Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle has a piece of legislation on his desk right now that could officially legalize gender discrimination at fitness centers in the state.
Introduced by Sen. Carol Roessler, R-Oshkosh, the bill is designed to offer women an environment to work out in without the possibility of being ogled by other fitness club members, specifically men.
Roessler has herself been a member of Curves International Fitness Centers for Women, a women-only gym company. Curves has set up 173 fitness centers in Wisconsin in the last three years. Curves asked for the bill to be proposed after the organization received more than 170 sex discrimination complaints from La Crosse men.
If the bill were signed into law, it would allow Curves to legally continue the practice of denying men memberships to their gyms.
La Crosse fitness center owner Chas Swayne was told his plans to open an all-female workout facility violated state law. Swayne filed a complaint with the Department of Work Force Development’s Equal Rights Division after watching Curves exploit what he had previously recognized as a fertile market.
Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Wisconsin, said that the bill would unfairly discriminate against citizens. For example, men in a rural area may not have an exercise alternative to the local Curves franchise.
Ahmuty also said that the bill stereotypes women by assuming women are insecure about their bodies and therefore unequal.
“The old saying goes that you’re putting women on a pedestal, but the pedestal is really a cage,” Ahmuty said.