Women's spaces, tell me more?!(44 Posts)
Hi, I'm a visitor here, I thought this might belong in theory but not sure. I'm Muslim and have been interested in the trans threads and particularly that people have been referring to 'women's spaces' as a positive thing. This is the first time I have really noticed that women only spaces are valued anywhere outside of Islam, where we have different spaces for men and women quite often. Indeed many Muslims are against this, see it as outdated and discriminatory. Personally I find it quite liberating.
I would really like to hear more about the idea of 'women's spaces' as a positive thing and something worth preserving, and any recommended reading (theory type stuff) would be great. I might write an article (not for the daily mail!) if I can get my thoughts together.
Just be clear if I wrote an article it wouldn't be promoting a particular viewpoint, just exploring some thoughts really.
I was educated at girls schools most of my life and believed that all subjects and professions were achievable to me. I didn't realise until I went to university and beyond that certain subjects were dominated by men. When I graduated there were as many girls planning to study engineering as art.
I send my children to co-ed schools and have learned more about dynamics in mixed sex groups. Boys often dominate teachers time as well as group situations with other students.
The only situations where they are split in sexes is PE (at secondary) and sex education. I think that this probably helps children perform best as they are less self-conscious about the opposite sex.
Really interesting idea. I think it depends on the women's space, what it is for and if it empowers or disempowers women. Historically, women's spaces were associated with stereotypically women's things, such as domestic things or suchlike whereas it was accepted that public space was men's space. I see women's spaces now as empowering if they allow us protection from men (although I'd prefer to see an end to male violence) and if they give us capacity to strengthen ourselves (women's colleges) or are simply biologically preferable (toilets). But I'm against women's spaces that corral us away from centres of power and decision-making and where the main public space is men's space.
Thanks, these are really interesting thoughts and are helpful in developing my own thoughts on the issue. I used to be rather against segregation, but as time goes on I can see the benefits.
I think part of it for me is that I believe that women and men can be equal without having to be the same. So that implies they might have different needs to meet the same goals, which might then mean that their needs are better served seperately.
Have you ever watched 'me and the mosque'?
Also, I'm not personally a big fan of 'separate and equal' simply because it tends to rest on sex-role stereotypes.
I always regard "women's space" as referring to things segregated by sex for good reason.
Such as male/female toilets (women's toilets don't need urinals, do need sanitary bins)
Male/female sport. Men have higher muscle and bone density, and a more streamline body so sports need to be segregated on this basis.
Female/male prisons, seeing as women fall pregnant you need to segregate incarcerated persons by sex so as to prevent a(nother) child entering the world under dire circumstances.
Male/female changing rooms. People don't want to be oodles by members of the opposite sex while in a state of undress.
Women's only DV shelter or rape crisis centre are vital because these women will be suffering PTSD or worse and need to feel safe, are way from the presence of men.
For obvious reasons, we place respect on sex segregated spaces. But other spaces are more psychological such as women's only groups for Yoga or Tai Chi where really there's no physiological reason to segregate but simply the people in the group feel more comfortable.
Everyone for whatever reason should be able to request sex-specific groups (when available) or to be seen to by an individual of a specific sex for their own reasons.
No, I've not seen that, just found it on youtube, I'll watch that tonight.
My own experience of women in mosques is very varied. In one mosque I used to attend the women's section was large and well organised, and I was invited to be on the committee where men and women discussed issues together. In other mosuqes I've been shoved in broom cupboard (I'm not joking). But I think the idea of women's spaces at potentially empowering could be a way of changing things for the better.
I'd say it's very different when women are told "the women's area is over here" (such as at the back in class) and they are excluded from the men's area. If a women has the option to join a mixed/unisex space but chooses the women's space for whatever reason then that's a positive thing.
It's not positive when sex segregation is enforced against the person's will.
For me women's spaces are necessary where women are more vulnerable to attack (physical or emotional) from men.
So the obvious toilet, changing room, hospital, sleeping spaces in refuges they are more vulnerable physically. In the case of refuges also emotionally as they are likely to be there due to male violence.
