Of Gendered Space and Tactics
Of Gendered Space and Tactics
This comes out of the wake of the ongoing brouhaha focused around the Fitness Centre at McGill University, in Montreal. In short, though this provides a bit more context, two students have made a proposal to introduce a women’s only period during each week. There is already a precedent, as the university pool already has such a program in place. Unsurprisingly, given the rather bizarre world we live in, this proposal has been met with “an uproar.” I’m so glad that we’re at a point where we can discuss these things civilly.
Though it probably doesn’t need to be said, the various MRA’s who have come out of the woodwork to criticise and smear mud are beneath contempt. Their perspective doesn’t really need to be considered, given how startlingly out of touch these people are. It’s unfortunate that, at a time when serious inroads are being made against previous gains for equality, we have these cretins and clowns squirming about, making a mockery of the whole affair.
That out of the way, the situation is, as ever, more complicated than it at first seems. I honestly don’t know which way to fall on this one, and this piece is just as much asking a question and trying to get to grips with what’s up as it is trying to draw attention to what’s going on.
It’s accidental to the issues I’m having with the situation, but it’s worth noting that the motivation for one of the students putting forward the proposal was religious – she is a Muslim, and garb is a concern for her. The niqab, the hijab and the burqa have become rather hot political topics as we continue our drive to demonise Islam and its adherents. Of course, anyone current with the situation knows that there are already legal wrinkles in Quebec with regards to these weighty bolts of cloth, due in no small part to the more openly xenophobic elements within the cultural make-up of the province. To their credit, the governing bodies haven’t cited this as reason to discard the idea out of hand, though that of course would be heavy-handed, even in these latter days of “the war of civilisations.” For myself, I’ll side with the laws of the land on this one – the country is presumably equal-opportunity when it comes to make-believe friends, so, citing religious grounds is good enough. Unless, of course, it isn’t actually a tenet of the religion per se. There is plenty of evidence, and debate, internal and external, that point to the hijab of women being not something required by Islam but rather a hold-over of Arabian culture. I’m not a Koran scholar, and to presume to declare what is and isn’t part of someone else’s religious views is not a slope I’m prepared to slide down. I think the whole bundle is sexist, but, free country, people are welcome to their Stockholm syndrome if they want it.
On the flip side, I can sympathise with women wanting to avoid the beady glance of the male gaze. Our culture is still one that promotes the objectification of women, with all the essentialist trappings that come along with it – body-shaming, whore and Madonna dichotomies, the whole package. So, I can understand the desire, particularly when performing activities that overtly focus on the body, to fight for a safe, secluded space.
My concern is that the tactic may be confused with the strategy. It’s not enough to target the symptoms of the patriarchy, we need to go after the base causes, and pull it out by the roots. My own position on this is a fairly standard Marxian one; that gender rides on class antagonism, but that’s an aside for later. More to the point, I’d hate this, in the event of its success, to become yet another example of out of sight, out of mind. I fully understand that there needs to be an immediate solution to the issue, and that the proposal, given that the cost of the execution of said solution is so small, is well-within the scope of reasonability, but I just hope that the motivation for the effort isn’t dissipated by its short-term resolution. To purposefully divide ourselves along the lines of gender and/or sex as a way of policing our problems is tantamount to burying them. Problems like these, though, don’t stay buried very long.