“We want to empower women and nonbinary folks to experience the REC without the male gaze”: UWL REC hosts first women’s only night

Photo+retrieved+from+the+UWL+Fitness+Center+website.

Photo retrieved from the UWL Fitness Center website.

Julia Van Fleet, Sports Reporter

On April 11, 2021, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Recreational Eagle Center (REC) hosted its first Women’s Only Night. The event, which ran from 6 p.m. until 7:15 p.m., had originally been planned for before the COVID-19 pandemic but was able to finally come together this semester. 

“It’s been on our plate for a while,” said Fitness Coordinator Nick BergBerg started at the REC in August 2018.  

Berg also said that this event stemmed from another event called Women on the Wall (WOW) which was a women’s only rock-climbing event on campus. The event served as a baseline and trial run, according to Berg. 

“With it [the event] being our first, we don’t want to assume what people need,” said Berg. The event was set up with stations, but essentially Berg’s goal is to create a safe space for those who are participating, regardless of experience level. 

According to REC Supervisor Emily Wolfgram, this event can be an opportunity to create a more comfortable environment within the REC. Wolfgram’s role at the event is to support people and ensure safety. Wolfgram said that this event, like WOW and other inclusivity-centered events the REC has hosted are great ways to get people into the REC. 

“If you don’t feel comfortable [at the REC], you aren’t going to want to come back,” Wolfgram said. “But, if it is a welcoming place, people are going to want to come back.” 

According to one of the REC’s personal trainers, Lauren Jann, her goal is to help others be more comfortable in the REC. “I want to connect with folks who come and empower them to pursue their fitness goals,” said Jann.

According to Berg, there was a “big push” from the student body for a women’s-only only night. “That was kind of our tipping point,” said Berg. “At that point, we knew that we needed to make this event happen no matter what.”  

Wolfgram said that this event may have gained popularity because of the culture and environment in the REC. “There is a stigma that you have to be big, fit, and in reality, male,” said Wolfgram. 

Jann said that they have heard how intimidating the REC can be for those who are not as comfortable with fitness or the space itself. The REC can be intimidating for those who are not well-versed in fitness or who don’t fit the typical fitness mold,” said Jann. 

Jann also said that this event can be a great way to break down barriers within the REC. We want to empower women and nonbinary folks to experience the REC without the male gaze.” 

According to Berg, this event is a reminder that inclusivity needs to be emphasized now more than ever to yield the goals of the REC. “The new fitness center came as a push from student voice and what students need to be successful,” said Berg. “However, the facility doesn’t create an inclusive environment, we need to create those opportunities ourselves.” 

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