The gym, if approved, would be housed in the renovated squash courtLouis Ashworth

A proposal for a women’s only gym at Churchill College has sparked a row among students on the college’s anonymous Facebook page Churchfess.

The JCR disabilities officer, Eleanor Burnham, posted in a college Facebook group (5/5) to sound out student opinion on a “dedicated women’s and non-binary gym”.

She explained that, if approved, the gym would be housed in the renovated squash court building and would be “equally open to trans women and non-binary people as well as cis women”. She wrote that its solid walls would “block out prying eyes!”.

The post sparked a range of responses, including some which “devolved into some rather nasty arguments” including “posts with racist and misogynistic undertones”, according to one student.

One post said: “The victim complex is real… Imagine feeling uncomfortable when no one has physically done anything and seriously thinking that everyone else is the problem. How about we just give every slightly marginalised group their own gym?”.

Another post read: “Having a women’s only gym has given me the idea of having a BAME only college as yts [white people] keep silencing us, thoughts?”

The majority of Churchfess posts however supported the proposal.

One student welcomed the suggestion of a new gym as “a great alternative in providing a safe and comfortable space for those who feel uncomfortable in the current gym”.

They said the backlash “does nothing but expose the sheer number of misogynistic people and views currently present in Churchill College”.

Another student said: “The other lads popping off here seem to forget that it’s only been in the past two years that the College has gotten a 50/50 gender split of admissions. A women’s/NB gym is the equitable move that comes with equality.”

One student did however acknowledge that some posts, including from women, had voiced “sensible reasons to why they disliked the idea”.

These include: “the potential for women and non-binary people to feel pushed out of the existing gym, with the worry that the proposal might cost too much, and in one case, with the potential for discrimination against men”.

The question of whether the gym would represent a fair use of College funds was often cited in opposition to the proposal. One student told Varsity: “my general take is that I think that the money would be better spent elsewhere”.


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They spoke out against the accusations of misogyny, saying: “I find these words (racist, sexist etc) are thrown about too frequently to scare the opponent into submission even if their take is perfectly reasonable.

“I am sure there are many people who oppose a women’s only gym who are scared out of sharing their opinion or even pretend to support it because of this.”

Many posts suggested women’s only hours were the best option, one that exists in many gyms. However, according to Burnham, the College had said this was impossible, which led to the original women’s only gym suggestion.

They are expected to consider alternatives, including a partnership with the all-women’s college Murray Edwards so female students can use their gym.

Churchill College was approached for comment.