Toronto Feminists

Post-meetup: You Gotta Keep Em Separated

riding-naked.jpgWe had a nifty little chat over dessert last week and the topic was (drumroll, please!) gender-specific spaces. It seems natural that whenever something is designated ‘men only’ or ‘women only’ that people are ready to jump in with really strong opinions, and we just kinda riffed on this theme.

Pretty quickly it was apparent that we had to distinuish between places where this is necessary for people to feel safe and psychologically comfortable (i.e. all-female staff in a women’s shelter) or because your culture demands it (i.e. women attending a women-only gym in keeping with their religion’s mandates) and places where it’s just pleasurable to be in that company.

So, we have these reasons that we prefer our own sometimes. The point was made that women will always have a culture that is distinct because of their shared history and conditions and that the desire to spend time with others like ourselves is the same as within any other culture. In this way it’s similar to the recent issue that had Toronto hopping: whether a black-focussed school should be established. There was some really astute commentary about desiring time with sisters, aunts, cousins, etc. because we enjoy time with those voices that don’t find expression when the whole family gathers. And sometimes there’s the experience in a mixed group that it’s an uphill slog to stay in the conversation when a few ‘alpha males’ tend to steer it. Some of the reasons to hang with the women are more prosaic, though: sometimes we choose a ‘women only’ movie club over a co-ed one just to avoid pick-ups.

Obviously there is a lot of support for well-considered gender-segregation but after the meetup, my initial trepidation found its way to the surface again, and I’ll tell you why. I think the points made above are strong and valid, but it’s also true that way too often gathering this way perpetuates really stereotypical behaviour. I pointed out that at my all-girl high school we couldn’t take shop but we had the lovely options of home ec., cosmetology and fashion arts. In the 1990s. And when my not particularly girly friends get together for semi-regular girls nights a lot of the conversation is about losing weight, going to the gym, going shopping, etc. It really boggles me. Unless you’re pointedly trying to avoid it, getting together as ‘girls’ generally feeds into this. It makes me wary, you know?

Anyway, before I wrap it up, I wanted to mention some notable issues that branched out from our central theme. We wound up talking about people who are transitioning gender and the welcome they recieve (or don’t) in gender-specific clubs and events; who’s allowed in our own group in the sense that we discussed what we’d think of a member whose boyfriend always came with her to our meetups; the ever-popular Miss G. project which is especially great because it’s NOT just aimed at girls.



Written by torontofeminists

February 27, 2008 at 12:16 am

One Response

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  1. ok, I love that pic! I want to get that framed and put up on my living room wall. 😀


    February 27, 2008 at 3:24 pm

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