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“Never pass up a clean, safe bathroom” is one of the timeless rules, especially in female life. Yesterday, my husband and I were at the Maine College of Art together, looking at an exhibit, and we decided to use the restrooms before leaving. Down a corridor, we found two of them. One was labeled “Men” and the other was labeled “All Genders.”
Got that? There weren’t two all-gender bathrooms, nor three — a men’s, a women’s, and an all-gender. Nope. The only choice that I, as a woman, was offered was a bathroom in which a man (any man, not just a man who identified as a woman) was expressly permitted to enter into and share with me.
As it happens, I am quite accustomed to sharing bathrooms and much else with men. I work in a predominately male field, after all. And beside, I’m 55 years old and the mother of six, three of whom are men. So it’s hard for any bathroom arrangement to make me uncomfortable.
But what if I was an 18-year-old art student? Or maybe the 11-year-old daughter of another gallery visitor?
Wayyyyy back in the mists of time, when being a feminist meant advocating for the Equal Rights Amendment, the Stop-ERA anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafley conjured dark and (I thought) absurd visions of a future in which laws protecting women would be abandoned.
As one educational site sneeringly describes Schlafly’s points: “Those opposed to the ERA even suggested that single-sex restrooms would be banished by future courts!”
Modernity being what it is, there are no longer all that many places (or “spaces” as we are now supposed to say) in ordinary life where anatomy matters. Up until recently, however, bathrooms were among these, along with locker rooms at the gym.
And once a female athlete had changed into her gym clothes in the all-female locker room, Title IX meant she could have opportunities to compete at a level earlier generations could only dream of. The result has been a lot of fun and satisfaction for girls and women, and some pretty wonderful play for spectators to enjoy.
The same transgendered movement/fad that found me … um … attending to my personal hygiene needs in an “Any Gender” bathroom has brought chromosomally male athletes into direct competition with the chromosomally female.
“They’re women!” activists insist. “How dare you say otherwise!” But a 20-year-old who has spent two decades as a male does not magically become physiologically female by changing the costume, the name, or the pronouns. Even hormone treatment and surgery can’t change the fact that a transgendered soccer player, say, is going to have a significant advantage in size and strength over a soccer player who has been a girl all her life. There have already been instances in which female athletes have been defeated and even hurt in competition with stronger, heavier transgendered opponents.
Naturally (and I use the term deliberately) the same is not true of female-to-male athletes; even a lightweight mixed martial arts champ like Conor MacGregor isn’t going to get stomped by a fighter who grew up female in the way Tamikka Brents was defeated — and badly injured — by the transgendered Fallon Fox.
There are scholars now suggesting that having separate teams for males and females is simply sexism; all teams should be co-ed. The proponents of such schemes do not appear to be jocks. I suspect it’s an idea that sounds fine to academics who, at most, might occasionally play pick-up softball with other middle-aged desk-potatoes. But forcing Venus Williams to compete against male tennis players would mean, simply, that Williams would lose. And instead of watching (and marveling at) her superb play, we would all end up watching … men.
Perhaps the theorists and advocates genuinely don’t realize that the losers in this utopian scenario will be, inevitably, women. Yes, there may be a few top female athletes who make it onto their high school co-ed soccer team, but girls who aren’t superb but merely good (and enthusiastic) players will find their opportunities constrained and even the great female athletes will be stymied. Again.
Just the way they were back in the day, when if you wanted to compete at a high level in just about any sport, you pretty much had to be male. When it comes to the utopian visions of the social justice crowd, notice who ends up with the short end of the stick?
My husband might be disconcerted to find himself sharing a bathroom with a woman, but he wouldn’t feel threatened. Our daughter would feel threatened, for the very good reason that she might actually be threatened. But guess who is expected to take one for the team? The co-ed team, that is. The one she would not have been able to play for in the high school of progressives’ dreams because, although she was a good soccer player, she wasn’t as strong and fast as even the merely pretty-good boys.
Is it “unconscious sexism” that makes the advocates for social justice fail to notice that women are already being victimized by all the virtue being slopped about? I thought about this when reading of the recent sharp increase in sexual violence against women in Europe.
Though the governments of the affected countries did their level best to conceal the fact, the perpetrators of these crimes were overwhelmingly foreign-born men; members of the wave of migrants that has washed over the continent in the past couple of years. Contrary to popular impression, most of these migrants were not refugees or legitimate asylum seekers. The majority were economic migrants, mostly unattached young men. This may or may not make a difference in how you feel about whether the welcome Europeans extended has been a moral necessity or an act of continental suicide.
But what we might want to notice is that it is women and girls — along with LGBTQ and Jewish Europeans — who have been put at risk; women and girls who have been asked to sacrifice their own well-being in order to provide a refuge for men who might not even have been endangered.
Helpful authorities have offered women and girls paternalistic advice about, you know, dressing more modestly so as not to provoke the rapists. Why does that somehow sound familiar?
Young women might not know this, but anyone my age or older knows that it took a long time, and a lot of effort to gain the power and possibilities that American and European women now enjoy. Does it strike anyone else as odd and ominous that new calls for social justice seem to require compromising women’s basic safety without which it shall be difficult for us to enjoy the rights and responsibilities we fought so hard for?Published in