The Harvard gym controversy is not about religion

My post is up at Religion Dispatches.

Almost every article I have come across on the subject of the “Harvard gym controversy,” over the exclusion of men from the gym for a small period of time each week, has focused on the problem of religion and religious accommodation. Why should we accommodate them? Where will it stop? How many accommodations are we going to need? Why do Muslim women feel uncomfortable in gyms?

These are not the right questions. The question should be, why do some women feel uncomfortable working out, swimming, jogging, under the male gaze? Why do some women feel uncomfortable walking on the street at night? Why do some women feel uncomfortable taking the metro or the bus at night? Why would most women prefer to have sex-segregated bathrooms, showers and dorms? Why do women feel nervous when waiting for a bus late at night, and a man shows up? You could argue that they should “suck it up,” and “deal with it.” They do, in fact. …

Read on at RD Blog.

2 thoughts on “The Harvard gym controversy is not about religion”

  1. You are right. This has little to do with religion and everything to do with the relations between men and women.

    The interesting question is whether these relations have always been the same or whether they have evolved over time. If so, how and why? And are there variations across cultures? If so, why and of what kind?

    The link with religion emerges ironically because men who want to protect “their” own women, driven by compulsions of faith, are often not so constrained about their own attitudes towards other women and end up becoming hypocritical. Which, in some ways, is worse that being open about your beliefs.

    This has been stereotyped by Andre Dubus in his new novel (Garden of the Last Days) in which a 9/11 hijacker prepared to sacrifice his life for the faith makes a final visit to a strip club with the rationalization that it is alright to violate a woman if she is an infidel.

  2. Yes, and the vast majority of this paranoia on the part of women is fueled by a news media that is so bent on ratings and readership, that it heightens, exagerrates, sensationalizes every criminal act. Go watch “Bowling for Columbine,” by a good feminist Michael Moore — he illustrates this very point. What is most interesting is that women assert they are fearful about walking the streets of most urban cities when, in fact, nearly every victim of violence is male. So the desire for separate but equal is a hysterical reaction to that, and an unnatural, twisted, unhealthy view of gender roles.

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