Are Muslim Women Receiving Special Treatment at GMU?

***Update***: There were a few errors in this piece regarding the names of schools and their public/private status when I originally posted it. I think they’ve been corrected now.

A couple years ago, George Mason University was in the news because it seemed to be giving preferential treatment to Muslim students. It seemed odd that a university would make such concessions.

At George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Muslim students using a “meditation space” laid out Muslim prayer rugs and separated men and women in accordance with their Islamic beliefs.

Critics insist that such efforts are giving Islamic followers preferential treatment over other faiths.

“Plumbing? You must be kidding. That’s an after-the-fact justification for something that is being done for the purpose of meeting a religious demand,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington.

“You start permanently changing your architecture for one religious group, you have to do it for all. After all, what’s the difference between a foot bath used as part of a ritual and a fountain that can be used for a baptism?” asked Lynn.

“Considering there are 2,000 different religious groups in America, that’s a very slippery slope.”

Now, George Washington University — a private school in Washington, D.C. — is offering “female-only swim hours“:

Last week, the Muslim Students’ Association and the University opened up “Sisters’ Splash,” a female-only hour at the pool.

Every week, GW plans to close the HelWell pool to men and will cover the glass door with a dark tarp, giving female Muslim students the chance to swim at their leisure. The University also hired a female lifeguard to be on duty for each week’s event.

Aliya Karim, the social chair of the MSA’s women’s group, said the organization made the effort to coordinate the swimming hour so fellow Muslims would feel comfortable in the pool.

“The girls should be able to swim here,” [Valdez Williams, the operations manager of the gym] said. “We will not penalize them because of their religious beliefs.”

Is the university simply doing the kind, decent, yay-for-diversity thing?

Or are they offering special treatment to students of a particular faith?

My friend Shelley Mountjoy is a student at GMU and worries that this sort of bending-over-backward may be permissible but it’s bad policy:

The problem with religious accommodation on public colleges (besides the first amendment, that is) is that it builds up the idea that religion should be immune from criticism. All of a sudden when someone mentions needing x, y, or z for their religion there seems to be a perceived need to bend over backwards to accommodate. Later we use our imagination to think up some legitimate basis for the change and all of a sudden what was a religious accommodation is a-okay.

I worry how far this will go.

I don’t think this is the same thing as adding additional food choices to the cafeteria menu to accommodate students who are vegetarian for religious reasons. Anyone can eat the food. It’s adding more options, not taking anything away.

This just seems like something that could get out of control.

When does it stop and who makes that decision? Which religious groups get the special treatment and which ones don’t? Is anyone at the school willing to answer those questions?

Should we expect Muslim-only dorms to be built soon?

Shelley also points out that Harvard University did something similar a couple years ago when they offered female-only gym hours so that Muslim women could work out without the presence of men.

That experiment had its critics, too:

Harvard computer-science professor Harry Lewis wrote in Boston Globe the university was being hypocritical since it upheld gender equality under other circumstances, but decided that Islam’s needs trumped other values.

I’m not a completely insensitive jerk here. I can understand why GW would want to give Muslim women this special access — it’s good PR for them. Plus, they’re reaching out to a minority and that’s usually a good thing.

But I’m eagerly awaiting the moment another religious group demands special access to something on campus and gets rejected. What a story that will be…

  • http://www.raywhiting.com/MyLife Raytheist

    Interesting. There are many Protestant and Pentecostal denominations that do not permit “mixed bathing” (co-ed swimming). Likewise, many women who have suffered abuse may also have difficulty appearing in a swimsuit or other somewhat revealing garments if there are men present, even beyond religious convictions. If the women-only time periods are open to ALL women, and not just those of a particular religion, I’m not sure this should pose a problem. Of course, if there are restricted women-only hours, there must also be restricted men-only hours, along with the general population co-ed swim times.

  • http://www.raywhiting.com/MyLife Raytheist

    I would add that I don’t particularly care for gender-restricted swimming, but I understand there can be a myriad of reasons why some want it. The goal (I assume) is to swim in the pool, and if certain conditions make it uncomfortable to enjoy the pool, then having gender-restricted hours is a modest and easy accommodation.

  • Claudia

    Last week, the Muslim Students’ Association and the University opened up “Sisters’ Splash,” a female-only hour at the pool.

    I will send a basket of Spanish goodies to the first woman who attends this female only hour with “I’m a lesbian” emblazoned on her swimsuit.

    More seriously, besides the issue of giving special favors to religion, I see the problem of Muslim girls being forced into constrained environments. Once there’s a girls-only hour at the pool, Muslim young women may be pressured by other Muslims (particularly males) to only attend the female only facilities. By catering to sexist notions you are in effect enabling their enforcement.

  • Peter Mahoney

    As a Pastafarian (all hail the Flying Spaghetti Monster), I would like the University to allow my religious expression via a sampling of my afterlife. Thus while they provide Muslim prayer rugs for their religious experiences, I want the University to provide me with a beer volcano and a stripper factory.

  • http://NoYourGod.blogspot.com NoYourGod

    ‘“The girls should be able to swim here,” [Valdez Williams, the operations manager of the gym] said. “We will not penalize them because of their religious beliefs.”’

    However, hypothetically Mr. Williams is more than willing to penalize me, a male, by arbitrarily restricting my access to the pool during that hour. The women (“girls”? – what century was Mr. Williams raised in?) chose their beliefs, and choose to live by them. Because they chose beliefs that restrict them from swimming with me does not entitle them to keep me from the pool.

    Although I sincerely believe what I wrote above, I would not be averse to setting aside men-only and women-only pool (or gym, etc.) hours for more generic reasons – as long as both sexes received equal treatment.

  • http://whatpalebluedot.blogspot.com WhatPaleBlueDot

    There are plenty of women who may benefit from women-only time in pools and gyms, and most of them not for religious reasons. Acknowledging that women’s bodies are put on display and that has been damaging to some women and thus they avoid facilities that would subject them to even the perception of unwanted gaze is not an undue burden enforced solely by one religious sect, but is a product of multiple societal influences.

    I’m a bit confused though. There’s discussion of private schools and public schools in nearly the same breath. Which are we actually looking at?

  • Thegoodman

    An easier and fairer approach is to give special privileges to NO ONE. The school should set up policies that adhere to its own mission statement and it should not deviate from them.

    If there are 5 students in the Wiccan club that say they can only swim under moonlight, is the school going to open up a night swim during the full moon?

    How about the naturalist nudist religion who can only swim in the nude? Do they also get a nude swim session? With a nude lifeguard?

    This situation is a can of worms that has no good outcome.

  • Richard Wade

    But I’m eagerly awaiting the moment another religious group demands special access to something on campus and gets rejected. What a story that will be…

    My mind is racing, trying to dream up what special facilities or privileges the atheists on campus could demand.

  • L.Long

    Yes they should stop all that special treatment to various groups. They should have all swimmers separated by sex, just like they have separate toilets. And to keep their minds on their lessons they all should be forced to were tents, which will stop all the boy-boy, girl-girl, boy-girl, girl-boy-girl, & boy-girl-boy fantasies.
    And this will help the IsLames feel more comfortable as they try to fit in to our culture of sex-drugs & Rock-n-roll and wild drunken college parties.

  • Guy G

    If there are 5 students in the Wiccan club that say they can only swim under moonlight, is the school going to open up a night swim during the full moon?

    How about the naturalist nudist religion who can only swim in the nude? Do they also get a nude swim session? With a nude lifeguard?

    Sounds pretty sensible, so long as:
    1. All of those sessions are open to everyone who wants to join them
    2. There is enough demand to make it worthwhile

    Women-only swim sessions are a pretty common occurrence, and there’s absolutely no indication that this will be restricted to Muslim students.

  • phira

    I support the decision to have women-only swim hours. First off, there are plenty of women, Muslim or not, who would prefer to swim without any men around. Many of us are survivors of assault or abuse, and many of us are sick of the ways that we are objectified and harassed on a regular basis. Being able to get exercise in an environment where we don’t have to worry about harassment and embarrassment is essential. There are women-only gyms and gym classes for the same reason.

    The second reason why I support these women-only swim hours is that it’s consistent with my feminism. Yes, many religions (if not most) are patriarchal, and that’s a rotten thing. But the way to undermining these patriarchies is NOT punishing women in them.

    I don’t think that there would be a problem if the women-only hours were initiated as a general courtesy to women in general, with no mention of Muslim women.

  • http://theehtheist.blogspot.com The “Eh”theist

    It is unclear from any of the linked articles whether this swim is open to all women or only muslim women.

    If the former, how is it any different from curves, and its women-only policies? If the latter, it would undercut the argument that it was a supportive space for women and become discrimination based solely on religion.

    (note-I also believe that curves’ practices are a form of discrimination, but I don’t believe that all discrimination is wrong)

    As Hemant has said, the issue comes into focus when others wish to be accommodated in discrimination based on religion or gender and how those requests are treated.

    Finding solutions to the use of common resources that respect all members of the community and allow equitable access to the resources are the measures of a mature, successful community.

  • Someone from Virginia

    Actually, GMU is a state university, not a private one. A lot of Virginia’s public universities have names that sound like they’d belong to private schools somewhere: College of William & Mary, George Mason University, James Madison University, Mary Washington, Old Dominion, and so on.

  • noen

    “Is the university simply doing the kind, decent, yay-for-diversity thing?”

    Yes, that is exactly what it is doing. And you are showing your true racist colors in this post.

    “I’m not a completely insensitive jerk here.”

    Well, actually you are being a bigoted insensitive jerk.

  • Ann

    FWIW: GMU is not a private university, it’s a Virginia state school.

  • noen

    Richard Wade Says:
    “My mind is racing, trying to dream up what special facilities or privileges the atheists on campus could demand.”

    Since atheism does not exist there is nothing that any atheist could ever demand. If it is true that atheism is a “lack of belief” and that it professes no leaders, no dogmas, no beliefs of any kind then it follows no atheist can ever request anything on behalf of any other atheist. How could any university accommodate atheists since no atheist shares any commonality with any other atheist beside their “lack of belief”, which is not a “thing” but instead a lack of a thing (belief)?

    You literally don’t exist. Therefore you do not deserve the slightest public accommodation whatsoever.

  • Meredith

    George Mason is a public school. Although it’s not clear that even a public school is prevented from making these sorts of concessions. Any legal beagles have comments?

  • A Portlander

    What Claudia and NoYourGod said, re:

    “The girls should be able to swim here,” [Valdez Williams, the operations manager of the gym] said. “We will not penalize them because of their religious beliefs.”

    Nothing the school (and by extension, the State) is doing prevents those girls from using the pool. It is not the State’s responsibility to negate or ameliorate the real-world consequences of anyone’s religious affiliation.

