The four-story shrine to bodily perfection known as Equinox in New York’s Gramercy neighborhood was empty on Friday afternoon.
Actually, there were people, but it was not full. Of course, it was a gym on a Friday in a part of the city where people leave town for the Hamptons on Thursday in the summer. But according to Instagram and the news, the gym was quiet because it has become a hotbed of political activism.
Last week, many Equinox members, including celebrities, announced on Instagram that they were disbanding as an act of protest. Momentum gathered rapidly in the days after The Washington Post reported that Stephen Ross, an owner of Equinox and its sibling luxury-fitness company SoulCycle, would be hosting a $250,000-per-seat fundraising lunch for President Donald Trump. Many saw this as a forced choosing of sides on Trump’s divisive policies and racist rhetoric.
SoulCycle and Equinox each took to Instagram to downplay Ross as a “passive investor” in the company—though he is chairman of the company that owns majority stakes in both. SoulCycle and Equinox are often described as gyms, though their business models are built on some blend of exercise facilities, classes, apparel, product placement of things like Kiehl’s soap in the bathrooms, community, and, of course, status. Equinox posters say “It’s not fitness. It’s life.” SoulCycle markets itself as “more than a workout;” it’s stated goal is to help you “find your soul” for $42 per class.
In the inevitable backlash to this backlash, critics have said that the membership cancellations are an extension of politics into places they were not intended to go: Is nothing apolitical? Must we bring our gyms into this? Still, the owner of multiple large companies inviting the president and his wealthy benefactors to lunch is itself inescapably political. Gym members’ objections to this seem to be less about escalating political hyper-wokeness than about their being slapped in their incredibly toned faces by politics.