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Young dependent male children in women's only spaces?

(416 Posts)
PrincessTeacake Fri 05-Feb-16 12:43:32

Long term lurker here, very infrequent contributer.

Circumstances over the last year have meant I spent most of my very little free time on Tumblr, for convenience's sake, and I fell into the radfem circles there. Every now and then there's a rift in the community over something and it all gets a bit childish because they are mostly young and quite reactionary. I stay out of it for the most part, but I wanted to get some (more sensible) opinions here on the latest rift.

Someone brought up the topic of little boys in women's only spaces (bathrooms, changing rooms, emergency shelters) and there was a lot of talk about how boys can't be trusted under any circumstances, that it was equally as bad as letting intact transwomen in, and naturally some of the mothers in the community got quite upset. There was a lot of anti-child rhetoric being thrown around and some harassment of the mothers.

What's the consensus here? I'm asking mostly for one of my online friends, she was very upset by this discussion and was on the receiving end of quite a bit of the bullying.

JasperDamerel Fri 05-Feb-16 12:48:36

Little boys have always been as welcome in any women-only spaces as little girls. 7 usually seems to be roughly the cut-off point.

tabulahrasa Fri 05-Feb-16 12:49:00

I have no idea if there's a consensus or what it would be...

But IMO, children young enough to need adult supervision are just children for the purposes of being in gendered/sexed spaces and it's irrelevant whether they're boys or girls.

StarCat Fri 05-Feb-16 12:49:27

I have no clue on the general consensus but I have no problem with girls in the mens changing room or boys in the womens. What else are you meant to do with them?confused

scallopsrgreat Fri 05-Feb-16 12:54:00

I'm not sure you are going to get a consensus here any more than it seems there was in this argument.

I think there are a few issues here. Age and dependcy of the child is obviously key. What are the alternatives and why they might not be appropriate or even exist (and the underlying issues around that I.e. male violence); the fact that women are generally the primary carers of children and so male children in female spaces is going to be much more common.

I have come across a lot of anti-mother rhetoric amongst feminists (not so much amongst rad fems though) so I suspect that this is part of that. Personally I just think it is another form of misogyny, blaming women for their own oppression and blaming women for male violence when they are just trying to get by in the world.

CultureSucksDownWords Fri 05-Feb-16 12:59:55

"children young enough to need adult supervision are just children for the purposes of being in gendered/sexed spaces and it's irrelevant whether they're boys or girls."

Agree with tabulahrasa. No idea what the consensus opinion is.

juneau Fri 05-Feb-16 13:04:27

there was a lot of talk about how boys can't be trusted under any circumstances


There are lots of nutters out there, is all I can say. I mean, sure, I don't want to see a teen male in a women's toilet, but boys under the age of about 7 (this is when I routinely let DS1 go in the men's on his own), are fine and it would be potentially dangerous (IMO) for boys much younger than this to have to go in the men's toilets unaccompanied.

SweetAdeline Fri 05-Feb-16 13:04:29

How ridiculous. If the reason for women only spaces is safety, how much danger does a five/six/seven year old boy (supervised by his mother/another female carer or guardian) pose?

PurpleDaisies Fri 05-Feb-16 13:06:18

Do people really object to young boys being in a women's changing room? I've never come across this (and I definitely wouldn't agree).

Thecatisatwat Fri 05-Feb-16 13:08:32

I would guess that people with those views do not have children. Of course you wouldn't send a very young child into a changing room on their own. Our local swimming pool doesn't allow unaccompanied young children into changing rooms so if I had a ds, going by this logic I would have had to accompany him into the men's changing room (and dh would have had to go into the ladies with our actual real life dd). There are signs up saying that once children turn 8 they must use the appropriate changing room which seems fair enough to me (although I have no idea what the arrangements are for parents with disabled older children).

Oscarandelliesmum Fri 05-Feb-16 13:12:18

I have always taken my ds's in with me. If I am teaching and on a school trip ( if there is no male teacher available) I would usually get any young boys to use the women's facilities too, so I can supervise and make sure there is nothing untoward going on. If the loos or whatever are busy ask the other women in there if it is ok.

Wow at the women on the tumble board giving them a hard time. All the mums and teachers I know do the same so I think it is pretty standard.

