Single-sex sweating

A group of Michigan Muslim women fight for women-only gym days.

Topics: Broadsheet, Muslim Women, Love and Sex,

A group of female Muslim gym members in Detroit have signed a petition protesting Fitness USA’s decision to allow men to work out in the facility every day. When the women signed up and paid (in some cases for lifetime memberships) to exercise at the Fitness USA chain, it was with the understanding that one of its branches would be open only to women on certain days.

The single-sex option is important for some devout Muslims who believe that men and women should not see each other dressed in immodest gym attire. “In Islam, there are codes of modesty for both genders,” 23-year-old Ammerah Saidi told the Detroit Free Press. “When you’re working out, you’re not dressed modestly, and you’re bending in provocative ways, so you can’t be working out with the opposite gender.”

When the facility this month opened a new cardio section that is visible from many parts of the gym to both sexes every day, 200 of its female Muslim members signed the protest petition, asking for a return to the single-sex schedule they were promised or for a divider to keep the men and women from seeing one another.

Gym officials have met with the women and with a Muslim advocate this week in an effort to work out a response to the complaints, but have stated that their membership contracts do not include clauses about gender.

Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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