Hamilton City Council is proposing that up to three hours a week be set aside at one of its community swimming pools for a women-only session.
And the response is…. predictable. Start with the headline, with its overtones of “Begone, ye wicked men!” It’s designed to elicit a negative response.
Then there the usual “PC gone mad” trope.
…the proposal was concerning and represented “separatist thinking”.
Excluding ratepayers from public facilities based on their gender was “political correctness going too far”.
“If we are going to do this for women, what about all the shy men among us. Can we have a couple of hours free from women?”
I’ve gotten very tired of the “PC gone made” trope. I’d like to know exactly what the speaker thinks is wrong with the proposal, and his reasons for thinking it’s wrong. Perhaps he’s concerned that it will lead to divisions in the community. Perhaps he’s concerned that it means that some people will miss out on swimming altogether because they are not able to use a particular facility at a particular time. If he had spelled out his concerns, instead of waving his hands in the air and saying, “PC gone mad”, then at least we would have the beginnings of a conversation.
Of course, it could be that the speaker *did* specify some of those concerns, and they just didn’t get reported.
And, Kiwiblog is onto it. DON’T READ THE COMMENTS. Really, just don’t. (‘Though there are a few people in there fighting the overwhelming tide of, you guessed it, “PC gone mad”.)
How much better to think of this from the point of view of what the community needs. Hamilton is a diverse community, and it includes people from cultures where women traditionally wear loose garments and cover their heads, as well as women who have left countries which are not as peaceful as New Zealand is. Many of these women might like to swim, and would benefit from learning to swim, but do not want to wear the form fitting and really rather revealing clothing that New Zealanders usually wear when swimming.
It’s all very well to say that women should just adapt and fit in and get on with it. The net effect will be to exclude these women from swimming altogether, all for want of a little flexibility. Setting aside this time means that Hamilton City Council is working towards providing for the needs of *all* the members of its community. More to the point, there are plenty of other swimming facilities in the city. No one is going to miss out on swimming, or on swimming at a particular time (there are other venues), or on swimming at a particular place (there are other times).
If we are to live in a tolerant and inclusive society, then we need to find ways to accommodate difference. Yes, there are some differences we must not tolerate (forced marriages and clitoredectomy performed on people who have not consented come to mind, and no doubt there are others). This is a difference that a society can tolerate, and ought to tolerate, on the grounds of being inclusive.
And a big shout out to my lovely friend Anjum Rahman for making the case for setting aside a few hours to allow women to swim only in the company of other women.