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AOERC introduces women’s-only lifting hours
(ROGER CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

AOERC introduces women’s-only lifting hours

Editor’s Note: Since the publication of this article, a debate has arisen as to the potential discriminatory nature of the women-focused sessions under Title IX. University spokesperson EJ Miranda wrote in an email to The Daily that “all community members may drop in any time the studio is open (regardless of gender focus). No one is being banned because of gender.” A follow-up article is forthcoming.

Arrillaga Outdoor Education and Recreation Center (AOERC) is now offering a new resource: women’s-only training hours, on Mondays and Wednesdays from 1 to 3 p.m.

The idea was conceived by Jennifer Sexton, director of fitness and wellness programs, and Daralisa Kelley, associate director of recreation programs, who are both Inclusivity Committee Chairs of the Stanford Recreation and Wellness department.

Sexton and Kelley jump-started the idea after hearing feedback from Stanford women who didn’t feel comfortable in large gym spaces. The idea also spurred from broader efforts by an inclusivity committee created a year ago to understand the needs of different communities by reaching out to various partners across campus. 

In response to the feedback they received, Sexton and Kelley created women’s-only training hours with the hope that the hours create a private, women’s-only space – which was also created specifically to be trans-inclusive.

The lifting hours take place in AOERC room 112, where the windows have blackout shades and there are partitions by the glass entry doors — ensuring privacy for all women and trans-women who are exercising. 

Irina Vitman, one of the personal trainers available during the training hours, lauded the new space for its inclusivity.

“[It’s a] safe space to make [women] feel more comfortable, so that there’s no guys ‘macho-ing’ around,” said Vitman. “It’s a little less intimidating to use the free weights.”

Trainers like Vitman lead guided workouts from 1 to 1:30 p.m., and are available during the whole three-hour period to answer questions, teach women how to use equipment, give advice and suggest workouts.

According to Marina Dimitrov ’18, a mechanical engineering co-term who started going to the training hours last week, the personal trainers ensure everyone has a positive workout experience by providing women with individualized attention. Since the space is comparatively small, and there are usually only 15 to 20 participants during peak times, the trainers have the chance to work with people on a one-on-one basis, said Dimitrov.

“Generally I’m not a gym person at all, but this space is just nice,” Dimitrov said.

According to Sexton and Kelly, the training hours aim to target women like Dimitrov, who don’t necessarily consider themselves “gym people.”

When it comes to using gym equipment, lack of experience proved prohibitive for many women.

“It’s really hard if you don’t know where to start,” Vitman said. “We try to teach women to use equipment that they would generally not use.”

Camille Townshend ’18, a mechanical engineering co-term, echoed Vitman’s sentiments. According to Townshend, when she first started lifting, she did not feel comfortable in the gym environment.

“Everything was being used and all the testosterone in the air was super suffocating — the kind of culture you find in the gym, it feels very aggressive and not very welcoming,” Townshend said.

Townshend went on to say that the women’s training hours feel different than regular gym hours.

“It was a very welcoming way to start lifting,” she said. “And now I’ve been doing it for three weeks.”

Since the training hours are a recently-introduced campus resource, its long-term future still remains unknown. But Kelley welcomes all feedback about the program and how it may better serve Stanford’s community.

“We hope to continue this programming through the coming quarters,” Kelley said. “Since the offering is in its infancy, we are assessing the initial participation and feedback before we decide to make any modifications.”

But so far, the feedback seems positive.

“It’s actually gotten to the point where I don’t go to the gym if it’s not 1 to 3 on Monday or Wednesday,” Townshend said. “I mean, I’ve never had a workout schedule, and now I do.”


Contact Adesuwa Agbonile at adesuwaa ‘at’ stanford.edu.  

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the lifting hours were created because gym equipment can be confusing and difficult to use for beginners. It has been updated to reflect that lifting hours were created to increase inclusion, and many participants are advanced lifters. The Daily regrets this error. 