Oscarandelliesmum Fri 05-Feb-16 13:13:52

Sorry meant to add the proviso that the boys are little (under eight).

Micah Fri 05-Feb-16 13:23:48

I frequent a sports centre with separate sex changing.

Often there are boys in the womens. I dont mean little boys, i mean up to 12 years if age. They're not always using the facilities either, theyre with a younger sibling who is.

Im not comfortable with it. There is a lot of staring.

The general feeling from the parents seems to be if the parents are with these boys, then its ok. There also seems to be a perception that boys are unsafe in male spaces- everyone i ask seems horrified at the thought of their boys getting changed in the mens. However girls are fine to get changed without an adult from a young age, because they use the womens.

Same for the womens toilets. I have been in there when a woman has sent her older son in on his own while she waits outside.

I have challenged it, but nothing is done.

Thecatisatwat Fri 05-Feb-16 13:30:09

Micah, have you mentioned it to the sports centre staff? Could they put up signs like ours does?

RedOnHerHedd Fri 05-Feb-16 13:31:40

At DSs swimming lessons there is a sign on the doors saying children over 8 should use the correct changing rooms. When DS1 got to 8 I allowed him and DS2 (who was 5) to go into the men's changing rooms together on their own.

In our local leisure centre, the changing areas are all together, (males on one side, females on the other) with lots of single and family sized cubicles and then two larger rooms for group changing, one for males, one for females. I prefer that all cubicles are together as you can still keep an eye on your DC without them being in a completely separate room.

I don't like the idea of them being young and not having a parent with them, especially when they're at their most vulnerable.

SexTrainGlue Fri 05-Feb-16 13:33:17

Our pool permits children to swim unaccompanied from age 8. If that age competent to swim alone, they are competent to change and use toilets alone.

(Obviously there may be some exceptions, if there are additional needs).

DC well before the age of puberty Are not remotely comparable to 'intact transwomen'.

I can see that it might be harder if there are older DC, say teens, whose mother requires accommodation in a refuge. But as the alternative for that dependent child would be to leave with the parent that poses the danger, then I think it has to be done. I am reasonably sure that organisations are used to this scenario, and have measures to ensure everyone's safety as far as is humanly (and humanely) possible.

pinkcan Fri 05-Feb-16 13:38:40

Well statistically Micah, male sex offenders against children vastly outnumber female sex offenders against children. That is why it's easier to send an 8yo girl unaccompanied into the women's compared to sending an 8yo boy into the men's unaccompanied.

My ds is 9 and I will not send him into the men's. I take him wearing his trunks and throw over toweling stuff and he can remove that at the side of the pool. He is autistic and has absolutely no means of defending himself. He isn't savvy at all. I will be doing this for several years.

TheHoneyBadger Fri 05-Feb-16 13:41:09

i'm not sure how boys are meant to magically turn into a 'problem' at 8? or how they're suddenly safe or comfortable going into a men's toilet if they've never used that space (single mum here).

ds does now go into male toilets where all seems normal - i wouldn't hesitate to take him into the ladies with me though if we were somewhere that felt unsafe for him to go into the men's or for example if it didn't seem safe for him to wait outside alone for me to go to the toilet. think suddenly being desperate for a pee on a train platform with shifty looking bloke hanging around - i'm not leaving my 8 year old son because someone in the ladies room might take issue with a child being in there.

Schwabischeweihnachtskanne Fri 05-Feb-16 13:49:09


I have come across a lot of anti-mother rhetoric amongst feminists (not so much amongst rad fems though) so I suspect that this is part of that. Personally I just think it is another form of misogyny, blaming women for their own oppression and blaming women for male violence when they are just trying to get by in the world.

I was challenged over having my 5 year old DS1 with me in the women's once by a woman who was determined he was over 8. Which he wasn't. As he was 5. But she knew better apparently. He was tall for 5 but might have passed for a very small 8 year old at a stretch, he really didn't look definitely over 8... but by the time he was 7 he looked 9, so if I'd run into the same woman who knows what she would have thought. It was neither my fault nor his he was tall (still is but now actually is 8 and happily goes into the mens).

I have read threads on here MN chat or AIBU where people very heatedly insist that mothers with SN children or any boy children who are not toddlers but need help should queue shivering for a single family changing room rather than take boy children into a mainly cubicled women's changing room because they personally like to wander about naked while they change and don't want to think there might be a boy child beyond babyhood who might look at them.

