UCL: Racism and Women’s Rights

On Saturday, the Islamic Education and Research Academy booked space at UCL for a debate entitled ”Islam or Atheism: Which Makes More Sense?” between Professor Lawrence Krauss, a prominent atheist, and Hamza Andreas Tzortzis, a lecturer in Islamic Studies.  The seating arrangements had three sections: women only, men only and mixed.  This seating created such a stooshie, that Krauss walked out of the hall.  The IERA are now banned from holding any further events at UCL, on the basis of “equality and diversity”.

The event at UCL was part of a series of “Big Debates”, that the IERA is currently organising.  Some women has requested that there was a seperate women-only space provided in the hall for those women who did not wish to sit beside men, and the organisers complied by providing men-only, women-only and mixed space for those who wished it.  Additionally, there was a separate women’s entrance for women to enter the hall.

Even before the debate started, men started disrespecting that.  Two men had to be hoicked out of the women’s entrance as they tried to barge their way, refusing to accept the right of women to have their own entrance.  Then once in the hall, three dudes decided to make a point by moving into the seats allocated for women.  They resisted the attempts by security to persuade them to move and Krauss walked out of the hall unless the men were allowed to sit in the seats of their choosing.   To appease the white dudes, both on the platform and in the hall, the organisers moved women to free up space so that men could sit where they wanted, but even that wasn’t good enough for them.

One white dude said

I cannot tell you how disappointed I and many other attendees are that UCL did not live up to its promise to make sure that its Equality and Diversity policy was enforced

While another white dude said

“What happened on Saturday is a scandal. UCL and the organisers owe an apology to me, my friend, the audience and the general public….It’s insulting to be told that because I’m a man I can’t sit near women in the audience.

After all, how dare UCL and the organisers deny white dudes the right to sit where-ever the hell they like.  The stench of male entitlement here is just overpowering.  Equality for the white dudes is ignoring women’s rights to their own spaces; diversity is catering to their seating whims while women have to move to accommodate them.

Then the odious Richard Dwarkins got in on the act…

Richard Dawkins

. .. for these weren’t just any women, they were Muslim women.  I mean who the hell do these Muslim women think that they are telling white dudes where they can and can’t sit.  Its bad enough with the ordinary kind of women, but Muslim women demanding that white dudes don’t sit with them.  This cowardly capitulation  must end or the white dudes will have no rights left!

Now I’m not saying that the seating arrangements at that debate were perfect.  As I understand it, the women’s area was to the back of  the hall, with a less advantaged viewpoint, and I’m certainly not saying that there are no problems with women’s rights among Islamic organisations, but the breathtaking arrogance of men who refuse the right of women to have their own space and muscle in on their territory, accusing other men of sexism is simply astonishing.  And this is what this has turned into – one group of men talking to another group of men about who has the right to access Muslim women’s space.

There are some kick-ass Muslim feminists out there, who are more than capable of joining with their sisters to demand true equality, but is that there is buggar all chance of that happening unless women have the right to their own spaces, and that right is defended and enforced, so that the dudes – both Islamic and secular – don’t muscle in and set their own agenda.

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61 comments
Kavafy
Kavafy

mhairimcalpine I think that's back to front. It's vital there there should be no segregation on irrelevant grounds in public meetings and discussions. So, if there is a difference, I believe it's the exact opposite way round from the way you explained it. Segregated public meetings - even "partially segregated" ones - are a public evil. Segregated bars are comparatively small beer.

Kavafy
Kavafy

mhairimcalpine Then you're hurting your own cause, aren't you? Like I said: can't see the wood for the trees.

mhairimcalpine
mhairimcalpine

@Kavafy Can you really not see the difference? Let me spell it out to you. 1. Men colonise public space - look around you to see that.  Look at the way men sit on buses; the way men take up space on pavements, look in playgrounds and teen hangouts for the start of this happening and then look around you at how they behave as adults.  Women need to reclaim physical space and say solidly "this is mine, dont enter." 2. In a lecture with segregated seating, all can participate, whether it is segregated or not doesnt impede on their experience - although the seating arrangements do impact, which is why it was disappointing that the women's area was at the back.  The mixed area was in prime position right at the front, so women had the option of a desirable seat in a mixed area, or a less desirable seat in a segregated area, some women chose the less desireable seating.  That they were forced into such a choice is regretable, but I am not holding up the organisers as paragons of feminist virtue, but shaped by the same assumption of dominence which affects all institutions, religious, civil, political, social. 3. In a bar which is men only, women cannot participate at all.  Their banning means that they cannot have the experience of being in that bar.  They dont have the choice of any entry at all, so cant choose to mix if they wish to.  Men also cannot choose to mix to if they want to, their only option is also to deny themselves access to the bar in solidarity.  So only those who want a men-only space can participate.