  • Grimalkin

    There’s nothing wrong with providing a prayer room (especially since it can be used by adherents of any faith – and the one at my university could be used by anyone at all who just wanted somewhere quiet to sit for a while). I am rather troubled by the separated gender thing, though.

    I mean, fine, the Muzzies hate women and don’t want to have to look at them. Good for them. Can’t they bring screens to use in the prayer room? I imagine they could keep them in a supply closet and bring them out whenever they want to pray. That way, they get what they want at no expense to the other students. Bonus. And I think it’s perfectly fair to ask that Muslims carry around their own prayer rugs. I mean, sheesh! What’s next? A box of rosaries for the Catholics to use?

    Gender-segregated swim time bugs me. I understand that many people, not just Muslims, would probably appreciate it, but segregation just really makes me uncomfortable. We would never be okay with a “black-free swim hour,” so why is it okay to have a “men-free swim hour”?

  • noen

    L.Long Says:
    “Yes they should stop all that special treatment to various groups.”

    Should we stop all that special treatment that we give in our society to the JEWS also?

    Are you aware that there are parts of this nation where all the street signs are in Hebrew, all the schools are Jewish schools, and that if you break a law you’ll be brought up before Jewish judges who will judge you according to Jewish law?

    What kind of atheist “solution” would you propose for our Jewish problem here in the US?

    • Brttyking00

      great….

  • http://www.skunque.com Skunque

    gender-segregated gyms kind of squick me out. I realize I’m on the losing side on that one, so I’d just prefer that if they have to hold women-only hours, that it be for secular reasons. Personally, I think the more you segregate the genders, thereby making them “the other” rather than people of their own right, the more trouble you’ll get with violence, misogyny/andry, etc.

    BTW – first out attorney general (Cuccinelli) shows up on Friendly Atheist, now the school I did my Masters’ work. ugh.

  • noen

    Grimalkin Says:
    “the Muzzies hate women and don’t want to have to look at them.”

    Wow, I mean just wow. More atheist racism and bigotry on full display.

  • Guy G

    noen:

    Well, actually you are being a bigoted insensitive jerk.

    noen:

    More atheist racism and bigotry on full display.

    noen:

    What kind of atheist “solution” would you propose for our Jewish problem here in the US?

    A wonderful display of self-awareness

  • Jagyr

    Oh, noen, please shut the fuck up.

    On-topic:
    I don’t see a problem with women-only swim hours, for exactly the feminist reasons mentioned prior to my post. The fact that GMU instituted it because of religious pressure is a little worrying, but I don’t think the idea itself is bad.

    The comment about changing around the architecture to suit religious needs is more worrying to me. Remodeling existing buildings or constructing new buildings in order to conform to Islamic segregation or accommodate some other religious need is just silly, a waste of funds, a sign of favoritism, and it opens a really nasty can of worms.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com miller

    My gut reaction is that this is in fact a positive yay-for-diversity thing. When students push for something, and the university provides, good for them.

    At UCLA, many of the larger student groups had their own offices in the student union. Though we, the secularist group, were totally jealous, the preferential treatment isn’t totally unmerited. Office space is helpful in maintaining a large organization, and they went to the trouble to apply for it, so good for them.

  • http://everydayatheist.wordpress.com Everyday Atheist

    @”Eh”theist said:

    Finding solutions to the use of common resources that respect all members of the community and allow equitable access to the resources are the measures of a mature, successful community.

    That’s especially true in a college community. This type of balancing is difficult, but takes place all the time. Just as the First Amendment allows some limited exemptions from secular laws to accommodate religious practices, a secular university can make some limited accommodations. Those types of requests can be addressed on a case-by-case basis in a mature, thoughtful way. Allowing one does not automatically send us hurtling down a slippery slope to allowing all, no matter how outrageous.

  • http://kitchenfallout.blogspot.com DianaG

    This happens at my school – McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario.

    The Muslim Students Association has special prayer space on campus, with special “sisters” and “brothers” entrances. The thing they don’t have is a place to wash. So if I’m using the toilet in that building around prayer time, I have to fight for a spot at the sink.

    Also, I finally convinced my husband to come with me to an Aquafit class, and when we got there, we were told he couldn’t participate because Aquafit was held during the “women only” swim.

    My opinion on the matter is that, if there is special “women only” swim, there should also be a special “men only” swim to make up for the lost time/opportunity that men can swim. But then, there’d never be any co-ed swimming, so I say just ditch “women only” swimming entirely.

  • http://reanhouse.blogspot.com Sarah

    I love the “we won’t penalize them for their beliefs” line.

    Um, you’re not penalizing them, they’re penalizing themselves. If they want to be separatists and not swim because teh evil menz might be in the pool then let them.

  • Grimalkin

    @noen

    If there are really areas in the US where people who break the law are brought before Jewish courts rather than secular courts, that needs to stop immediately – for the exact same reasons that Sharia law has no place in a secular country.

    How is it bigotry to say that people who want gender segregation don’t want to have to be around the opposite gender? Isn’t that the very definition of gender segregation?

    @Everyday Atheist

    Like I said, I have no problem with a quiet room that can be used for prayer (or thinking, or just calming down if you’re having a stressful day). If people want to segregate genders, they are welcome to bring screens with them into the room and, as long as they aren’t disturbing other groups, they can go ahead and set those screens up during their praying. I think that’s a simple solution that provides a service for ALL students while simultaneously allowing students of particular persuasions to tailor it to their ideologies.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    As an atheist, I have no problem with a “women’s swim hour” as long as it is simply a woman’s swim hour open to all women. Keep the religious justification out of it. There is no need for it. As others have said, many women would appreciate such an hour. For those that like to mix, there are all the other hours.

  • http://reanhouse.blogspot.com Sarah

    Noen, if I don’t exist then why the hell do I keep having to pay taxes?

  • Richard Wade

    Don’t feed the troll.

  • Miki

    I don’t see the women’s-only swim time as being much different from gender segregated bathrooms; presuming that any woman could swim during this time.

    But I disagree wholeheartedly with religious accommodations in public institutions. That’s in general.

  • http://everydayatheist.wordpress.com Everyday Atheist

    @ Grimalkin

    From what I read in the USA Today article on the prayer room, it sounds like your view is the prevailing MO at GMU. In fact, it says allegations that other students were being forced to observe Muslim traditions resulted in the administration ordering removal of prayer rugs and dividers when the room wasn’t being used for Muslim prayers. Sounds like a fair balance.

    On the subject of segregated swim times (and directed to no one in particular), as long as participation is voluntary by women, I don’t see a big issue legally. Yes, I know “voluntary” is a loaded word in this context, because religion involves a lot of “mandatory” rules, many of which are discriminatory or misogynistic. But legally, a school can only look so far as to whether coercion is involved, particularly physical. If women showed up for mixed swim times and Muslim men chased them out of the pool or harassed them, that would be a problem that the law could address. But to deny a religious accommodation just because we don’t like the content of the religion gets into discrimination against a certain viewpoint – which is disallowed under the First Amendment.

    That being said, there’s certainly nothing invalid about a perspective that says “segregating genders based on religious precepts squicks me out.” I share the feeling.

  • JD

    Since atheism does not exist there is nothing that any atheist could ever demand.

    Right, I would suggest “no special treatment for anyone”. Having the same set of genitals or believing in the same set of dogmas doesn’t deserve special treatment.

    I don’t know what definition of “does not exist” you have.

    More atheist racism and bigotry on full display.

    No, a sane person would realize that no group has a monopoly on racism and bigotry. It exists in everyone and every group to some degree, the degree varies, and the honesty about it varies too.

  • BlueRidgeLady

    While I am torn on gender-segregated pool time in GENERAL, I understand why a lot of religious and non-religious women would want to take the opportunity to have women-only swim time, as has been explained by people in this post.

    However, the idea that women should have special swim time because they are not permitted by their religion to be in mixed company is pretty appalling to me. The whole idea of covering up women in religion is inherently sexist. Cover up so I don’t get lustful feelings in my heart. Cover up because your neck or other parts of your body are sensual and since I won’t be held responsible for being an adult human who doesn’t assault others, YOU have to cover up. Cover up because other men shouldn’t see my property.

  • Katherine Schmitt

    I don’t really see an issue here. A recognized student organization petitioned the University for use of school facilities for one hour a week. How is this different from a SCUBA club requesting use of the pool one hour a week to hold classes for it’s members?

  • noen

    Grimalkin Says:
    “If there are really areas in the US where people who break the law are brought before Jewish courts rather than secular courts, that needs to stop immediately”

    Guess again about how the real world works as opposed to your fantasy world.

    I needn’t have picked Jews for my example. I could have just as easily pick Mormons. Are you aware that there are parts of this country where Mormonism is quietly practiced, including the practice of polygamy?

    Or again, are you aware that there are parts of this country where believers in Indian (India) religious followers have taken over entire towns and run things according to their beliefs at every level?

    Your demand that everyone everywhere at all times within the US must believe and behave as you believe is called Totalitarianism. It is no different than the desire of some Christians that they should be the dominant culture.

    Every society contains within itself what are called antagonisms. Which are groups of pockets of those who believe and behave in ways counter to the overall culture.

    This is normal. In fact, it is the main feature of a multicultural society that it will contain subcultures that do not necessarily see eye to eye.

    Atheism as it is currently held CANNOT tolerate dissent from it’s core beliefs. It also CANNOT tolerate rival belief systems. Today’s atheists attack anyone they perceive as a threat to their desire for political hegemony.

    The reason those all Jewish communities are doing just fine is because they aren’t being total fucking assholes like the atheists and the Christianist Dominionists are. That’s what it means to be a part of a multicultural society. You sit the fuck down and mind your own business.

    “How is it bigotry to say that people who want gender segregation don’t want to have to be around the opposite gender?”

    It isn’t. It’s bigotry to single people out on the basis of their race or religion. Opposition to Islamic centers and requests for the accommodation of their religious practices singles them out from those we already accommodate.

    When atheists get it through their thick skulls that they are just one belief system among many others and that they do not hold any kind of privileged status with regard to truth, that is when you’ll start being members of a community instead of just antisocial pricks like you are now.

  • SwedishSkinJer

    Noen, that’s a whole lot of gross generalizations against atheists. How did you arrive at this conclusion? Did you search around a few message boards, selectively pay attention to the minority contributors that act outrageously, and then proceed to gain the enlightenment that all atheists act in a similar way?

    Many of the users on here have commented favorably about the accomodations so long as they are not overly restrictive to other members of the same community, such as non-believers and even Christians. You instead chose to focus on the one post that displays any kind of blatant ignorance and ignore the more measured replies that can be found elsewhere.

    “When atheists get it through their thick skulls that they are just one belief system among many others and that they do not hold any kind of privileged status with regard to truth, that is when you’ll start being members of a community instead of just antisocial pricks like you are now.”

    Antisocial? How am I in any way antisocial? Who is claiming that atheists have an absolute grip on truth? The Atheist Pope? How is this relevant?

