Saturday, 28 December 2013

segregation by...

much fuss and bother about meetings at universities being segregated by gender. Indeed, some of them are. I have no issues with a private, members-only or signup-only meeting being segregated in any way anyone chooses to. I reserve my right to join a women's club which excludes men. A private university too may segregate its meetings, it staff, its anything, in any way it chooses. But a public university which receives State funding is a public authority, and must therefore be constrained in a way private clubs and organisations are not, namely to conform to the prevailing values of the State which funds it. Some may have views about that. Some may question those values. That is another matter. Purportedly left-wing bloggers and writers like Laurie Penny refuse to condemn segregation by gender, so long it is promoted by Muslim organisations or individuals. They give as the reason that organisations such as the English Defence League, part of whose agenda is anti-Muslim, are often also misogynist in the statements they make -  "Women are like gongs: they should be struck regularly" - and because the EDL and similar bodies are largely composed of white working-class men they are therefore  Not Good People and are to be Looked Down Upon by posh girls like Laurie Penny and their Guardian-reading fans. Muslim misogyny is somehow better. Moral relativism. Intellectual incoherence. Segregation by gender may be OK, or it may not. I suggest that in a hospital ward it is a good thing. I suggest that in a theatre dressing-room it is a good thing. I suggest that in a public debate of any kind, organised by anyone at all, it is not a good thing. But that is just my view. If we are going to debate it, let us debate it clearly and properly. Let us not refuse to debate it, giving as the reason that organisations like the EDL are to be condemned. That is posh feminists ceding debate to the misogynists - and silencing women in the universities. OK for them. They went to school. Their daughters will go to school. No-one is going to cut their clitorises off. They can dress as they please.

I went to university in 1972, and attended a Women's College. Only a few years before this male guests were only permitted between certain daylight hours. In my time they were only permitted before ten in the evening. This rule was widely ignored. However, rules like this (and the existence of creatures called "moral tutors") were designed to control women. They were designed to reassure the parents of the young women who attended those colleges that those young women would not be permitted to have sex. That was all it was about. And the segregation by gender and covering and seclusion of women practised in many societies where Islam is the dominant religion (and not only there) is about precisely that. Control of women's bodies and their sexuality. As are the crude misogynist statements made by some working-class white men.

If you agree with the silencing, covering and mutilation of women, say so. Don't say that you refuse to disagree with it because some non-Muslim men behave in misogynist ways. That is stinking relativism.


Anonymous said...

Until about 1969, when the age of majority went down from 21 to 18, universities were In Loco Parentis for all students under 21. This explains why halls of residence were single sex in those days, and the strict rules that were in place.

Anonymous said...

I went to university from 1973- 1979 - and it was a very traditional university; neither campus nor a 'new' university.

We lived in either mixed Halls of Residence or student apartment blocks -- there were two single sex Halls - but there was a choice. Each Hall had a 'Warden' but the Warden ( who was male in my mixed Hall) imposed no rules or restrictions whatsoever!It would have been quite nice if he had done something to stop the rampant water fights when some of us were doing our two day 'take away' exam paper. It would also have been good if he had managed to tighten security so that an intruder had not broken into our rooms and made off with a whole load of stuff. There were no 'curfews' in existence - people had their boyfriend or girlfriends to stay over at night just as they do now. This was not regarded as unusual or radical at all. Again, I stress that the university I attended was VERY traditional - and, along with two or at most, three others, was the one you put as second choice to Oxbridge. In Year Two, I and many others moved out to share flats or houses in the city. But Hall experience was nothing like a girls' seminary or boarding school. At all.