mhairimcalpine
mhairimcalpine

@Kavafy Islam is no more patriarchal than other abrahamic religions, although admittedly some interpretations in countries traumatised by imperialism have interpreted it ways which surpass even the Christian Right. I want womens spaces to be respected, no matter on what basis the women are electing to have a separate space.

Kavafy
Kavafy

@Mhairi McAlpine Islam is incredibly patriarchal. Yet you've twisted yourself into the position of supporting a specifically Islamic stance on gender relations because you want "women's spaces" in a *public meeting*. You're failing to see the wood for the trees.

Kavafy
Kavafy

@Mhairi McAlpine But you didn't quote the woman. Could that be because she didn't support your argument? Not very balanced, right?

Rachel
Rachel

Segregated seating as mandated by the religious right of any faith is not the same as 'women's space'. It sounds like some men at this event may have behaved obnoxiously, but that is no reason to mistake the practices of authoritarian religious groups with the feminist principle of women's space (which I support). The seating arrangements of this debate didn’t just happen by accident. There is a context; it isn’t just a matter of these particular women wanting to get away from men! Of course you can find many women who support segregation and every other practice of religious conservatives; unfortunately women are quite active in every fundamentalism I know about - Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim. And the argument that women need to be protected by keeping them away from men is nothing new. But as feminists we can draw on plenty of critiques of these conservative movements, including and especially from within the communities involved. I've been appreciating your blog a lot in the last few months and I'm surprised and disappointed that you've taken such an uncritical view of gender segregation here.

THE ULTIMATE DUDE
THE ULTIMATE DUDE

You honestly don't get it, equality means letting men and women sit where they want. Fine, if women want to sit at the back, let them eat cake. Having a segregated entrance and a third party (iERA men in high vis clothing*) enforcing people to sit is NOT equality. I'm not sure why you are bringing race into this, it's wholly irrelevant. It cheapens your already crass argument. * Especially when the iERA said there will be no segregations (but hey, that wouldn't be the first time their members lied would it now)

Steve Jones
Steve Jones

What an appallingly racist article. What does the skin colour of the men who decided to sit where they wanted and the people on the panel have to do with anything? Does the author also not realise that some of the top guys in iERA are also "white dudes"

Anvil.
Anvil.

"Who is dictating to women where they can and cannot sit?" Islamism is. The same Islamism that has just said this, regarding the UN declaration on violence against women: "A closer look at these articles reveals what decadence awaits our world, if we sign this document: 1. Granting girls full sexual freedom, as well as the freedom to decide their own gender and the gender of their partners (ie, choose to have normal or homo- sexual relationships), while raising the age of marriage. 2. Providing contraceptives for adolescent girls and training them to use those, while legalizing abortion to get rid of unwanted pregnancies, in the name of sexual and reproductive rights. 3. Granting equal rights to adulterous wives and illegitimate sons resulting from adulterous relationships. 4. Granting equal rights to homosexuals, and providing protection and respect for prostitutes. 5. Giving wives full rights to file legal complaints against husbands accusing them of rape or sexual harassment, obliging competent authorities to deal husbands punishments similar to those prescribed for raping or sexually harassing a stranger. 6. Equal inheritance (between men and women). 7. Replacing guardianship with partnership, and full sharing of roles within the family between men and women such as: spending, child care and home chores. 8. Full equality in marriage legislation such as: allowing Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men, and abolition of polygamy, dowry, men taking charge of family spending, etc. 9. Removing the authority of divorce from husbands and placing it in the hands of judges, and sharing all property after divorce. 10. Cancelling the need for a husband’s consent in matters like: travel, work, or use of contraception. These are destructive tools meant to undermine the family as an important institution; they would subvert the entire society, and drag it to pre-Islamic ignorance." Virulent Muslim bashing, indeed. It is to your discredit that you bandy around accusations of islamophobia. Look to the evidence - do some research. You need to learn the difference between Muslims and Islamists. These people are fascists, Mhairi. Solidarity. Anvil.

