Feminist Support for Ladys First Fitness Studio

3. Juni 2024

In March 2024, a man named “Laura” Holstein applied for membership access to Lady’s First Fitness Studio, a women-only gym in Erlangen, Bavaria. Doris Lange, owner of Lady’s First, instructed her staff to deny Holstein’s request. Now the German federal government is getting involved. 

As feminists, we send a message of solidarity to Ms. Lange and Lady’s First in upholding a clear women-only boundary. Not only is this a clear example of male entitlement encroaching on women’s dignity, but it may also present a challenge to the Hausrecht of all women’s organizations and businesses across Germany. 

At the time of writing, Holstein’s ID indicates his sex as male. When Lady’s First offered him a training session, he suggested using the women’s showers in swimming trunks as a compromise. Then he emailed the gym, promising to avoid the showers completely. He was ultimately denied access to the women’s gym, so he left a 1-star review online and accused Lady’s First of discrimination. 

On May 16, Lange received a letter from Ferda Ataman, the Independent Federal Commissioner for Anti-Discrimination. The letter urged her to pay Holstein 1000 EUR as compensation for the “personal injury” of being rejected. Ataman’s office, the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (ADS), is headed by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs. 

In cases of discrimination, the ADS is authorized to mediate an amicable settlement between parties before taking the matter to court. Ataman claims Holstein suffered “direct discrimination on the grounds of gender” which could violate the AGG (General Equal Treatment Act / Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz). However, the legal representative for Lady’s Fitness, Dr. Christoph Franke, argues that the ADS is overreaching its authority, and the gym is not obligated to pay. 

This case appeared shortly after Germany’s parliament passed a new Self-ID bill in April, 2024. Independent women’s organizations across the country had voiced strong criticism against the SBGG for months, and some of their concerns were taken seriously as the bill was drafted. For example, the SBGG now states that women’s organizations and businesses can exercise “Hausrecht” or domestic authority for admitting or rejecting persons at will. If the Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier signs the bill, it will officially come into force on November 1, 2024. 

In the case of Lady’s First, it is possible that a man will try to use anti-discrimination policy to challenge women’s Hausrecht in court. The Federal Ministry of Justice has stated repeatedly that Hausrecht will be preserved, and that women’s spaces will remain protected. However, as this situation clearly shows, a man can threaten legal action if a woman’s Hausrecht hurts his feelings.

A fundraiser has been initiated by Frauenheldinnen to cover potential legal costs on behalf of Ladys First, the women’s fitness studio in Erlangen. Donate HERE if you can.

We are paying close attention to this situation as it unfolds.