    Funnily enough, your behavior right now is overly confrontational and could be regarded as antisocial in how it tends to drive others away from whatever point you may be seeking to make.

  • Guy G

    Atheism as it is currently held CANNOT tolerate dissent from it’s core beliefs. It also CANNOT tolerate rival belief systems. Today’s atheists attack anyone they perceive as a threat to their desire for political hegemony.

    Utter bollocks. That’s as ridiculous as saying “All Christians/Muslims are fundamentalists” because some of them are.

  • Aaron

    Are you aware that there are parts of this country where Mormonism is quietly practiced, including the practice of polygamy?

    Or again, are you aware that there are parts of this country where believers in Indian (India) religious followers have taken over entire towns and run things according to their beliefs at every level?

    Any examples? Or do they exist simply because you say so?
    BTW, yes, polygamy is practiced, but it is illegal.

  • cat

    “I don’t see the women’s-only swim time as being much different from gender segregated bathrooms” Which I can’t use when I am binding (without serious fear of violence or arrest), meaning that I have to schedule my trips, meals, and drinks around safe bathroom spaces (luckily, my university has some gender neutral bathrooms, but I have to go up a floor and halfway across the building rather than a few feet). Gender segregated restrooms can make life pretty damned hard for trans and genderqueer people.

    On the issue of accomadations, the legal issue is one of fairness. Does GMU make similar accomadtions for other groups and for non-religious groups? I have yet to see evidence that they wouldn’t (or haven’t). As loath as I am to support any sort of religious practices, GMU can legitimately make accomadations for students so long as they are fair and do not interfere with the rights of other students (it could be argued that the pool closing in fact does this due to gender segregation issues). But more worrisome to me is this policy “Individuals with an infectious disease, nasal or ear discharge, exposed sub-skin tissue, or bandaged body part may not use the pool.” Yep, anyone with HIV is officially banned from pool use (as are people with colds, even though pool chlorine would make this safer than using any other campus facility).

  • J?nis

    “The girls should be able to swim here,” [Valdez Williams, the operations manager of the gym] said. “We will not penalize them because of their religious beliefs.”

    Now this is just bullshit. The university isn’t responsible for their faith, and it isn’t penalizing someone to hold them to the same rules as everyone else.

  • Greg

    Is it possible for someone to write a piece of code that inserts:

    “Noen is a known troll” as a signature for every one of Noen’s posts?

    Just so people know that there is no point responding to them…

    Thought not. :(

    Anyway, as regards the gender segregation thing:

    If there is an alternate place available for men who want to swim at the same time to do so, then fine, I don’t have a massive problem. If not, then it seems to be rather flagrant sexism, imho. Some places do have multiple swimming pools, and it’s conceivable that that applies here.

    The comparison to a non-black (or non-white) hour at the swimming pool is a good one. How about ‘(non)heterosexual hour’? Would anyone else have a problem with that? There are enough homophobic religions around that could demand that.

    Here’s the thing, you may not be penalising Muslims for their beliefs by staging a non-male swimming session, but you are penalising non-Muslims for those Muslims’ beliefs. And, personally, I don’t like that.

    And before people say that it is ‘only one hour a week’: sexism (or any such prejudice) is wrong whether it is for one hour a week, or every second of every day. We certainly shouldn’t be encouraging it. (There are also the hypothetical situations of people with limited time available to go to this pool.)

    Incidentally, I am extremely sympathetic to, say, victims of violent gender crimes having hours set aside for them in such activities, just as I am sympathetic towards those who suffer from mental disorders having time set aside to them, but this is not what we are talking about here.

    Indeed, there are a few schemes at gyms around here for people suffering from social phobia and the like that do a fantastic job of gradually integrating people into the societal situations they fear, and I support them wholeheartedly.

  • Hitch

    The problem I have with it is that it is sexist against both men and women.

    So apparently all men are lusting dickheads and apparently women cannot have their own diverse decisions.

    It’s wrong not on religious grounds but because it reinforces intolerant attitudes. It’s not really a gesture of tolerance.

    “Separate but equal” ring a bell?

    See that is the problem. things that are troubling on a purely human level become encoded and enforced because it’s “religion”.

    Because of religion it’s A-OK to separate and codify attitudes about people.

  • Sarah Braasch

    This makes me sick.

    When will people realize that there is no difference between gender segregation based upon religion and racial segregation based upon religion?

    If they wanted to segregate their University provided prayer room by race, on grounds of religion, would that be ok?

    And, anyway, how quickly we forget SC decisions.

    The Supreme Court just told a Xtian group at a law school that they couldn’t restrict their membership to Xtians or insist that their members dedicate themselves to Christ. Not if they wanted University affiliation and money.

    How is this any different?

    Answer: it’s not.

    And, for those of you out there, women included, who want gender segregated public spaces for your “protection” and to segregate yourselves from the evil oppressors — i.e. the sexual lust of men — be careful what you wish for.

    This kind of “protection” quickly turns into oppression.

    Just ask Turkish women who are now being threatened with losing their wonderful constitutional rights and protections for their own good by the Islamists in power who just want to protect them.

  • p.s.

    Are you aware that there are parts of this country where Mormonism is quietly practiced, including the practice of polygamy?

    Oh noes! polygamy?!?! they must be breeding an army to take over the country and force us into the quiet mormon lifestyle!!! The horror!!

    now about the article…
    Like many of the other posters have said, I don’t see a problem with an only women hour. It would be nice if they had an only men hour too, but I don’t think it’s a huge deal. I would need more info on the building alterations though… I hope GMU would give the same treatment to other religious groups if requested. However, looking through the article it seemed like the alterations were funded by the local islamic center, and not the university. (can anyone verify this? there was just one sentence that said they “intended” to raise the money). Isn’t that fairly standard for a club? My fencing club gets the standard club funding (maybe a few hundred dollars, for a 20 person club) and we need to raise money for any extra expenses and get approval for the space. Is there something I’m missing here? It doesn’t seem like a big deal.

  • http://noadi.etsy.com Noadi

    I expect this plan to be popular for women of all religions. Simple fact is that while men CAN control themselves, plenty of men don’t have any intention of doing so. I’ve been harassed plenty of times when swimming, if I’m at a pool I’m there to swim not to have guys make comments about my body. What annoys me is that it took a religious group pushing the issue for the college to make a safe place for women to swim.

    Incidentally, I am extremely sympathetic to, say, victims of violent gender crimes having hours set aside for them in such activities, just as I am sympathetic towards those who suffer from mental disorders having time set aside to them, but this is not what we are talking about here.

    You’ve just described a large segment of college women. Sexual harassment and assault is a serious problem on college campuses.

  • p.s.

    “Separate but equal” ring a bell?

    I don’t think this is a “separate but equal” thing. They are using the exact same facilities. Someone mentioned bally total fitness before, which is for women only- is that discriminatory as well? I can understand why a woman would want to swim/workout with women only- it’s the same reason why we prefer separate gender bathrooms and changing rooms.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Noadi,

    You just perfectly described the ostensible justification for religious misogyny (especially Islamic misogyny), which I’ve heard more times than I care to remember.

    Do you really want to be a second class citizen? Is it worth it?

    In exchange for a little “protection” (which is a false security, BTW — it only serves to exacerbate the existing problem.)?

  • p.s.

    Ahh forgot to add one thing:
    At my school clubs are allowed to rent out school space for their activities and can ask anyone not associated with that club to leave. So when my fencing club is scheduled to use the basketball courts, we can ask anyone playing basketball to leave so we can fence, and the swim team can ask anyone not on their team to leave the pool during their practice. I’m not sure if GMU has the same policy, but if secular clubs are given this privilege, why can’t a religious club do the same thing?

  • Claudia

    @cat, I think we’re long overdue for gender neutral bathrooms, or at the very least putting urinals in a room and then all stalls unisex. I recently worked somewhere with neutral bathrooms; no urinals and every stall had a small sink and mirror, and it worked out fine.

  • Sarah Braasch

    p.s.,

    We can get into the private sector, if you want, but we are talking about a public university providing resources to a religious student group (or a group of religious students — either way), which they (the religious students) are employing in a discriminatory fashion in direct contradiction of Supreme Court jurisprudence and the First Amendment of our Constitution.

    It doesn’t get more clear cut than that.

  • sailor

    I say keep swimming mixed but allow anyone that wants, to wear the burqa during these sessions. That way no one will know whether they are men or women anyway.

  • Ms. Crazy Pants

    What about when all the Christian groups request special pool hours where homosexuals aren’t allowed in because their religion is against them?

    As far as separating women from men, I don’t have a problem with that. Men aren’t leering at me; they’re cracking fat jokes, which keeps me away from some places. Women whether attractive or not are not there for men’s amusement. I’ve never even had to endure being “rated” by lesbian women nor hear comments about whether I’m attractive to them or not.

    On the flip side, a while back there was a transexual man (didn’t have the operation yet) who used the woman’s bathroom where I worked. That didn’t bother me because he was behaving very normally. He went in, did his business, then brushed his hair and adjusted his makeup. He acted so much like a normal woman in the bathroom that it was easy to forget he was a guy. If all men could be all business in the bathroom and shower and not “rating” others, then it wouldn’t bother me having co-ed everything.

  • Hitch

    Separate but equal encoded universalizing assumption about blacks. Women-only institutions encode universalizing assumptions about men.

    Non-separate changing rooms exist, but even US is a religiously prude country, irregardless of Islam, so we have this notion that men and women seeing each other naked is somehow deeply troubling and that the notion for privacy in that realm is natural or to be expected.

    Certainly explains why some US tourists get a heart attack when hitting a Mediterranean beach for the first time.

    And by the same token we actually apologize men for misbehaving. We structurally control those that do rather than creating a social context where coexistence is positive.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Thank you, Hitch.

    Well spoke.

  • Grimalkin

    @Noadi – While it’s uncomfortable for women at the time, is the solution really to segregate ourselves? What I’ve noticed about men is that the ones who are exposed to women a lot, who interact with women and work with women on a regular basis, are far more likely to treat women as people rather than boobs with legs and some uninteresting bits attached.

    If men are not expected to act like adults because we modify our behaviour whenever they are jerks, will that really do anything to improve our society?

    @sailor – There’s even a special burqa invented for just such occasions. It’s called a Burqini.

    @Ms. Crazy Pants – Good for you that you’ve escaped the judgement of other women. Personally, it hasn’t been men who have leered at me or cracked fat jokes, it’s almost always women. It’s the women who tease me in changingrooms, it’s the women who make fun of me when I swim or exercise (“haha, look at the fat girl exherting herself!”). If I wanted to avoid this kind of behaviour, I’d much rather swim during the “men only” time.

  • http://godlessgradstudent.wordpress.com/ Shelley Mountjoy

    Thanks for bringing light to this issue – but there something I want to clarify.