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

Whether or not they seperate men and women at other meetings at *this* meeting, there was a mixed section which women were free to sit in if they chose. Ah, I see. These poor women need white dudes to come along a liberate them because they are too stupid/oppressed/brainwashed to do it for themselves? Worked well in Afghanistan that one. I simply found it interestinng that in a discussion about womens rights in a debate that has been used as some of the most virulent muslim bashing I have heard in a while, there should be two references to an animal which is particularly associated with Islam. "the same patriarchy which dictates where women will sit" EXACTLY! Some men decided that their view of where women should sit - ie beside men, overrode other men's view of where women should sit - ie seperately. So when women were given a choice to sit seperately or not, the men who thought that their view that women should sit beside men was superior decided to enforce that. It is just the same as had some other men decided unilaterally to hoick women out of the mixed area, because they thought that their view that women should sit seperately was superior. Some women wanted to sit with men - none of those women faced men telling them that they could not do so. Some women wanted to sit with other women - those women had men forcibly and physically not allowing them to. Who is dictating to women where they can and cannot sit?

Anvil.
Anvil.

[Mhairi] "Only they didn't “segregate”, " [Anvil] They advertise as many of their meetings as they can as 'Completely Segregated' - This is not the choice of women. This is not about women's 'space'. [Mhairi] "Sweeping statements: [Anvil] “a totalitarian ideology that would see no women in the public square” [Mhairi] if that were the case, why was there a women’s area in a public lecture, surely if this is a totalitarian ideology that does not wish to see women in public, then they would not have an area for women." [Anvil] Yes, Mhairi, no women in the public square! First corral them at the back, then shut them up - did you know that in other meetings the women, hidden away at the back, are requested to admit written questions for vetting rather than approach the mic' as the men do during Q&A's? [Anvil] “my daughters, and theirs, as mere chattel – objects to be bought and sold ‘like bacon by the pound’.” [Mhairi] Ignoring the choice of “bacon” as a comparison which I am sure is completely unintentionally offensive, (...) [Anvil] But you didn't ignore it, did you. It is a reference to a revolutionary song, Mhairi. How is this offensive to you? [Mhairi] (...) just as the reference to “pig” in the insult below, this is a ridiculous assertion. [Anvil] You're conflating what I am saying with the words of another - a cheap shot in any debate, Mhairi. [Mhairi] Yes, there are extremely misogynistic interpretations of Islam, of that there is no question, there are also very progressive ones – just like other Abrahamic religions. The problem is not Islam, it is patriarchy. The same patriarchy which allows men to believe that they have the right to override womens wishes and are entitled to access their space. [Anvil] Islam, like other abrahamic religions are *products* of patriarchy. The same patriarchy which dictates where woman shall sit, what they shall wear, who they shall leave the house with. Whether iERA's interpretation of Islam is progressive is beyond question - they hold the same interpretation of Islam as do all islamist factions in the UK be it MB or MAB. If you want to know what islamism thinks of 'womens space' then look no further than MB's response to the UN declaration on violence against women. Solidarity. Anvil.

Chuck
Chuck

I think this article, and your cynical retorts in the comment section underlines how much out of touch you are with progressive, western ideology that treats women and men as equals. Inclusiveness and diversity are the main tenets of such a society and segregation under the guise of feminism are anathema to its belief. More importantly, it shows how backward and regressive Islam really is, and the faux pretense that there is actually a moderate element to Islam. Nothing is more ironic than you pretending to be a feminist, if you read any history you would learn about true feminism and the women who fought to get equal rights in society. You are not a feminist, you are an Islamic pig whore!

Johnny
Johnny

Everything you wrote is nonsense and reading it has made me really angry. Like, how dare you try to justify gender segregation via feminism, what the fuck is wrong with you?

Anvil.
Anvil.