Women's groups, rape counselling sessions etc women are vulnerable to emotional attack by men. As well as being reminded of their assault, they are also vulnerable to having their viewpoints invalidated or talked over at emotional points (am aware this sounds rather wanky!)
Enforced segregation on the basis of either gender being inferior or somehow not suitable for a social reason (e.g. mens only sports clubs, and I assume mosques but don't know) is different and not desirable.
So if men wanted to set up a group to discuss toxic masculinity or male rates of depression etc it could be reasonable to exclude women (although I would argue the chances of women turning up to tell the male suicide isn't an issue and they should focus on female DV victims instead are low).
Mens only groups where they socialise, network and help each other get on are not ok imo, whether that's a sports group, mens club, free masons or whatever. I'm not aware of any women's groups that perform this function.
Sometimes it's not even about equality, or about the need for privacy, it's just about the positive value of female-only spaces where you can get away from the ubiquity of the male gaze. For example:
quentin I wouldn't say that's the reason for segregation in mosques. Neither gender is inferior, so a man can no more stroll into the women's space than a woman can stroll into a mans (actually it's more likely that this would happen). Both genders are 'suitable' to be in a place of worship, just not together.
agony thanks for the links.
The ladies pond looks amazing! I wish I lived in London now...
I really hope that you enjoy me and the mosque! It's thought provoking ...
Why are they segregated in mosques then? There must be a reason....
In Islam in general there is quite a strict etiquette for the mixing of men and women, not just in mosques but everywhere, so men and women mix within families but outside of that only out of necessity. The rules around this apply to both men and women. So mixing in a mosque would be seen as beyond what is necessary, though in some mosques women and men pray within the same space but in a seperate area.
this link might be useful to you, useful. The writing is quite clear and about halfway down the page there is a useful chart of why different spaces are segrated - for privacy, for refuge, for political action and so on. There's no one reason for why we sex segregate, but a multitude of reasons - this page helped me clarify in my mind the function of sex segretation, and also those instances of it that are more and less important to me personally.
Mosques and synagogues have separate spaces for women. Are you aware you may lose those spaces if the new Gender Identity Bill is passed?
The changes will allow any man to declare he is a woman and enter women only spaces. Even if he is not a trans woman and has not had any surgery. If any woman objects, she will be ejected.
There is a thread with more information;
I agree with @patodp
I always regard "women's space" as referring to things segregated by sex for good reason.
For example, women in a domestic violence shelter or Rape Crisis centre should be able to have a women only dormitory, and ask for female staff.
But 2 women were kicked out of a DV shelter because they didnt want to share a room with a Trans man who had a penis
Women in a medical situation or prison should be able to have a women's only dormitory and ask for female staff. If the Act is passed they will be branded a bigot.
This act rides roughshod over the current Equality Act which protects womens rights.
Thanks for the link pooch I'll have a look.
DJ yes it was reading the threads about these issues that got me thinking. And it got me thinking in a whole new different way, as I know many Muslim women who campaign against segregation, and wondered how they would feel if the choice of segregation was taken away altogether. It kind of turns the whole thing on its head, which I think is very interesting.
In a more practical sense, if the Gender Identity bill is passed and applied literally, many things I take for granted would be under threat. The right to request female health professionals, women's only swimming sessions etc.
quentin I thought I should further clarify that in many Muslim organisations and situations (and countries for that matter) segregation is a part of discrimination against women and treating them as inferior. My own belief is that segregation does not have to mean this.
IT is important isn't it, that by providing women's spaces women are not blocked from conversations which happen in male spaces. Male only spaces are often used for deal brokering, decision making, etc. Deals on the golf club scenario. Women's spaces tend to be used as a place to recover from/be protected from being around men! Shocked to hear myself saying that...
Yes... my DH came across one example. He attended a discussion between a humanist group and a particular Muslim denomination, held in a mosque. There were some humanist women participating, but the Muslim women were all off in a separate room preparing refreshments. Separate and not equal.
Otoh, my DD is nearing the end of her time at a girls' school, and it's turned out to be an excellent environment for her to develop her talents. Anything which is on offer there is (obviously) intended for girls - so, the usual story of high take-up of STEM subjects in the sixth form etc, no ridiculous gender stereotyping of activities being 'for boys'. Separate and
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