FOR “WOMEN ONLY”: UNDERSTANDING THE CULTURAL SPACE OF A WOMEN’S GYM THROUGH FEMINIST GEOGRAPHY
Women’s only gyms have grown exponentially in popularity in the United States and worldwide. For example, Curves International has 9,000 locations across the globe and 4 million members (Curves International, 2006), while Contours Express has 327 locations in the United States and over 450 locations worldwide (Contours Express, 2006). Despite the popularity of women’s-only gyms, the meaning of these spaces remains unclear. The present study examined the experiences and perceptions of being a member of a women’s-only gym and the role of space in creating these experiences. Grounded in feminist geography and feminist cultural studies, I conducted an ethnography of a women’s-only gym, The Gym, located in Northwestern Ohio. Participants included those women who attended the facility on a regular basis. I engaged in participant observation at The Gym during which I conducted informal interviews with the women. Unstructured interviews were also conducted with eight women, five of whom were working at the facility, and three of whom were attending the facility. Using qualitative data analysis techniques, three higher order themes emerged. These included: “gym culture,” “macro culture,” and “combined influence.” The higher order theme “gym culture” refers to the culture within The Gym while the higher order theme “Macro Culture” refers to the broader culture of our society. Both of these cultures influenced the women’s experiences at The Gym and often collided to create a “combined influence” on the women’s experiences. Results illustrated that the social space of the gym (Lefebvre, 1974/1991) was made up of contradictions between the macro culture and gym culture. While the gym culture was empowering to the women, the influence of hegemonic masculinity and hegemonically-defined femininity were present. Nonetheless, the gym culture did buffer the potentially harmful effects of the macro culture of our society.
School:Bowling Green State University
School Location:USA - Ohio
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:social space feminist geography women and physical activity
Date of Publication:01/01/2006