To me that does read like a de-womanising of mothers. In being responsible for a dependant but no longer very tiny boy child, you loose your right to the woman's space and become less that either a man or a woman. Another woman's right to not have your child about is superior to your and you children's right not to stand about freezing, meekly waiting for a tansitiponal space rather than using available facilities somebody else has deemed you unworthy of. You have a boy child and you lose your rights as a woman without, obviously, gaining the rights men have, you become less than either when responsible for a boy child in a situation where you have to chose a gendered space.

A lot of people - both men and women expect meekness, apologetic attitudes, and a general attempt to take up less space, from mothers responsible for children. Of course this is met by some very pushy mothers who think motherhood and their child is all important, but there is certainly not much middle ground of people being reasonable and accepting that mothers are still women and being responsible for dependant children is still, in reality, part and parcel of the female experience for a large number of women.

Thecatisatwat Fri 05-Feb-16 14:28:11

TheHoneybadger, I don't think it's a question of boys suddenly turning into sexual predators at 8. Our swimming pool allows children to go swimming unaccompanied at 8 (non-swimmers aren't allowed in the deep end and lifeguards have been known to make people swim a length to prove they can swim) so I guess it's more a question of if you're old enough to go swimming on your own you're old enough to use a changing room on your own and if you're old enough to change on your own you're old enough to use the appropriate changing room.

The only issue that I can see with this is (as I've already said) if you have an older disabled child who needs to be accompanied. I assume that the swimming pool must accommodate this somehow because I sometimes see a dad taking his disabled teenage daughter swimming and I can't imagine he takes her into the mens changing room.

I never go swimming (can't stand it) so I don't know the layout of the changing rooms (beyond the fact that male and female are separate), I just take dd to swimming lessons or watch dd and dh swimming.

Elendon Fri 05-Feb-16 14:35:52

I have a son with special needs, plus I had to travel alone with him past the age of 8. There was now way he was going into the men's toilet then. I brought him in with me to the women's loo. Thankfully, each time it happened which wasn't often, there were other women there with their male children. Now he's 14, he is able to go into a toilet on his own, at school only. He is accompanied by his father in service stations now.

AliveAlone Fri 05-Feb-16 16:09:17

*Often there are boys in the womens. I dont mean little boys, i mean up to 12 years if age. They're not always using the facilities either, they're with a younger sibling who is.

Im not comfortable with it. There is a lot of staring.*

It's like this at my local pool too. The women's changing area has about 20 cubicles and one large communal changing room. I wouldn't mind so much if the older boys used the cubicles, but they use the communal room. This means me and DD(8) can't use the communal room anymore; she feels embarrassed getting undressed in front of boys.

I feel uncomfortable getting changed in front of them too. Not afraid, not suggesting that they may be predatory in any way, but uncomfortable.

If they are old enough to stare or snigger when they see naked female flesh then they should not be taken into spaces where women and girls are getting undressed.

PosieReturningParker Fri 05-Feb-16 17:33:04

Small children are welcome in women's spaces. No idea why a twelve year old boy would be in the women's thoughconfused

juneau Fri 05-Feb-16 17:33:43

I wouldn't be comfortable with 12-year-old boys staring at me either! However, I do think many pools could have better changing facilities and that more 'family bathrooms' could be provided, because its one thing me taking my DSs into the ladies (where everyone has a private stall to pee in), quite another for a dad to take his DD into the men's where there are other men using the urinals. Not appropriate at all IMO.

Bluelilies Fri 05-Feb-16 20:10:21

I think if society's going to say that boys can't go into female spaces after a certain age, then it ought to be more OK for them to be alone in male spaces after that same age. I've done a bit of youth hostelling with my DS and the YHA told me he wasn't allowed into a women's dorm after age 5, but that he couldn't go into a male dorm until he was 16. I managed to persuade them to let them keep me with me a bit until he was about 8, and last year blagged him into the male one saying he was 16, but there's a big gap in-between when he was too young to be alone, and too old to be with me.

Same with changing rooms really, I think a bunch of boys aged 7 or 8 would probably be asked where their parent was if they were changing alone

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