that I’ve had any trouble at all — but I do prefer to work out in a more relaxed atmosphere.

    Having said that, there have been times when I’ve had to ask a bloke just sitting on a machine (“owning it”) if I might be allowed to use it for a minute or two…

    Having said that, there are young women who sit on machines for ages, while choosing their next playlist, or texting their friends…

    • jo

      I think that is the true agenda of this mans gripe he doesn’t want to see members of local non lycra wearing community wearing in the gym benefitting from the gym. He would like it to be an exclusive gym full of his kind of people. In his mind how dare these people get a chance to improve their health, he prefers the out of sight out of mind or pretend they don’t exist attitue. Hence why hes harping on about equality for men to prevent oap women and self concious women who just had babies from using the gym.

  • Equalitist

    There seems to be a lot of talk here of testosterone fuelled work outs…Is this not a naturally occurring hormone in men that women probably shouldn’t be using as anti man banter? Not a very positive step towards equality and does not make for a valid argument for threatening behaviour. most of these points are insecurities that need to be ruled out before any level of equality can be achieved. Fear is the poison that tears us apart. We are being conned further and further into individuality and forgetting that we are all in fact one in the same.