For "women only" [electronic resource] : understanding the cultural space of a women's gym through feminist geography /
Vikki Krane, Advisor
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:physical fitness centers place philosophy feminist geography for women
Date of Publication: