Monday, April 14, 2008

Are single sex changing rooms "Gender Apartheid"?

As a member of the Indecent Right, I have a surprising amount of time for the Decent Left.

Harry's Place in particular is always worth reading, but I found these articles a bit strange:

This morning, my wife, five year old son and I thought it might be nice to go swimming in the newly re-opened local swimming pool, Clissold Leisure Centre. We got to the pool at 10.30, to be told that:

- the main pool was too deep to be safe for a five year old;
- the "training" pool was women only between 10.45 and 12.30 every Sunday;

I got angry. I nearly swore. I rarely get angry at people who are doing no more than implementing a policy, because it isn't fair on them. I apologised.

Not to worry, we thought. I'll go in the main pool. My wife and son will go to the training pool. However, that was not permitted. My son, being of the male gender, was not allowed in a women-only swimming session.


Fine, I said. And what would the policy be if a group of racists decided that "sensitivity" to their cultural preferences resulted in a whites only swimming session? Why should a public institution subsidise the expression, in a public place, of the gender apartheid practice mandated by a small religious minority at all?

Some of the comments underneath the posts are, to put in mildly, a trifle hyperbolic.
The logical conclusion of this, of course, is that single sex changing rooms are a "form of gender apartheid".

Don't get me wrong: I am a great fan of secularism, I have recently been pursuaded of the merits of disestablishment, and I seriously don't want to live in any sort of theocracy.

However, I honestly don't think having a couple of women-only swimming sessions in a week is going to usher in theocracy. No, really, it isn't.

It reminds me of the eccentric enthusiasm for opposing Nativity scenes on public land in the United States: tilting at windmills, whilst there are ogres on the horizon.

[Disclaimer 1: When I was an undergrad, the College gym had a couple of sessions a week that were women only. The sky failed to fall in.
Disclaimer 2: When I first moved to London, I lived in Dalston. I wouldn't trust Hackney Council to run a bath, let alone a swimming pool.]


pj said...

Being a member of the indecent left I have rather less time for the decents, this particular story reflects something of a theme of the decent commentator, that is how something which has personally annoyed them reflects some issue of massive national importance (Messrs Cohen and Aaronovitch, I'm looking at you) rather than being, you know, just a matter of mild personal inconvenience.

JP (Mrs PJ) likes lane swimming but there are hardly any opportunities at our municipal pool with all the children's and mother and toddler sessions unaccountably scheduled for the weekend, post-work and evening slots - yet she somehow manages to avoid using this as evidence of a national crisis in service provision for working people without children, on second thoughts perhaps she should?

Political Scientist said...

"on second thoughts perhaps she should?"

definitely she should, she too could be the subject of a fawning article in the Daily Mail!

I'm inclined to be charitable towards
the Decents (considerably more charitable than they are towards people of my religion, anyway) - if it wasn't such an awful thing to say about anyone, I'd say they "meant well".

The "Grumpy Old Leftists" - whom you correctly characterize as magnifying minor vexations into "issue[s] of national importance" -
would find it much easier to make friends and influence people if they stopped anathematizing everyone who deviates one iota from the party line. Dsquared compared them to the Trots they condemn in this rather good piece.

It's all the more puzzling, as they are indisputably very clever people. Why do they deliberately act against their own interests?

BTW: Now I know JP=Mrs PJ, I understand this post. I wasn't sure who JP was!