"Go to any public space and you will see the very same phenomenon – women telling men to gtf, and men blindly ignoring it. Same old, same old." Hardly, iERA are an Islamist front. They are supporters of a literal interpretation of the Qur'an and the implementation of the Shariah. This has nothing to do with racism and everything to do with the oppression, repression, and suppression of women. This is political Islam at its finest. They were allowed to use the venue specifically with the precondition that the audience not be segregated. This was also a specific precondition of one of the main speakers. They agreed, then broke these conditions to show that they could implement their misogyny at will - and in one of the bastions of female emancipation in education - UCL. You are not supporting the "right of women to define and protect their own boundaries" - oddly enough, that's what those 'white dudes' (as you disgracefully refer to them) were doing. You, on the other hand, were supporting a totalitarian ideology that would see no women in the public square whatsoever. Those 'Sisters' that did manage to speak would soon find their testimony worth only half that of their 'Owners'. Why? Because their ideology allows them (Islamist men that is) to know the true nature of their 'women'. Your support for this is the kind of blind knee-jerk relativism that would see my daughters, and theirs, as mere chattel - objects to be bought and sold 'like bacon by the pound'. "UCL: RACISM AND WOMEN’S RIGHTS"? Yeah, sure. Same old, same old - cack in, cack out. Solidarity. Anvil.

Wasthere
Wasthere

Congratulations. You're on supporting the more regressive and oppressive interpretations of Islam {slow clap}. I think you'll find quite a few Muslims supported the actions of those who broke the segregation (e.g. https://twitter.com/MFrancoisCerrah/status/311181166730420225). So far, you won't listen to black people if they're male and disagree with you, you won't listen to women if they're white and disagree with you, and you won't listen to brown women (who were there!) who disagree with you. Take a hint.

non white dude
non white dude

Hear hear! The organisers should be ashamed that they didn't have separate seating arrangements for blacks, for Irish, for gingers, and for those suffering mental health problems. Not enough segregation in the world. You hit the nail on the head.

KC
KC

Oh man I think I just tripped and fell into some sort of weird alternate university where people have a "right" to decide who sits by them in a public event and that "diversity" requires such an "accomodation" be made. By your logic Rosa Parks was "disrespecting" the white folk of Alabama.

Anvil.
Anvil.

Hi Rachel, I agree with your words, they are clearer and more succinct than my own. Allow me to say this, though: Without the 'obnoxious' behaviour of these two 'white dudes', this blatant example of sexual apartheid would have gone ahead unchallenged - as have many other iERA segregated meetings and debates previously. That they be castigated in any way is shameful, and a disgrace to all who have stood up against tyranny. Solidarity. Anvil.

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

Only people didnt allow the women to sit themselves at the back, they insisted on sitting beside them - neither was it segregated, men and women can be seen quite clearly sitting together. I'm raising race because the islam is a religion which is associated with the "brown other".

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

Wow - some of the comments on this thread leave me speechless. Article: men should not sit beside women who tell them they don't want them to Comment: some of the men in the same organisation as those women are white. The reason that they were white was picked up on, is because that the majority of women who chose to sit with other women were not white What this is people with privilege - through race and sex, disregarding the wishes of people who are disadvantaged by their race and sex, and then claiming that they were doing it "for their own good". The white mans burden is alive and well.

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

I agree with UN declaration, but I see nothing in there at all about the seating arrangements at lectures. Even assuming that IERA subscribe to such a philosophy - which I'm not clear whether they do, although I concede that they may - attempting to undermine the rights of women to autonomy in their choice of company is colluding with a patriarchal attitude which suggests that men know better than women what is good for them. It is clear that you - like I - disapprove of patriarchal religious philosophies, but further undermining women by disregarding their wishes, is counter-productive, and borne of a superiority that we as men, adhering to liberal Western values should have the "right" to disregard the wishes of women, because those wishes have been facilitated by an organisation which we believe is regressive.

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

Aint it great when men call women a whore (and an islamic pig whore no less), because they know all about "true" feminism. You, my dear, are simply a misogynistic racist.

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

How dare a feminist demand space away from men. How DARE they? It makes men angry when women demand spaces of their own. It makes men angry when women tell them they don't want them near them. What the fuck is WRONG with women who don't want their spaces unconsensually penetrated? Dont they realise that the men are just doing them a favour? Showing them what they are missing? "Correcting" their utterly unreasonable denials of access?

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

My views on IERA are neither here nor there. The point is that there was a womens section, a mixed section and a mens section. Some women wished to sit exclusively with other women. A group of men decided that their "right" to sit where they liked completely overrode the wishes of those women. Women here are being used for men to have an argument with one another. Its atrocious. And as for the white dudes that decided to "uphold the right of women to define and protect their own boundaries" - by barging their way in and insisting on sitting among them? Its *SHEER* male entitlement with anti-muslim sentiment disguised as rescuing these poor misguided women who cant properly know their own mind and can only possibly not want to be graced by their presence because they are too brainwashed and oppressed to know whats good for them...pffffft. There are many different interpretations of Islam, just as with other religions but your intolerance shows in the blanket statements you make.