    The female-only hours are at George Washington University (GW) – it’s nearby and although the names are similar, it’s not George Mason University (Mason).

    GW:
    - Location: NW DC
    - Private
    - Female-Only Pool Hours
    - Foot baths

    Mason:
    - Location: Fairfax, VA
    - Public
    - No Female-Only Hours (Yet?)
    - Foot baths

  • Nordog

    “My mind is racing, trying to dream up what special facilities or privileges the atheists on campus could demand.”

    How about a really nice (and exclusive) rec. room? You could call it “The Woo Free Zone”? You could have pasta makers, grills for baby back ribs, stuff like that (these last two in jest on my part).

    Seems to me that if you accommodate one group you have to accommodate all groups.

  • keystothekid

    One thing that’s really standing out to me in the comments made by people who support the ‘women only’ swim hours because they feel like women enjoy avoiding being objectified, they’re survivors of abuse, etc. is the idea that only men objectify and (at least verbally) abuse women. Now, I’m a dude, so I can’t claim any true knowledge of the fairer sex but I often hear women talking about other women in terrible ways, saying things I’d never imagine saying! What’s to stop women at the women only swim sessions from making other women uncomfortable?
    I’m not in anyway trying to detract from the seriousness of abuse, I hope it doesn’t come across that way.

  • Lesilu

    I’m another not seeing what the big deal is here about a female-only swim hour. And I don’t care that the MSA is behind it since people can choose to attend for secular reasons.
    I can kinda see where some are coming from with the gender equality thing…if the men at GMU are concerned about it, they can get the school to open up men-only hours.
    Gender equality is something society will be working on long after it solves its many other problems, and that’s the real issue here.

  • Grimalkin

    @keystothekid – Obviously, every woman’s experience is different, but that’s what I’ve found. The vast majority of verbal (and even physical) abuse that I’ve experienced has been at the hands of other women. There are jerk men who, when around their friends, make inappropriate comments, but I find that rather easy to ignore. It’s the women, the ones who follow me back to the changing room, who come up to me and make fun of my swim suite to my face, who follow closely and touch me, or pull at my clothing and hair – they’re the ones who scare the bejeezus out of me (especially with the changing room issue – it’s often quiet, often untrafficked, and I’ve been beaten up in changing rooms because people outside can’t hear me if I scream – that’s why I rarely go swimming unless I am already wearing my suit under my clothes and use the changing room as little more than a hallway to get to the pool, or have friends with me).

    I understand that certain demographics can make people uncomfortable. I’m sure that there are plenty of people who feel uncomfortable that blacks are allowed to swim in the pool at the same time they are, or that a Muslim woman is there in a burqini. That’s fine, it’s human, you’re entitled to your fears (both rational and not). I just don’t think that segregation is the answer.

    Have a lifeguard on duty at public/college pools. Make sure the lifeguards are trained in sensitivity issues as well as saving-you-from-drowning issues. Give them instructions to interfere if they see men getting aggressive towards women, or witness any other type of bullying. Then let people swim and have fun (to the best of their ability, given the presence of “undesireables” in the pool).

  • http://everydayatheist.wordpress.com Everyday Atheist

    @Ms. Crazy Pants:

    What about when all the Christian groups request special pool hours where homosexuals aren’t allowed in because their religion is against them?

    I think most administrators could distinguish that situation. To me, it comes down to a distinction between requesting a reasonable accommodation of beliefs vs. asking the state to enforce your religion on others. The Muslim students didn’t ask for a women-only swim time to discriminate against men as undesireables, or to force others to obey their religion. The hypothetical Christian request, on the other hand, would be solely to force others to conform to their beliefs (or to exclude those who don’t). Drawing these lines isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible either. If the Muslim students tried to ban non-Muslims (or some group their religion disparages) during the swim time, that would be over the line.

  • Miko

    I don’t think this is the same thing as adding additional food choices to the cafeteria menu to accommodate students who are vegetarian for religious reasons. Anyone can eat the food. It’s adding more options, not taking anything away.

    While I agree that the analogy isn’t exact, I think that it’s fairly close. A vegetarian can be defined as someone who will not eat non-vegetarian foods, even if they are available. A swim-alone woman (for whatever reason: faith, previous experience of abuse, personal preference, etc.) can be defined as someone who will not utilize pool resources when men are present, even if they are available. This means that the vegetarian and the swim-alone woman are alike in that neither will utilize a certain resource that they would like to utilize unless a certain very simple accommodation is made. The analogy breaks down only because adding the extra option for the vegetarian in no way restricts the choices of the omnivore, while adding the extra option for the swim-alone woman does in a very slight way inconvenience others.

    Now, as a libertarian, I don’t think that any mandatory fees at a university should be used to support non-educational activities, precisely because we end up with unresolvable conflicts of interest such as this. Since my preferred solution isn’t on the table, let’s look at the remaining alternatives:

    1) A group of swim-alone women are required to pay fees to support a service that they will not use, despite the fact that they’ve made it known that they would use the service if a small concession were made.

    2) Realizing that one hour per week divided by the number of hours the pool is open is probably approximately equal to the percentage of students that are swim-alone women, the school decides to make a very inexpensive policy change that allows swim-alone women to enjoy the pool to a degree commensurate with the amount of its funding that they provide.

    I have to go with option 2.

    And if this issue had first been brought up by a group with a name like “Survivors of Rape Alliance,” most of those who are fervently attacking it above would probably have had no objection to it.

    The mistake here is to assume that the old way of doing things was neutral, when in reality it was systematically biased against a certain group. For those who want the analogy to atheism, here it is: Suppose a school has a policy allowing any religious group to requisition a certain amount of funding to form an extracurricular group and it coincidentally happens that no atheistic group has been formed. In fact, let’s say that the Christians have reserved all of the meeting locations 24 hours a day every day. At a later date, a group of atheists/UUs/secularists/brights/etc. decides to take advantage of the offer by forming an atheistic group. The Christians then complain that this was totally unfair, because the atheists could have just gone to one of the existing Christian groups instead of forming their own group, especially because the atheists are going to necessarily take one hour per week away from the Christians’ reservation schedule, so that “it’s not adding more options, but taking something away.” Is the objection of these hypothetical Christians reasonable? No, of course not: because things weren’t fair before the change (and since the atheists are only asking for one hour per week, there’s an argument that they might not even be fair after the change) and the Christians fail to see this only because they are blinded into thinking that the status quo is a fair situation when in reality the status quo is strongly biased in their favor.

  • http://everydayatheist.wordpress.com Everyday Atheist

    Interesting, as I write responses to this, I’m realizing that I’m steeped in a culture that, legally and otherwise, treats religious thought as deserving of special treatment. If I asserted a personal moral conviction that faculty shouldn’t be allowed to swim during certain hours because it might make students uncomfortable, I’d (rightly) be laughed out of the room. But because it’s religious belief at issue, our legal system (sorry, I am a lawyer, if you hadn’t guessed) grants those moral feelings more weight. Which does argue in favor of an ideal situation where public facilities would not make special rules based on any religion, but private facilities could accommodate or not as they pleased.

  • Miko

    Hitch:

    Separate but equal encoded universalizing assumption about blacks. Women-only institutions encode universalizing assumptions about men.

    Non-separate changing rooms exist, but even US is a religiously prude country, irregardless of Islam, so we have this notion that men and women seeing each other naked is somehow deeply troubling and that the notion for privacy in that realm is natural or to be expected.

    All socio-cultural institutional relationships are arbitrarily based on the particular values of the dominant group in an area. The belief that one should expect to be able to be provided a gender-segregated changing area is neither more nor less reasonable than the belief that such gender-segregation is unnecessary. Both have meaning solely as an expression of collective will. Both can be criticized only in terms of how they restrict the freedom of dissenters.

    Institutions by themselves cannot encode universalizing assumptions about group identity, however. For example, if segregating blacks encodes universalizing assumptions about blacks and if the institutional arrangement itself is the only factor in encoding such assumptions, why is it that segregating women encodes universalizing assumptions about men instead of women (as the syllogism about blacks would suggest)? Clearly, there is a second, cultural dimension, whereby any universalizing assumptions are in fact encoded by the motivations leading to such a decision. In this light, we can see the institutional relationships themselves as a consequence rather than a cause of such universalizing assumptions. (This is why ending racial segregation did not lead to the end of racism.)

    In the case of women-only institutions such as pools and of gender-segregated changing rooms, I would suggest that the institutional relationships are not determined by any gender-specific universal assumptions, but rather are determined by the extent to which the overall culture and certain subcultural groups within it assign nudity a role in the sexualization of interpersonal relationships. E.g.,

    Certainly explains why some US tourists get a heart attack when hitting a Mediterranean beach for the first time.

    … can be explained by the fact that American tourists have a greater expectation that seeing someone naked will be correlated to having sex with that person.

    There is nothing inherently wrong with this. To take a hypothetical, we can imagine a society in which the fondling of a woman’s breasts is not seen as a sexual act but instead is viewed as the appropriate way to, for example, greet a woman (greeting rituals already often involve some form of physical contact such as shaking hands, so this is a difference of degree rather than a difference of kind, in the same sense that American women also tend to wear less at the beach than they do elsewhere, so that nudity at the beach or in changing areas is also only a difference of degree.) In this case, a visitor from such a society would likely regard those on the Mediterranean beach as prudes (since they don’t fondle each other upon meeting) in the same sense that the European may regard the American as a sexual prude. Each should realize however, that she is judging by her own arbitrary standards and that there is no real grounds for criticizing the choice of the Other so long as it stems from a commitment to human freedom.

    And by the same token we actually apologize men for misbehaving. We structurally control those that do rather than creating a social context where coexistence is positive.

    Short of utopia, there is no situation in which all social coexistence can a priori be guaranteed to be positive. And convincing people that a certain distinction is not significant is just as much a structural control as convincing them that the distinction is significant would be. If you accept that all cultural values are relative (a serious antecedent: from what you’ve said, I can’t be sure whether you do), then surely an option like this that accommodates multiple points of view is a reasonable solution.

  • Erp

    One suggestion is a men’s only swim time also (and balanced so that neither group gets a monopoly on prime time [e.g., MW 3pm for women, TTh 3pm for men one week and switch the next week]).

    Strictly speaking devout male Muslims shouldn’t be swimming with women (men are also expected to dress modestly in mixed company) so should be using the men only swim time only (at least if clad in most swim suits).

  • Miko

    Everyday Atheist:

    Which does argue in favor of an ideal situation where public facilities would not make special rules based on any religion, but private facilities could accommodate or not as they pleased.

    (I read “government-operated” for “public” and “privately-operated, but potentially open to the general public and not necessarily operated for-profit” for “private” in the above and am basing my response on such assumptions.)

