poetics, time, body disruption and marginally queer solutions

Sunday, May 02, 2004

What's Wrong with Curves?
By Ruth Rosen, AlterNet
For women of a certain age, Curves – a physical-fitness chain – seems like a blessing. No men, no mirrors. No expensive membership fees, no complicated dance-step routines.

Just walk in and change into your frumpiest sweats. Get a 30-minute complete workout on a circuit of hydraulic machines, arranged in a sociable circle so you meet other women. Nothing to remember: A pre-recorded voice tells you when to switch machines and do aerobics on rubberized mats. Get dressed and you're out the door.

What's not to like? Curves is inviting, rather than intimidating. Unlike many gyms, Curves fitness outlets don't feel like "meat markets" or look like nightclubs. By offering easy and accessible exercise, Curves helps some 2 million overweight and overworked middle-age women lose weight, get fit and improve their health – just what public-health officials hector us to do.

Not surprisingly, Curves is wildly successful. According to Entrepreneur Magazine, it now boasts 7,500 outlets and is the fastest-growing franchise in the world.

There are 68 outlets within 25 miles of downtown San Francisco. Most of them are tucked away in nondescript strip malls or office buildings, which keeps monthly membership fees as low as $29. Such modest locations also enhance the profits of franchise owners, who pay $29,000 to open a Curves outlet, plus a monthly royalty fee of $395. (For many women, it's a relatively inexpensive and convenient way to start a small business.)

So, is there any reason why you shouldn't rush out to join the Wal-Mart of gyms that's helping so many women improve their health?

Well, yes. The owner, Gary Heavin, has given at least $5 million of his profits to some of the most militant anti-abortion groups in the country.


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