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

I dont see a single Muslim on that tweet thread that you linked to supporting the actions of those who infiltrated the womens space. I see quite a few criticizing the seating arrangements and for having a seperate area/entrance for women, including one woman, who I believe is muslim who sat in the mixed section, and another (the opening tweeter) who wasnt there. I'm supporting no interpretation of Islam - regressive or otherwise - what I am doing is supporting the right of women to define and protect their own boundaries. The men specifically sat in an area which had been designated for women, which they knew had been designated for women, to "make a point" - and what "point" is it that they are trying to make? That men have the right to totally ignore womens' wishes and that when women say collectively "we do not want you near us", they blithely carry on and ignore them. Go to any public space and you will see the very same phenomenon - women telling men to gtf, and men blindly ignoring it. Same old, same old.

Rupert T J
Rupert T J

There was a section for 'idiots' - outside!

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

Ah - the poor ickle white dudes,ah hpw they suffer from their oppression - lynchings, slavery, forced breeding. Oh wait...hang on...no - it was the white dudes that done all that. What is so difficult to understand about the idea of women wanting their own space? That if they want to sit with men, they can; if they want their own space, that is allocated. Why should the desire of a man to sit beside a woman override her wish not to sit next to him?

Steve Jones
Steve Jones

How was it racist? It took place in a secular space. The ideology of the women who wanted to be segregated teaches them they are the property of men, that they are deficient in religion, their testimony is worth half that of a man and that rape can only be proven if four pious male muslim eye witnesses were present. The reasons they wanted to segregated are the opposite of feminism. You should should choose your battles more carefully. You are supporting an ideology which oppresses women.

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

Hi Rachel - thats for the kind comments. The video showing the seating arrangements is available here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wt77Uua2F6U It quite clearly shows women and men sitting together in the front few rows. This was *not* segregation. The demand for a womens area came from women who requested it. If you go to the facebook event page (which unfortunately I cant find at the moment) you will see women asking if there will be a seperate space for women. Yes, I agree there is a context in which some muslim women feel that it is immodest to be in the company of men, just as some muslim women feel that it is immodest to be seen in public with uncovered hair. Their reasons for feeling that way are not for me to comment upon, but the point is that for some women to attend the lecture and feel comfortable there, they wanted an all women space, which the organisers provided. Some men decided that their wishes were invalid and not to be respected, so - to make a point - not only sat in the womens area, but sat between women. The idea that these men were striking a blow for gender equality is both racist and misogynist. The women who wanted to sit in an all women space became vehicles for them to start an argument about whether they should have the right to do so, only they didnt pick this fight with the women, they picked it with the organisers - who were men. What it became was one group of men, arguing with another group of men about who had the right and the power to enforce their beliefs about the conditions of seating arrangements for women. Talking over the heads of women, particularly those who wanted their own space.

Rachel
Rachel

Anvil, you may be right, I don't know as I haven't seen the video or read that much about it. It depends on how they did it. I do know that when I try to argue for secular space, or against confusing Islamic Right groups with 'Muslims' I end up near bigots and racists. I see there are some on this thread (I hadn't read the comments earlier). They always pop up when anything to do with Muslims is a topic of discussion. I doubt they read other things on Mhairi's blog, they are just here to make their point. They are not my allies even if we share the some of the same concerns. The fact that EDL types argue or example, against sex segregation, doesn't mean that feminists and leftists should stop arguing against it. We should take the space for secularism from the rightists who want to claim it. My opposition to things like gender segregated seating in public spaces / at political meetings comes not from defence of 'our western values' but from learning from groups such as Southall Black Sisters. They say we should judge modern religious movements on their political content and not on claims of 'cultural practices' or tradition.

Steve Jones
Steve Jones

I know some people are racist and/or sexist however, unlike you, my whoe world view isn't polarised. Women can choose to sit next to other women if they want, nobody is saying otherwise. However in a secular space allowing segregation along gender lines because of the patriarchal demands of an ideology which treats women as property should not be encouraged.