    This strikes at the conundrum of all government: is it really possible for a public facility to be neutral? Say that I want such an accommodation and so use a “private” facility. By the nature of “public” facilities, I am still coerced into paying for the “public” facility that I am not using, meaning that those who do opt to use the “public” facility are getting a better deal at the expense of those who use the “private” facility and are getting this better deal precisely because the “public” facility refuses to offer accommodation. Seeing as the end result is systemic bias against a certain group of people, is it really fair to call the “public” facility neutral in this regard? Isn’t it an odd coincidence that all of the supposedly neutral “public” institutions always end up operating in ways that seem to especially benefit the same group of people (e.g., in the U.S., this group consists mainly of rich, white, land-owning, Protestant males)?

    And, if by contrast, objectivity is impossible (I think that it is impossible even in theory, although I also think that current governments don’t even attempt to achieve it), then aren’t all “public” institutions really just an attempt by the most powerful group to prey on everyone else while giving their actions a veil of false legitimacy by falsely claiming that they are “acting in the best interests of all”?

    And, if so, given that “private” institutions are possible, why would we ever bother with “public” ones?

  • Hitch

    “institutional relationships themselves as a consequence rather than a cause of such universalizing assumptions”

    I don’t think we are in disagreement here. A building or infrastructure itself has no meaning. We give it meaning, or we build it for a meaning.

    I have been in churches which were used as brewpubs. But my point stands. The reason why they are build and instituted is because those attitudes are promoted rather than questioned.

    “Short of utopia, there is no situation in which all social coexistence can a priori be guaranteed to be positive.”

    But I’m not talking Utopia, when something like this can observe to work quite well in Europe, i.e. the assumptions are indeed cultural and not universal.

    “If you accept that all cultural values are relative”

    I do actually not accept that. For example I have yet to find a person who want to be treated against their wishes.

    There is a real difference between a society where people are separated from where people are not and this is not neutral, there is a specific meaning related to why separation has to happen, because there is no natural mechanism for this separatedness.

  • http://fransdejonge.com Frans

    @Miki:

    I don’t see the women’s-only swim time as being much different from gender segregated bathrooms; presuming that any woman could swim during this time.

    And a strange thing that is.

  • Aj

    It’s gender discrimination and establishment. Groups always try to get privileges over individuals. If privileges are given to religion then that encourages people to be religious. It’s a small concession, but then are they willing to give small concessions to other groups? What does that mean for individuals? At the very least they should be consulted to minimize the effect on them, it should be operated from the consent of those discriminated against.

    I’m interested in the justifications for this. Do you get to decide who gets to look at you in public? If you’re a victim of a crime, do you then get to be segregated from a section of society that committed that crime against you? If you don’t like the possibly of some section of society saying something to you, should you expect to be segregated? The segregation is at the expense of the other party.

  • Ms. Crazy Pants

    @Grimalkin
    Yikes. The last time I had to deal with comments from women was high school, and I had no way to avoid the high school. What you’re describing is just full out assault. Something very wrong is going on where you are at.

    Is this happening at a high school, small college, or a public pool?

    I’d highly recommend a self-defense class in this case and possibly an attorney.

    I wonder if age (40) has something to do with my experiences or the fact that I’m in the midwest?

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    This should settle it assuming the pool is open from 8AM till 7PM

    8AM – 9AM hetero-women hour
    9AM – 10AM lesbian-women hour
    10AM – 11AM hetero-men hour
    11AM – noon gay-men hour
    noon – 1PM hetero (male & female)
    1PM – 2PM women only
    2PM – 3PM men only
    3PM – 4PM everybody
    4PM – 5PM only lesbians and gays
    5PM – 6PM hetero men and all women
    6PM – 7PM hetero women and all men

    Apologies if any special interest groups could not be represented due to the limited number of pool hours available.
    Any complaints can be submitted in writing.

  • Grimalkin

    @Ms. Crazy Pants – Physical: Middle and High School. I haven’t gone swimming in over a year, but I’ve definitely experienced verbal comments from women (mostly what I would now call “girls” – people of the female persuasion between the ages of 15-19) after leaving a school environment.

    I’ve found that men tend to be much more sensitive to that kind of craziness and, even when in groups, will often quiet down if I just look at them like they are behaving inappropriately. Younger men (again, that horrid 15-19 range) can be pretty awful, but I definitely see the girls behaviour in worse ways.

    I’m sure that where we live makes a difference, also how we look, how we react, how other people around react, etc. But my point is that most of us come with baggage, most of us have experienced bullying and are uncomfortable around certain groups, and while it’s more common for women to fear men, it’s not exactly rare for women to fear other women. Short of booking private time for you and you alone to be at the pool, I really don’t see an equitable solution.

    I also don’t think that allowing women to hide from men will do anything to improve conditions for women in our society, as far as gender crimes are concerned. The more exposure a man has to women, particularly positive exposure (women are there, get used to it), the better.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    How silly of me. I forgot to include the following. We will need to extend the pool hours:

    7PM – 8PM hetero women and gay men
    9PM – 10PM hetero men and lesbian women.

  • http://littlelioness.net Fiona

    We have plently of Muslim girls from Indonesia or Malaysia at my Uni gym here in Canberra. They wear long sleeves, long pants and a headscarf, and seem to exercise quite happily with the rest of us there *shrugs*

  • http://littlelioness.net Fiona

    @ Jeff may I not swim as I’m bi? *sulks*

    I’ll try not to look!

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    @Fiona,

    I considered working in a bi category but the number of combinations got too large. You will get both a hetero and a lesbian pass. Just keep it on the QT :)

    I’ll also have to give transgender people multiple passes as well.

  • Grimalkin

    @Fiona – Swim suits for bi-folk must include a blindfold.

  • Kevin

    Seems like a reasonable, secular-based cost-benefit policy to me.

    Group A: Female students who would like to swim and would be able to swim during the hour in question, but are unwilling to swim in a coed environment due to personal or religion-based preference.

    Group B: Male students who would normally opt to swim during the hour in question, and would therefor be inconvenienced (to varying degrees) by having to swim at a different time.

    I think it’s reasonable to say that Group A is much larger than Group B, and that Group A is much more positively impacted by this policy than Group B is negatively impacted. Presumably some amount of research went into picking a time which maximized the positive impact on Group A while minimizing the negative impact on Group B.

    Thus, it makes good business (secular) sense to put the policy in place.

  • Meg

    If my university offered a women’s only hour, I would take up that offer. I’m an atheist but I have body issues. I honestly do not use the gym pool because I am too uncomfortable. A women’s only hour would make me feel like I can focus on swimming instead of trying to hide my body.

    It isn’t even an issue of sexuality for me. I would feel way more comfortable around lesbians than around men. Maybe I am a little biased because I feel like society teaches men to judge women by their bodies but I feel less of that pressure around women regardless of their sexual preferences. They have the same type of body and likely the same body issues. I have no issue changing completely or taking a shower in the women’s locker room but I would avoid at all costs a co-ed locker room. I know that a swimsuit isn’t the same as full on nudity but it can get pretty darn close sometimes.

    I also think that there is a certain level of modesty expected by certain cultures that goes beyond religion. If women do not want to display their body in mixed company, it is difficult to use the gym at all. This is not just about Muslim women or religious women. I know plenty of just plain mid-western women who would prefer a women’s only session.

    If men are feeling that this limits their rights to access, you can set up a men’s hour. One hour a week, or two for both sexes, seems like a tiny concession. My university gym has kid’s swim sessions every day for 2 hours. I find that pretty annoying since I am not allowed to swim and I am certain those tots are not university students.

  • Sarah Braasch

    I find it shocking that, in 2010, people still think the best way to teach men and women to treat one another like human beings is to segregate them from each other.

    Didn’t we learn that lesson in the prior century?

    Guess not.

    Anyhoo, I think it bears mentioning that segregation is not really the best survival strategy for our species in this day and age.

    Actually, I don’t think it’s a survival strategy that we even have at our disposal anymore.

    We will either learn to live together or we will learn to die together.

    Take your pick.

  • http://twitter.com/alexandra_opny Lexy

    Women-only swimming and workout hours? It may be intended for muslim students but we all know who it’s really going to attract: lesbians. Damn, I wish my campus had more “women-only” facilities. ;)

  • sailor

    Having read all the comments, I see that we have some issues in male/female behavior. However, I would think segregation while a short term solution in the long term is counter-productive. Letting everyone get used to each other should eventually get rid of the problems. Making special exemptions for religious groups? Same thing, any group that has a problem about men women things needs to get over it. As for the Burquini, that is fine wear, whatever is comfortable for you.

    Also the person who mentioned European topless bathing suits. What I notice in the US when nudity comes up, people don’t mind it if the nude person is young and attractive, but are aghast at a 70 year old topless woman. The great thing about Europe is everyone does it, everyone gets used to it and very fast it is not even an issue.

    @Grimalkin – thanks about the burquini – I learnt something.

  • Vas

    Cat said…

    But more worrisome to me is this policy “Individuals with an infectious disease, nasal or ear discharge, exposed sub-skin tissue, or bandaged body part may not use the pool.” Yep, anyone with HIV is officially banned from pool use (as are people with colds, even though pool chlorine would make this safer than using any other campus facility).

    Just a quick note on this. Cryptosporidium is an all too common waterborne illness and outbreaks happen maybe a bit more often than you may think.
    Meg said…

    My university gym has kid’s swim sessions every day for 2 hours. I find that pretty annoying since I am not allowed to swim and I am certain those tots are not university students.

    And kids are the most common cause of crypto in pools, I’ll spare you the gory details and the how and why’s of this, but kids are the vector, (filthy little buggers). Once it’s in the pool it can infect many users and only after the fact are pools closed. Cryptosporidium is pretty chlorine resistant and residual chlorine in a pool will not kill it, and yes even when the chlorine is making your eyes burn, it isn’t gonna kill crypto. People with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable to crypto and it would not be uncommon for it to be lethal for anyone and particularly if you have a compromised immune systems. So a bit of advice if you are HIV+ stay the hell outta public pools there is real danger there.

    There are very good reasons for rules like these and this is just a single example. Pool water can be nasty stuff and I would personally never swim in a public pool unless I knew something about the equipment being used and the schedule of the users and only then would I make a decision based on that info. As a general rule assuming a sufficient sanitizing system in good working order I would allow no less than 6 hours of the pool running without anyone in it before I used it and I would never use a pool when a load of kids is in it or within 6 hours of them getting out.
    Pool chlorine is not a miracle substance and you are not as safe as you think even from something as simple as a cold!
    Just saying….
    V

  • Rebecca

    Hmm, I’m not convinced that having a vegetarian option takes nothing away from omnivores. It’s not typically an “added” thing; it replaces what is a meat-containing dish (otherwise it wouldn’t be necessary, right?). So in a sense you could say that it does limit the choices of a carnivore who thinks meals must have meat.

    In any case, I think they should have just opened up the female-only (and also a male-only) swim session, and left off the fanfare about religion. I’d be up for a female-only gym or swim hour, for a number of reasons, not of which have to do with deities or oppression or fear of the opposite sex.

