Recently, many will have read the fantastic news that York Sport are officially launching Women and Non-Binary gym hours every week.
When I first read about this, I was glad to see this happening! For so many students, this is something they will benefit massively from and the new hours will be an opportunity for those who may not feel comfortable using gym facilities within a safe space. I was also happy to see the inclusion of non-binary students as part of the hour – clearly, this has been organised with the best intentions in mind for marginalised genders and is a tangible move pushing for inclusivity.
In a post to both Facebook and Instagram, Franki Riley , York Sport Union President, explained that this consists of “two one hour slots where women and non-binary students will have a safe space and have access to workout in the entire gym in the York Sport Centre on West Campus”. Speaking about the new gym hours, Franki Riley also said that “this truly would not have been possible without the tireless work of Imogen and Rebecca, the York Sport staff and my colleagues in YUSU – and I can’t thank all of you enough! We’ve made our dream a reality!”
This move by York Sport is wholly positive and a massive step forwards for inclusivity. As a former PTO who has organised inclusive club nights, I truly know the value of dedicated times and safe spaces for liberation groups! When I spoke to the new Women and Non-Binary Students’ Officer, Izzy Andrews, they told me that “the new hours are definitely a step in the right direction for making women and non-binary students feel safe in sporting spaces!” They went on to explain that they “do think that introducing these hours as off-peak isn’t suitable in the long term, as we should encourage safety throughout the week, not just on Friday nights and Sunday mornings (when significantly fewer students will be at the gym than other times of the week)”. Speaking about the work of Franki Riley, they commended that “[she] has made an amazing thing happen for gender minorities, and we are so excited to see what she does next!”
We must also, more imperatively, remember why we need things like this. Gender-based oppression is very much still present in 2022 and there is progress still to be made. Speaking to Andrews, they commented that “these hours are so important for students on our campus, as they recognise that women and non-binary students do face discrimination in sporting settings, which Franki has touched on during her time as Sports President. I would love to see these hours extended throughout the week, but for now, I’m sure that these hours will make a huge difference in the way that our women and non-binary students experience the gym.”
It’s great to see significant moments of progress this term, with the previously ad-hoc approach taken by YUSU and colleges being replaced with something more reliable. These are fantastic to see, and I’m sure all at UoY have wholeheartedly welcomed these changes!