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The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

“It’s not fair”: The removal of Women’s Night at the REC
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Women’s & Non-Binary Night at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Recreational Eagle Center (REC) was a program created in 2021 intended to reduce gym intimidation for women and non-binary folx.  

Gymtimidation is a phenomenon that refers to feeling insecure or threatened when working out at the gym or in front of others.  The program ran from 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. every other Tuesday throughout fall and spring semesters. 

“Although I have been lifting for a while, it [Women’s Night] gave us women a safe/comforting environment to do a simple thing like working out without being judged,” said fourth-year student Anayeli Jaimes.  

Women’s and Non-Binary Night at the REC provided a space exclusively for people of those identities to attend the gym in a safe environment the last few years. As of this year, the REC is no longer hosting the Women’s and Non-Binary Night program.  

“This past summer there was concern brought to the Rec Sports and the Division of Diversity & Inclusion,” said Jeff Keenan, the REC’s recreational sports director. “The person’s concern was that the Women’s Night may breach Title IX, UWL policy and the UWL mission.”  

The basis of the complaint was Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 which states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” 

“After receiving the concern, Rec Sports and Diversity & Inclusion together reviewed the concern in consultation with Title IX,” said Keenan. “It was determined that we should adjust our program offerings.” 

The removal of Women’s & Non-Binary Night at the REC has elicited responses from students at UWL.  

“I was not aware that this was happening and when I found out I was upset because it is not fair,” said Jaimes. “It was a popular night and there was nothing wrong with dedicating a short amount of time to those who aren’t as comfortable going during regular hours.”  

UWL Student and REC student employee Joe Uchytil said, “It was tough to see it canceled because close friends worked extremely hard to get it running. To see their work go to waste and to lose a night that had a lot of support was tough to see.”  

Uchytil continued, “On the flip side, I understand the ground the complaint was filed on.”  

The REC is now hosting a program every other Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. titled Strength Redefined.  

As stated on the Strength Redefined event page its intended purpose is to help with Gymtimidation. The words, “Gymtimidation is real!” are written on the informational posters advertising the program.  

The website states the following, “Survey responses indicate that the Fitness Center is an uncomfortable and intimidating space for some individuals. Strength Redefined is a night for those that don’t typically use the Fitness Center, or use it less often, because they are new to weightlifting/fitness, feel uncomfortable or intimidated in our normal environment. Educational opportunities will be available each night. Allies, who want to redefine the Fitness Center into a more comfortable space for all are welcome to attend. Come find your community where we celebrate the efforts and goals accomplished no matter your experience level.”

The similar goals between Women’s Night and Strength Redefined are no coincidence. Keenan said, “The change was made to address the concern raised and broaden inclusion. Instead of just removing Women’s and Non-Binary night, we chose to replace it with a program that shares similar goals of creating a welcoming environment, build community and learn, while not excluding anyone.”

Keenan and other REC staff hope that Strength Redefined helps students realize that there are allies in the Fitness Center they were previously unaware of. 

The new Strength Redefined program is not seeing as good of number of participants compared to Women’s Night. “Currently the Strength Redefined program in place of it isn’t seeing much success,” Uchytil said. “But I think I saw that coming from the start” 

While the current Strength Redefined program and the former Women’s Night program have many similarities, one difference is how people are able to attend. Strength Redefined requires registration whereas Women’s Night did not.  

Uchytil said, “In my personal opinion, I think having a signup is a double edge blade where you could argue that some people would do it because the gym is limited, but I lean towards the side that it sets another barrier to those who are unsure about attending already.”  

When asked about why Strength Redefined is not seeing high numbers of attendance and participation, Keenan said “It’s hard to say. For Women’s & Non-Binary Night, we did not require registration.”  

While requiring registration to attend requires students to plan ahead, Keenan explains the reasoning behind the switch. He said,We do require pre-registration with Strength Redefined. Asking for pre-registration may be a barrier to people who might otherwise prefer just to show up when it is convenient for them. However, the decision to ask for registration was intentional; we want to be able to survey and get feedback on our programming. While we can’t return to Women’s & Non-Binary Night, we want to hear and respond to student feedback to better serve our community.”  

Uchytil also said student feedback would be helpful for creating other programs that serve similar purposes to Women’s Night. “I would love to see programs that encourage new inexperienced gym members and those who get uncomfortable in the REC see success. Programming for this is one thing, but getting members to go is another.

When asked what the REC’s response is to students, particularly women and nonbinary folx, who are upset about the removal of Women’s Night, Keenan said, “We hear you! We too are disappointed to lose a popular program.” 

Keenan said the REC will continue to address inclusion and intimidation. Focus groups to gather student input will be held during the spring semester and a survey sent out toward the end of fall semester are ways students can aid in addressing these concerns and creating new programs. More information on focus groups and a survey from REC Sports to come.

“We are dedicated to creating a space that celebrates, supports, and affirms, everyone from all backgrounds, abilities, and fitness levels. We not only hear you now but will continue to listen so that we may better Rec Sports offerings moving forward,” said Keenan. 

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About the Contributor
Sophie Miller
Sophie Miller, Social Justice Reporter
  • Year at UWL: Senior
  • PGPs: She/Her/Hers
  • Hometown: Prairie du Chien, WI
  • Major: Dual Major in Political Science & Communication Studies with a Public Communication and Advocacy Emphasis
  • Minor: Social Justice Minor
  • Other Campus Involvement: Intern in the Financial Aid Office
  • Future Plans after Graduation: Attend Graduate School
  • Favorite activity in La Crosse: Going to Pettibone Beach
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