  • Anonymous

    Sarah Braasch:

    Agreed.

    Is there something so shame-causing or inflammatory about appearing in a bathing suit in front of the opposite sex? Really? What century is this? It’s not an attitude to nurture, certainly.

    Anyway, these issues have been cropping up in the UK; it wouldn’t be surprising if more requests were made in the US. What a big step backwards for society.

    http://www.expressandstar.com/news/2010/07/06/pool-modesty-barrier-for-muslims-is-agreed/
    http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/news/Muslim-father-unhappy-daughter-s-school-swimming-sessions/article-2739192-detail/article.html
    http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23733027-swimming-pools-dress-code-for-non-muslims-is-scrapped.do

    HItch:

    Women-only institutions encode universalizing assumptions about men.

    Yes, I really agree.

  • ludovico

    …and the camel’s nose inches further into the tent…creeping shari’a. what? me worry?

  • AxeGrrl

    Sailor wrote:

    What I notice in the US when nudity comes up, people don’t mind it if the nude person is young and attractive, but are aghast at a 70 year old topless woman. The great thing about Europe is everyone does it, everyone gets used to it and very fast it is not even an issue.

    And that’s why Europe beats us here in North America when it comes to maturity :)

    How many jokes have all of us heard about someone’s sensibilities being “assaulted” by the sight of an old/unattractive/out-of-shape/pasty person on the beach? Solution: don’t look.

  • AxeGrrl

    Rebecca wrote:

    I’m not convinced that having a vegetarian option takes nothing away from omnivores. It’s not typically an “added” thing; it replaces what is a meat-containing dish (otherwise it wouldn’t be necessary, right?). So in a sense you could say that it does limit the choices of a carnivore who thinks meals must have meat.

    Let’s see…..so, when a restaurant/fast-food place serves burgers and then decides to offer veggieburgers as well, that “takes away” something from omnivores??

    You’re kidding, right?

  • http://s2solutions.us/wordpress Seth Strong

    As long as you have gender specific times for the pool and everybody can come times for the pool everybody wins. There’s nothing wrong with making people feel comfortable when they themselves can choose how to exercise their personal beliefs by choosing among all the options.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 muggle

    I cannot believe the number of people promoting a segregated hour because some women have body issues. Seriously, to encourage them is to not help them overcome the problem; it is to do them the harm of not being able to withdraw into a shell of wherein they see all men as something to be wary of. And I speak as someone who has been abused. I think it’s a ridiculous accommodation.

    I’m finding the analogies to bathrooms and cafeteria offerings utterly absurd. To equate, the bathrooms would have to be open to only women at certain hours instead of having the standard men’s and ladies’ rooms. The cafeteria’s would have to have times they offer only vegetarian instead of offering both vegetarian and meat dishes.

    Frankly, I don’t see how Curves gets away with it in a day and age when men’s clubs and men-only golf courses are vilified every day and rightly so. I can only imagine that it’s because guys have no more interest in that puky looking place than I would. I don’t work out but, if I did, Curves is the last place I’d turn. It’d be about my idea of hell: having to work out with women who squeal about girlie things surrounded by pink (ugh) instead of blue and no men to ogle.

    Oh and as for accommodating the Muslim chicks, it was said best way up at the top of the thread:

    Nothing the school (and by extension, the State) is doing prevents those girls from using the pool. It is not the State’s responsibility to negate or ameliorate the real-world consequences of anyone’s religious affiliation.

    Finally, I will concur with the women who find women far more offensive than men and, no, I’m not talking about high school. We are way more judgmental towards each other than even the crudest of dudes are. We are way more prone to resorting to names such as whore, slut, and Susie Homemaker than dudes. Hell, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a guy use that last one.

  • Thegoodman

    I don’t really see an issue here. A recognized student organization petitioned the University for use of school facilities for one hour a week. How is this different from a SCUBA club requesting use of the pool one hour a week to hold classes for it’s members?

    Great point Katherine. I have changed my stance. This isn’t a religious issue, it is a school club using school facility issue; which there is nothing wrong with.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Ok. So, if the Mormon Student Association at a public university wanted to use the school pool for one hour a week, BUT they wanted to restrict usage during that time to Nephites (i.e. whites), that would be ok with you? If they were concerned about miscegenation?

    That’s not an issue of public concern?

    That should just be between the school and the student group?

    And, thank you for pointing out why we desperately need the ERA.

    You’re missing the point entirely.

    It’s not that a student group can’t reserve a space for its members only.

    It’s that a student group is admitting persons to their group in a discriminatory fashion AND using government speech as a mouthpiece. This inculpates the government in the discriminatory speech.

    The government (the public university) can’t restrict speech, but it can’t discriminate either. So, the group is free to say whatever they wish, but they don’t get to use govt speech (the public university resources) as their mouthpiece.

    It isn’t usually approached as such by the Court, but, in my mind, this is also, easily, an Establishment Clause violation.

    It’s no different than a public elementary school teacher taking time in class to lead the students in prayer.

    The school (the government) not only has a right to determine that their speech is not in violation of the Establishment Clause, the school has a duty to do so.

  • Meg

    Muggle

    I cannot believe the number of people promoting a segregated hour because some women have body issues.

    Just because you don’t have body issues doesn’t mean I don’t. And having only co-ed pool hours won’t suddenly make me feel okay swimming at my university pool. It just means I won’t go swimming.

    I don’t feel like men are terrible or the enemy. I just don’t particularly want to be seen by them in skin-tight bathing wear. I can wear long pants and a loose shirt if I want to use the gym. The same is not true of the pool.

    This isn’t segregation in the true sense. They aren’t forcing men and women to swim seperately all the time. They are just allowing that some people have different customs and social expectations and those people might want to use the pool when they otherwise would not. You aren’t going to convert women who feel it is immodest to be seen with exposed elbows and knees. You are just denying them the ability to use parts of the gym because your sense of modesty is not the same as theirs.

    The comparison to racial segregation is appealing but I don’t think it holds. Men and women do have some things divided up according to sex (locker rooms, bathrooms, occasionally dormitories) and we find these divisions to be appropriate because we do not think men and women should be forced to be naked before one another or in overly intimate situtations together. For some people, clothing as revealing as a bathing suite may cross the line just like some American women would feel that going topless at a beach would cross a line while many other women do not feel that way. Racial segregation is not acceptable (well, not anymore).

    And not to defend Mormons or anything but it would be against their doctrine to make such a claim nowadays, too. And miscegenation isn’t something that happens in a pool . . . not usually. It’s a term for a sexual mixing of ethnicities not a social one.

    And these women aren’t saying that men can never have been in the pool or that the pool has to be cleaned out before they use it in case any man-cooties got in there. They are not demanding a women’s only pool. This isn’t an attempt to put men down, repress them economically, keep men in men’s only nieghberhoods, deny men access to law school or universities. Just for one hour a week, do something other than use the pool.

  • AxeGrrl

    muggle wrote:

    We are way more judgmental towards each other than even the crudest of dudes are. We are way more prone to resorting to names such as whore, slut, and Susie Homemaker than dudes.

    You mean the women that you’ve encountered.

    I’m sorry, but your ‘we’ doesn’t represent the ‘we’ that I know. I’ve never encountered such behaviour from other women (which, of course, isn’t to say that others haven’t).

    Broad generalizations are never really constructive/helpful.

  • p.s.

    I seriously don’t understand how this is a segregation issue. Are fraternities and sororities discriminatory (a few fraternities on my campus are mixed gender, but most are not)? What about the women in engineering group that is only for- surprise- women in engineering. Can anyone explain the difference to me or explain why one gender only organizations are always wrong?

  • Hitch

    One-X organizations are not always wrong. They are wrong if the whole reason to segregate is to encode/codify/enforce an attitude about the out-group.

    But the question was not if such groups should exist, but if they should be given special privileges to accommodate their exclusionism in a shared space.

    As some have said we could try to find time slots in the pool for any group that does not want to swim with members of an out-group. Certainly a no-beard day could be done for people who find it icky to swim with bearded people.

    But like with the attitude about the male gaze, the attitude about the icky beard is the problem here and accommodating it is questionable.

    I certainly have no issue with there being an allocated hour for water therapy, or for a beginner’s swimming course.

  • p.s.

    But the question was not if such groups should exist, but if they should be given special privileges to accommodate their exclusionism in a shared space.

    I would probably agree with you if it was a public facility instead of a university one. But university facilities are meant to be available for any special interest groups (swim teams, clubs, etc.) Usually there is a limit to how much a group can use the facility exclusively so everyone gets a fair shot. For courts, pools, etc, there is usually a set public swim time when anyone can use them. So if a clean-shaven group wanted to have a clean-shaven pride swim, they could book an hour in the pool if they wanted to. The beard wearers could also book a separate hour if they wanted to as well. If they are a university organization, they should get the same privileges as any other university organization.

  • Hitch

    I don’t think you understand discrimination.

  • p.s.

    I don’t think you understand discrimination.

    Well how about you explain it to me then? Do you really have such a low opinion of me that you can’t even tell me why I’m wrong?

  • Hitch

    The point was that it’s not right to discriminate against the bearded and nobody is obliged to accommodate such discrimination in fact it’s hurtful to do so. And to offer a time slot for the discriminated group (“The beard wearers could also book a separate hour”) does in no way address what’s wrong here.

    I.e. to do “separate but equal” between those who find beards icky and those who have beards is not OK or a solution.

    It’s the very notion of enabling discriminatory attitudes.

    Key here is the negative attitude towards an out-group. If that condition doesn’t apply then I do not see an issue at all.

    For example I know plenty of guys who participate in Women in Engineering clubs. Women in Engineering (while for women) are not there because of negative attitudes about male engineers (and their gaze and what-not) and are not there to otherize the out-group.

  • p.s.

    The point was that it’s not right to discriminate against the bearded and nobody is obliged to accommodate such discrimination in fact it’s hurtful to do so.

    So you think that men find it hurtful that women want a time to swim without men? Even if all the men at the pool were perfectly respectful and completely ignored women, don’t you think it’s possible that women could feel uncomfortable being almost naked around unfamiliar men? What exactly is hurtful? It’s a choice by the woman to swim with or without the opposite sex that may be influenced by culture, religion, or body image. It says absolutely nothing about that woman’s perception of men.

    For example I know plenty of guys who participate in Women in Engineering clubs. Women in Engineering (while for women) are not there because of negative attitudes about male engineers (and their gaze and what-not) and are not there to otherize the out-group.

    Again, where is the implication that men are somehow bad? Look, I would be personally uncomfortable if I had to swim in a coed pool naked, even if it was the socially acceptable thing to do at that pool. It’s not that the people who would be looking at me are somehow bad, it’s that I would feel uncomfortable with being looked at (even if it was only accidental glances- I am in no way implying that the people at said pool would be leering at me in an inappropriate way). Try as I might, I don’t think I could reason away that feeling, and I would not swim at that pool. I imagine that muslim women-and probably some non-muslim women- feel the same way.

