Cambridge University’s Churchill College sparks furious gender row over proposals for ‘women’s, trans and non-binary only’ gym that would ‘block out prying eyes’

  • Proposals for gender-exclusive gym at Churchill College provoke furious row
  • If approved the facilities would be ‘open to trans, non-binary and cis women’ 
  • But social media comments seemed to offer a sharp rebuttal to the suggestion 

Proposals for a women’s-only gym at a University of Cambridge College has sparked a furious online row over the use of gender-exclusive spaces.

Eleanor Burnham, a history student and Churchill College’s Junior Common Room disabilities officer, shared a Facebook post sounding out opinion on a ‘dedicated women’s and non-binary gym’. 

If approved, the facilities would be ‘equally open to trans-women, non-binary people as well as cis-women’. 

The walls of the renovated squash court building would also ‘block out prying eyes!’, according to Ms Burnham.

Her post provoked a sharp rebuttal, with one commenter saying it was an example of a ‘victim complex’, while others said any proposed investment in a new gym would be better used elsewhere.

Proposals for a female-only gym at Cambridge’s Churchill College have sparked a furious row

The suggestion provoked a sharp rebuttal, with one commenter saying it was an example of a ‘victim complex’, while others said any proposed investment in a new gym would be better used elsewhere

One person, writing anonymously on a social media gossip page, said: ‘The victim complex is real.

‘Imagine feeling uncomfortable when no one else 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?’ 

Female students even appeared to call out the plans by pointing out the fury that would be had if men were suggesting having a male-only space. 

One commenter wrote online: ‘As a woman who believes in equality, if men were proposing that women should be enclosed in a separate gym so they can’t be seen I would be furious. 

‘Now, we are asking to be discriminated? Doesn’t make sense to me…’

Questions were also raised over the use of College funds in developing a new gender-exclusive gym.

One student told Varsity, Cambridge’s student newspaper: ‘My general take is that I think that the money would be better spent elsewhere’.

They also hit out against accusations of misogyny or racism, explaining: ‘I find these words 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.’

Other cost-saving suggestions mooted by Churchill’s online community were the prospect of women-only hours being implemented at the existing gym. 

However, the College has already ruled this out, according to a separate post by Ms Burnham. 

Other alternatives such as establishing a partnership with the all-female college Murray Edwards to use their facilities are also understood to have been raised. 

A July 2021 study directed by Run Repeat suggested 56 per cent of women have faced some form of harassment at a gym. 

Separate surveys have suggested that as many as one in three women would support female-only gyms so they felt safer while working out. 

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