  • Julie A Fogarty

    It is really a shame that you failed to mention BOTH trainers who have committed their time to training during the Women’s Only program. Linda Manuel, a Fitness Specialist on campus, puts a lot of time and energy into thinking of fun, creative ways to help women get more comfortable using gym equipment, especially things like free weights and medicine balls. She is also a huge champion for both men and women getting more active and involved in their fitness. She is noticeably not recognized in an article that mentions every other member of Stanford Recreation staff involved in the program…what an oversight.

    Also, I find it laughable that your choice of photos for an article about Women’s Only Training is one of a guy at the gym.

  • Adam

    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.

    — Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute (20 U.S. Code § 1681 – Sex)

  • Mr Anderson

    How fitting, an idea conceived by chairs of a so-called ‘Inclusivity Committee’ blatantly segregates according to sex.

    Ridiculous. The student anecdotes used here are likewise useless and encapsulate the vacuousness of this policy.

    Sorry, everybody hates the crowds and the filth.

  • Spasmolytic

    AOERC introduces women’s-only lifting hours for “fragile” females too insecure to exercise with men. This is infantilization personified.

  • Dzenmar

    The article states…”and all the estrogen in the air was super suffocating”— Oh, my bad, I misread that, it actually says “all the testosterone in the air was super-suffocating”. And yeah, it’s rude and insulting no matter how you read it– it’s just somehow ok for women to insult men. Hypocritical, rude, and sexist–but somehow, socially acceptable.

  • UnsinkingTheTitanic

    Re the update: “…of the women-focused sessions…” and “No one is being banned because of gender.”

    Is that ‘focus’ exclusively on women? Are they saying the same thing but using different language? Let’s examine some of words and statements used in the article.

    The headline “AOERC introduces women’s-only lifting hours”. I don’t see focus here. Seems whoever wrote the headline was (mis)led to believe it was only for women. How could s/he draw such a conclusion?

    Perhaps s/he read the first sentence of Ms Agbonile’s report: “Arrillaga Outdoor Education and Recreation Center (AOERC) is now offering a new resource: women’s-only training hours, on Mondays and Wednesdays from 1 to 3 p.m.”

    Now, if the intent was ‘focus’ and not exclusivity why would Agbonile write that first sentence? Something seems amiss.

    Again Agbonile writes (twice!) “women only”: “…Sexton and Kelley created women’s-only training hours with the hope that the hours create a private, women’s-only space.” Agbonile really, really wants her readers to know it’s for only women.

    Golly, what’s going on here? Was Agbonile’s report pure fiction? Had she misheard the organisers? Or has some other underhanded action happened after the article was published?

    We have a quote from Irina Vitman: “[It’s a] safe space to make [women] feel more comfortable, so that there’s no guys ‘macho-ing’ around,” said Vitman. OK, Ms Vitman doesn’t say “women only”, but I think we can deduce “no guys” to mean women only. Has Agbonile misquoted Vitman?

    Simply put, the update throws the entire report into disarray and incoherence. The report needs a significant rewrite. Further, someone ought to file sexism complaints against the two organisers, Jennifer Sexton and Daralisa Kelley, and the trainer, Irina Vitman. It’s an irony that the two organisers are co-chairpersons of a group whose mission statement is inclusivity. Do they not know what the word inclusivity means? Or were they graduates of George Orwell High School class of 1984?

    Seems to me these groups and committees championing inclusivity do anything but that, which is a violation of their remit. Have these groups become safe spaces for the incompetent and deceitful? Someone ought to scrutinise these groups’ members and remove those who fail to perform their job duties correctly.

    There are a few other mysteries. For example, neither Agbonile nor her editors thought it worth asking the organisers about the ethics or legality of women-only events. I thought one upside of diversity was by having other views and voices questions like this would be asked. Perhaps Agbonile and the editors are members of the people-who-don’t-ask-the-most-obvious-questions-in-the-world community. It’s nice Stanford makes space for this community at uni.

    The mind boggles.

  • WaxedSatsuma

    Um, women as a gender are physiologically different and about 50/60% weaker than males. Now mentally at least as strong. There are some genuinely different requirements for weight training between men and women. All this does is set “some” various different times for segregated training. Otherwise women are free to train with men.

    There is NO REASON to get overly upset. And start throwing out dogmatic beliefs such as: “This is infantilization personified”

  • Spasmolytic


  • WaxedSatsuma