  • Hitch

    “So you think that men find it hurtful that women want a time to swim without men?”

    No. That is not what is going on here. Here women want to swim without men because of the negative connotation of the male gaze.

    It’s not a “oh I’d be nice to have a women’s moment” that is going on here. I really think you dodge the key point here, which is the very reason why this was instituted.

    The fact that you proposed that we have beard hour in response perfectly illustrates how you missed the point that it is hurtful to a bearded person to tell them that they are icky or to refuse to share a public space with them!

  • p.s.

    The fact that you proposed that we have beard hour in response perfectly illustrates how you missed the point that it is hurtful to a bearded person to tell them that they are icky or to refuse to share a public space them them!

    That is not what I said at all. Being proud of being clean shaven does not make you anti-beard. Being more comfortable around women when bathing, swimming, exercising, etc, does not make you anti-men. That was the point I was trying to make.
    Also, the beard hour thing wasn’t a “in response” sort of suggestion. It was a comparison- there could be a clean-shaven pride hour or a beard pride hour- they both have the same right.

    No. That is not what is going on here. Here women want to swim without men because of the negative connotation of the male gaze.

    Being uncomfortable with men looking at certain parts of your body (“the male gaze”, as you put it) does not make you anti-male. I have certain cultural inhibitions that makes me uncomfortable with having certain parts of my body exposed to the public (especially men). Muslim women are no different. Maybe the inhibition will go away over time, maybe it won’t, but I don’t think I should be called discriminatory because I have it.

    I really think you dodge the key point here, which is the very reason why this was instituted.

    The point is that some women are uncomfortable with wearing appropriate swim attire around men for religious, cultural, or other reasons. This muslim group booked an hour at the pool, as is the right of any university organization, to let these women swim comfortably. I don’t see anywhere in the article where they talk about protecting women from the evil men or say that the swim time is for muslims exclusively. They don’t say that all women should avoid swimming with men, they just offer a time when those who are uncomfortable with men can swim without inhibition.

  • Hitch

    Cultural backdrop: *a sub-group of people consider bearded people icky and refuses to swim with them*

    You clearly do not understand the cultural backdrop. The article does say: “will cover the glass door with a dark tarp”. Even accidental male gaze is not allowable and it’s right there in the article. You just deny that there is a cultural context to this that does speak to the male gaze.

    Statement: “I don’t see anywhere in the article where they talk about protecting shaved people from the bearded people or say that the swim time is for those who find beards icky exclusively. They don’t say that all people should avoid swimming with bearded people, they just offer a time when those who are uncomfortable with bearded people can swim without inhibition.”

    If you do not understand the problem with this, I’ll just have to repeat what I already said: you don’t understand discrimination.

    And yes feel free to substitute “shaved people who find bearded people icky” with racists and “bearded people” with people of color and you get to why “separate but equal” was discrimination.
    And no, the university does not have the responsibility to accommodate discriminatory attitudes and there is no right for any university organization to do get access to all privileges. In fact a recent SCOTUS ruling found that a university is fine to NOT structurally support student groups if their statute violates anti-discrimination rules of the university, even if the justification for the discrimination is religious.

    “It was a comparison- there could be a clean-shaven pride hour or a beard pride hour- they both have the same right.”

    To call this a “pride” issue is distasteful to be honest because it at best mocks the out-group attitude going on here. Men’s gazes are not banned in this case to promote women’s pride.

    See this is not a shaven-pride thing. It’s a beard-is-icky thing. You keep denying the key component as I have now said repeatedly. I introduced the beard example explicitly to make this case that discomfort with the other when structurally supported is discrimination.

    But we can just stop. I don’t see you even acknowledging that it’s hurtful to tell bearded people that they are icky, or to tell men that their gaze is always inappropriate.

  • p.s.

    ok, the bearded analogy is getting a bit ridiculous. Some people prefer beards, some people prefer clean shaven faces. That has nothing to do with “ickyness”. And muslim women don’t find men icky, they don’t feel comfortable exposing their bodies to a man they don’t know. Getting into *why* they feel this way is a completely separate issue, and not something a pool is meant to address. The university is trying to make people that do feel this way comfortable, and there is nothing wrong with that. What is and isn’t appropriate varies from culture to culture, and I hope that if I travel to europe and visit a beach, I won’t offend any men with my covered breasts.
    I really think its bizzarre that you are taking this as a direct attack on men. Is this attitude only reserved for muslim women, or does it apply to any woman who has issues with exposing the “normal” amount of skin at a coed pool?

  • Hitch

    “I travel to europe and visit a beach”

    If you demanded that the beach be cordoned off and line of sight be occluded to accommodate sensitivities yet then there would be an issue.

    I am not opposed to women using swim-suit burkas.

    But if you really care about this, I’d suggest you read up on what these dress code rules mean, and how they relate to both men and women.

    I personally don’t care if it’s Islam or other belief systems. I care what it means. In Islam the fact that a woman cannot be seen does say something about men (and women) and it’s not OK.

    And it isn’t even Islam. There are plenty of Muslimas who will go to the beach in standard swim-suits. In fact Muslimas win beauty contests including the swin-suit portion…

    Let’s not pretend that this is Islam, though some may want us to think it is. It’s the most conservative, and dare I say repressive/discriminatory form.

  • p.s.

    If you demanded that the beach be cordoned off and line of sight be occluded to accommodate sensitivities yet then there would be an issue.

    Doesn’t sound like they are demanding anything. They asked the university if it would be within their rights to do so, and the university thought it was:

    “At GW, we try to take care of all of our students,” Williams said. “As long as it’s requested and works within our policies and procedures, we will generally accommodate them.”

    See? request. Not demand. Like any other organization. If the university allows for separate changing rooms and bathrooms, I see no reason why it wouldn’t be within their policy to allow for a women only swim time.

    I personally don’t care if it’s Islam or other belief systems. I care what it means. In Islam the fact that a woman cannot be seen does say something about men (and women) and it’s not OK.

    So women in hijabs are literally invisible to you? You can see women, you just can’t see certain parts of women you don’t know. You can try, but i’m pretty sure you’d have a restraining order against you very quickly.

    And it isn’t even Islam. There are plenty of Muslimas who will go to the beach in standard swim-suits. In fact Muslimas win beauty contests including the swin-suit portion…

    Which to me makes it even more ridiculous that you are making this an issue centered around muslim beliefs and not personal comfort/modesty.

    I agree that the type of clothing that many muslim women are forced/coerced into wearing is a problem. But telling them they can’t have a gender-separated activity when there are so many instances of gender-separated activities/facilities on a campus (sports teams, locker rooms, fraternities, sororities) simply because you disagree with the motivation behind the gender-separation is just not fair. If you want to argue that ALL those instances of gender separation should be abolished, then fine, you have a fair point. It may not be the most practical thing to do, but at least I would understand where you were coming from.

  • Hitch

    I’m amazed how you manage to find ways to misunderstand me.

    Request or demand makes no difference to me. Replace “requested” in “demanded” in what I said and it’s same difference.

    So women in hijabs are literally invisible to you? You can see women, you just can’t see certain parts of women you don’t know. You can try, but i’m pretty sure you’d have a restraining order against you very quickly.

    To that I can just say, neat…

    But yes, this is exactly the attitude I reject. Men are not rapists or harrassers, and to even imply it of a person you don’t even know is pretty offensive, thank you very much.

    And I have said nothing about hijabs (head scarfs) anywhere… I have nowhere said or implied that any person is invisible to me etc etc.

    not personal comfort/modesty

    An yet another inversions to deny the cultural backdrop. You routinely deny it. That is why this discussion has gone nowhere.

    If you want to argue that ALL those instances of gender separation should be abolished

    Let me repeat (and I have said it a few times now): I do NOT object to segregation when it does not encode negative attitudes, so if you do not understand the culture that leads to what we are discussion we can run and will run in circles forever.

    But yeah, “separate but equal” was about personal discomfort of a white person to share X with a person of color. I guess we ought to accommodate… And it’s just a “white pride” and “black pride” thing right?

    But objecting to the above does not mean that I object to a black caucus existing in congress. The black caucus doesn’t exist out of discomfort with non-blacks and doesn’t segregate to alleviate this discomfort. As long as you cannot see the difference, this discussion is pointless. Hence why I said that you do not understand discrimination. One of these two situations is discriminatory, one isn’t.

    You try pretty much any twist why discriminatory gender attitudes in conservative islam that led to this to be OK. Either by talking away the cultural backdrop, or claiming that it’s just somehow neutral personal discomfort that says nothing about the other, or by claiming that it isn’t just for Muslimas.

    I think you just want it to be OK. I don’t think I’ll ever change that position. I certainly have said all there is to be said from my perspective.

    You challenged me to explain why it’s discrimination. I now said multiple times why it is so. Let me declare defeat. I do not think I’m ever going to convey the difference.

  • p.s.

    I don’t just “want it to be OK”. I will do my best to explain again why i think the university did the right thing in approving this particular request, and if you think I’m wrong, I hope you will explain why. Having a women only swim time is not setting a precedent. There are women only swim teams, and women only locker rooms/bathrooms. There are women only dorms. Sexual separation is nothing new, and is something this particular university finds acceptable. The university SHOULD NOT deny a request simply because they dislike the motivation behind a request (assuming said request abides by the rules and regulations of the school). A public university should not dictate morality to it’s students.

    I don’t want to argue about whether a hijab is “right” or “wrong”. I actually agree with alot of what you said (sorry if that wasn’t clear). But I don’t see how a “sister splash” violates school policy and I don’t think the university had any grounds on which to deny the request since gender separation has already been clearly established within that university. doing so would be similar to thought-policing.

  • Hitch

    Let me repeat what you keep not acknowledging:

    “[..]will cover the glass door with a dark tarp[..]”

    This part is critical in forming my opinion about this.

    It’s not about denying. They will go out of their way to put up tarp each week, encoding the attitude that the male gaze is dirty.

    Institutions of higher education routinely dictate certain outlines of morality to their students such as for example anti-discrimination rules, honor codes etc etc.

    I do find it questionable if a university helps perpetuate attitudes that are discriminatory against both men and women. They absolutely have the right to deny the extra effort to put up tarp to say the very least.

  • p.s.

    I don’t see how covering the door with a tarp is any different than having seperate locker rooms and bathrooms. Both are meant to keep men and women visually seperate. Again, I really don’t want to argue about whether or not the motivation is right or wrong, partly because I agree with you (I do think it’s just a cultural difference, but that doesn’t make it “right”) and partly because I don’t think it’s relevant. Is the action itself against school policy? There are already instances of gender separated activities and visual separation of men and women at certain times.

    also, who is putting up the tarp? Is it the muslim group on campus, or the university? Also, If it is the university, do you also have a problem with the university time and effort put into maintaining the women’s locker rooms/bathrooms? clubs and organizations are allowed to use school resources, including the staff. We get extra security around the gym during our fencing practice because people started stealing our shit when we weren’t right next to it.

    what policy/regulation/rule is broken by *the action* of putting up a tarp?

