By Melanie Woods, July 26 2017 —
From 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. every Wednesday, Calgary’s Good Life Community Bike Shop is exclusively reserved for women, non-binary and transgender individuals. The concept mirrors women-only gyms like Only Women’s Fitness and the recently introduced women-only fitness classes at the University of Calgary.
Many oppose these types of programs, calling them “discriminatory” because they temporarily close off services to cisgender men. A July 18 thread on the r/Calgary Reddit community turned nasty in response to Good Life’s program, with one poster writing, “I don’t want to consult a calendar to see if an open business is willing to serve my gender and/or sexual orientation today.”
Reddit vitriol is not evidence of collective public opinion. However, these arguments consistently arise in public discourse through commentary on “reverse racism” and “misandry.”
But here’s the thing — reverse racism isn’t real and women are systematically underprivileged in society. While a women-, transgender- and non-binary-only bike fixing day won’t fix everything, it’s a step towards making spaces more accessible to those traditionally excluded from them.
Good Life’s website explains that the program — called G.E.M, or Gender Empowerment Mechanics — provides “a safer, welcoming and empowering space for people who may feel less comfortable in what’s often assumed to be a male-dominated atmosphere.” The idea is that making a space only for women, transgender and non-binary people will help those who might feel threatened by the presence of men.
I relate to this. Multiple times in my professional career, a man has condescendingly explained something to me that he passively told a male colleague. I work out at the U of C gym at 9 p.m. to ensure there aren’t a million dudebros around barging in front of me to use equipment. I’m sure there are women, transgender and non-binary folks who don’t feel fully comfortable walking into a room full of men fixing bikes for a variety of reasons.
As a woman or queer person living in a society that inherently discounts women and queer people, you have to actively fight to make space for yourself at every moment.
The fact that people are angry about this is why these programs need to exist. Until heterosexual, cisgender men stop feeling like they have the right to dominate every space, safe spaces in sport must exist for women, transgender and non-binary folks.
Think of these spaces as a gateway — maybe someone who would have never considered learning bicycle repair goes to an event where they feel comfortable. Then, they build up the confidence to go all the time. Or maybe they just want to go learn how to fix a bike and hang out with cool people without someone mansplaining them.
These events come from a place of inclusion. Opening up spaces to let women, transgender and non-binary people feel comfortable isn’t “discrimination against straight men.” It’s ensuring everyone has an opportunity to learn and exist in any space.
Correction: A previous version of this article listed the event as open exclusively to women and non-binary individuals. It is also open to transgender individuals. The Gauntlet apologies to its readers for this mistake.