    Institutions of higher education routinely dictate certain outlines of morality to their students such as for example anti-discrimination rules, honor codes etc etc.

    sure. If you pick on someone because of gender, race, religion, then the university can do something about it. I just don’t see how putting up a tarp, with no other statement than “our girls want privacy”, is equivalent to picking on men when there are clearly instances of visual gender separation on the campus already.

  • http://musulman.biz tughchi

    No,I don’t think so.If you have seen this website http://musulman.biz ,you will never say something like that,I think.

  • Hitch

    See you have no problem with a brave new world were men and women are completely separated. You justify the entry.

    Look we have separate bathrooms from many pragmatic reasons that I have already conceded. We do NOT have them to encode one gender’s attitude about another.

    How about we have caffeteria hours where women can be among themselves and all view are blocked for men. After all women want to eat without having to wear concealing cloths too! And now about we make an hour of the day where public streets are forbidden for men, so women can go out and enjoy that liberty as well? How about we have separate sessions in congress so women do not have to content with the discomfort of the looks of their male colleagues?

    It’s all fine, we are told: “our girls want privacy”.

    Sorry, but I’m not available for such a world. I am available for fiercely criticizing demeaning gender attitudes and working for a world where the genders can happily coexist (without doctrinal codification how “uncomfortable” the other side is).

    Look you again dodge the key issue.

    “I just don’t see how putting up a tarp, with no other statement than “our girls want privacy””

    This is not the cultural context of this.

    You seem to advocate that cultural context only exist if someone explicitly states that “Muslimas have to conceal themselves from the looks of men, dress modestly” or quote explicitly the passages from the Quran and the Hadith that demand these attitudes. I’m sorry but the context does apply. Noone would be putting up tarp if it wasn’t for the demeaning gender attitudes, that stem straight from the roots of these prescriptions.

    You keep denying it and hence we go nowhere. I have conceded defeat and that’ll have to be it.

  • p.s.

    This is not the cultural context of this.

    I don’t care about the culture context. The university shouldn’t care about the cultural context. The only thing the university should concern itself with is whether or not the action itself is against school policy, and you just keep repeating the same lines without actually listening to a word I say. Just for one minute pretend that it’s not muslims. Pretend you don’t know anything about this particular group’s beliefs. Is the action itself something the school should fight against?

    I DON’T WAN TO ARGUE ABOUT RIGHT AND WRONG. That is not the issue. I am not “endorsing” gender separation, and I don’t think the university is either. I think this is just continuing a tradition of gender separation.

    How about we have caffeteria hours where women can be among themselves and all view are blocked for men. After all women want to eat without having to wear concealing cloths too! And now about we make an hour of the day where public streets are forbidden for men, so women can go out and enjoy that liberty as well? How about we have separate sessions in congress so women do not have to content with the discomfort of the looks of their male colleagues?

    I really think your being purposefully obtuse here. No one has ever suggested any of those things, and using the slippery slope argument to say that this particular act shouldn’t be allowed is a pretty good example of a fallacious argument.

    You seem to advocate that cultural context only exist if someone explicitly states that “Muslimas have to conceal themselves from the looks of men, dress modestly” or quote explicitly the passages from the Quran and the Hadith that demand these attitudes.

    No, I’m saying the cultural backdrop shouldn’t concern the university when making the decision to grant this request. They should only care about the request itself.

    I’m sorry but the context does apply.

    Why? Why should a public institution care about the motivations or thoughts behind a certain request? Why is it relevant? Remember, a public institution is not the same as an individual. You keep assuming that I clearly endorse all this, when really I just want the university to follow it’s own set of guidelines.

    Noone would be putting up tarp if it wasn’t for the demeaning gender attitudes, that stem straight from the roots of these prescriptions.

    Your making assumptions about this groups beliefs. again, all the muslim group has said is that the tarp is for privacy. I could also say that noone would have separate bathrooms if it wasn’t for demeaning gender attitudes. But even if that were true, (unless the university has said that it thinks that gender separation always stems from demeaning gender attitudes) The university should not stop maintaining it’s separate bathrooms until a policy change was made. (and yes, I know it’s bureaucratic. It should be).

    You keep denying it and hence we go nowhere. I have conceded defeat and that’ll have to be it.

    Then stop replying to me. You keep grossly misrepresenting my position so I feel obligated to reply and correct your nonsense.

  • Hitch

    “Your making assumptions about this groups beliefs. again, all the muslim group has said is that the tarp is for privacy.”

    No I’m not. I’m actually facing a reality that you don’t want to consider. Read what is posted:

    “We will not penalize them because of their religious beliefs.”

    But yeah keep calling it privacy, when this is now what it is. It accommodating religious beliefs that are inherently gender-alientating and discriminatory.

    This is an intricate case because it’s religious discrimination versus gender discrimination. In my mind the latter should always trump else discrimination can always snuck back in under the mantle of religion, and yes the university does have a responsibility in this and does have decisions to make. As I said before, gladly the SCOTUS ruled similarly (though narrowly).

    Then stop replying to me. You keep grossly misrepresenting my position so I feel obligated to reply and correct your nonsense.

    I haven’t mischaracterized your position at all. You have a disagreement with my position that is all. And you don’t stop responding until I concede to your position. I just won’t because I don’t agree to your actual position.

    I say that the university has a responsibility to not encode discriminatory gender attitudes that stem from religions (or other dogmatic ideological sources), you claim it’s not the universities business, but to accommodate the diverse needs of their student body.

    But it’s complicated by the fact that you claim that this is just a privacy issue ala bathrooms and hence “continuing a tradition of gender separation”. I just content that you deny the context of this as is plain in what is written about this and that the religious component very much matters.

    I have on multiple occasions now carved out the difference between segregation that I find OK and segregation that is discriminatory. We have not moved at all in getting a joint understanding of this difference.

    I still think that you fail to acknowledge the implied assumption that are at play here and that isn’t a mischaracterization.

    You frame this as a privacy and continuation of standard segration. I just keep reminding that this isn’t all that is going on here. And that this difference is exactly what the difference is between inoccuous segregation and discrimination.

    It really doesn’t matter to me if you personally endorse anything. It matters to me that institutions structurally support it. And that is a conscious choice as is clear from the material we are discussion.

    Let me just quote you again:

    No, I’m saying the cultural backdrop shouldn’t concern the university when making the decision to grant this request.

    I just disagree. The university does have to be concerned when they support discrimatory attitudes, especially if the support includes pro-active efforts such as putting up tarps.

    I have stated this position many posts ago too.

    You can disagree with me, but that’s about it. You won’t ever find me saying it’s just the same as standard gender segregation, because that just belies the reality.

    A reality sprinkled over all the statements made here:

    “We will not penalize them because of their religious beliefs.”

    Now what are the standard discriminatory categories? Religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, country of origin, disabilities etc etc.

    You make this into a privacy issue that is neutral. It is not and no matter how you try to spin it that way, or try to absolve the university of their responsibility to actually ensure a non-discriminatory environment it doesn’t change that context matters and that the university has a responsibility for the context.

    The university absolutely should accommodate. But not if discrimination is at play, and discrimination is always contextual. I am just not going to repeat the many examples I already gave to illustrate this.

    As such a university should accommodate a black student caucus, but it should not accommodate a white suppremacist club.

    Both are allowable per 1st amendment, but the 1st amendment does not guarantee structural support or accommodation, just the right to assemble, speak and advocate, even if discriminatory and unwelcome.

    The moment positive rights enter, we are having a different discussion.

    As said it should be trivial what the difference is between a Black Student Caucus and a White Supremacist club. The context and attitudes of each group! You cannot talk away context and attitudes that drive requests.

    So the very fact that gender-discriminatory attitudes drive the request here is absolutely relevant and you can turn a blind eye to it , claim it’s just privacy and we cannot know attitudes and context or say the university has no business in it. I plainly disagree.

    And I repeat it’s “separate but equal” the lie that it’s about accommodation of people’s legitimate anxieties and needs, when in reality it’s about stereotypical negative attitude about others.

    If a woman needs to absolutely banish all gazes of all men (even men she knows nothing about), that is discriminatory. And you will never find me saying otherwise.

    But my guess the reason why we are really still going is because you cannot accept that position. Apparently I have to concede that that isn’t discrimination at all, just a need for privacy and accommodation for a level of comfort. It’s not going to happen, sorry. I think GMU has instituted a discriminatory accommodation (based on discriminatory attitudes of a religion). I think it’s wrong and I think they should not have done it. You are entitled to a different opinion, but you gotta deal with the fact that this is mine. I certainly have more than extensively argued why I hold it. So deal with it.

  • Anonymous

    The difference is in the mindset. Muslims are being politicized to demand accommodations. They’re quite savvy regarding their rights. What ends up happening is everyone practicing Muslim rules by default (rooms with footbaths, reduced swim times for everyone swimming co-ed). Westerners are very ignorant of this (dhimmis). Other cultures don’t behave this way, in general, as they don’t have the same need for domination. 

  • Anonymous

    The difference is in the mindset. Muslims are being politicized to demand accommodations. They’re quite savvy regarding their rights. What ends up happening is everyone practicing Muslim rules by default (rooms with footbaths, reduced swim times for everyone swimming co-ed). Westerners are very ignorant of this (dhimmis). Other cultures don’t behave this way, in general, as they don’t have the same need for domination. 

  • Anonymous

    The difference is in the mindset. Muslims are being politicized to demand accommodations. They’re quite savvy regarding their rights. What ends up happening is everyone practicing Muslim rules by default (rooms with footbaths, reduced swim times for everyone swimming co-ed). Westerners are very ignorant of this (dhimmis). Other cultures don’t behave this way, in general, as they don’t have the same need for domination. 

  • Allstarmina

    Your mean like you find things to pick on you must be a really sad or arrogant person inside. I was looking for a women’s gym and was actually looking for a religious gym that had women only and was open to all women and came across this dumb blog. So many schools have church buildings on campus and synagogues I’ve only seen Muslims with a room to pray on if that. And your talking about plumbing the only little thing they have do your reaserch I went to mason and gw

  • Zooz

    I’m a Muslim woman who has searched for years for a PRIVATE swimming pool that was either women’s only or had women only hours. I agree that as a tax paying American, I would not want public spaces to cater to certain groups because freedom then becomes an endless meeting. However, private institutions that do not receive any federal aid can do as they please. I’m just majorly disappointed that we don’t have women only swimming pools like we have women only gyms! Gotta make some money and build that pool!!!


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