Steve Jones
Steve Jones

Generalising much? Have you any idea how racist and sexist your posts are?

Steve Jones
Steve Jones

Your obsession with race is rather telling. This incident has nothing whatsoever to do with race. "I’m amazed you haven’t noticed" I don't judge people by their race - you, apparently, do

Steve Jones
Steve Jones

"Islam is a religion not a race, but racism still manifests through the targetting of faith groups" It can do but I see no evidence of that in this incident. "Additionally in the UK, Islam is associated with the “brown other”" You are the only one here making that association

THE ULTIMATE DUDE
THE ULTIMATE DUDE

"Only people didnt allow the women to sit themselves at the back, they insisted on sitting beside them – neither was it segregated, men and women can be seen quite clearly sitting together." Two people (your "white dudes"), decided to sit at the back. And because these males sat in the vicinity of the women, it doesn't infringe on the rights of the women to sit by themselves. As far as I am aware, they didn't physically sit on a seat right next to a woman (i.e. a gap). Also it was a public event where the institution hosting the event stated there will be no segregation. Thus I can't believe you still cannot see it was segregated, ludicrous.... simple retort: replace male and female entrance with 'white' and 'black' entrance. Hello 1950s Alabama. "I’m raising race because the islam is a religion which is associated with the “brown other”. Associated by whom exactly, evidence please!

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

Islam is a religion not a race, but racism still manifests through the targetting of faith groups. Jews went to the gas chambers through racism. Additionally in the UK, Islam is associated with the "brown other" - that which is not white, does not conform to "our" way of life - despite a number of indignenous converts.

Steve Jones
Steve Jones

You might associate it with the "brown other" but that is a very racist stance - islam is a religion/ideology/political system not a race. You really should give up, your racism is showing.

Steve Jones
Steve Jones

You seem obsessed with race - although I am not sure what race muslim is. How do you know what race the majority of the women were at this event who believe their religion tells them they can't sit with men who aren't their guardians? Your racism and willingness to support the guardianship of women by men under islam is rather telling.

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

Only it *wasnt* segregation. There was a mixed area, which people could choose to sit in if they wanted. The video which has been released clearly shows women sitting beside men. Some women requested a women only area, the IERA provided them with one. Men got prissy about "their right" to sit beside women who did not want to sit beside them. Why were the men so keen to sit beside women? Seriously why? From all accounts the women only area had a worse view than both the mixed and the mens area, so it wasnt that the men were missing out on something? Its pure male entitlement, women have something that men want and men are damned if womens wishes are going to override their "rights".

Jamie
Jamie

What are you talking about? "How dare they demand a place away from men" - exactly right, how dare they? What if the men demanded a place free from women? What if whites demanded a place free from black people? ... ... What if the British demanded a country free from muslims? Lets not forget, you can have all the segregation you want in your own home or some other private place of your own choosing, but UCL clearly said they would not tolerate segregation in their meeting hall. The fact that there was a womens entrance means there WAS segregation, regardless of the mixed section. Next time hold the debate in a school hall, or a mosque, rather than in a building belonging to an organisation which specifically fights against segregation.

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

Only they didn't "segregate", there was a mixed section as can be easily seen on the video that has now been released of people filing into the hall. No one needed to sit in either the mens or the womens sections if they did not choose to, everyone could have sat in the mixed section. Some women chose to sit in the women-only section and men disregarded their wishes to sit with other women. Sweeping statements: "a totalitarian ideology that would see no women in the public square" if that were the case, why was there a women's area in a public lecture, surely if this is a totalitarian ideology that does not wish to see women in public, then they would not have an area for women. "my daughters, and theirs, as mere chattel – objects to be bought and sold ‘like bacon by the pound’." Ignoring the choice of "bacon" as a comparison which I am sure is completely unintentionally offensive, just as the reference to "pig" in the insult below, this is a ridiculous assertion. Yes, there are extremely misogynistic interpretations of Islam, of that there is no question, there are also very progressive ones - just like other Abrahamic religions. The problem is not Islam, it is patriarchy. The same patriarchy which allows men to believe that they have the right to override womens wishes and are entitled to access their space.

Anvil
Anvil

No Mhairi, the point is that they were told that they could not segregate by gender- both by the people who let them use the hall, and the speaker they had booked. They said they would not segregate by gender. They lied. Why? As for my sweeping statements, please point them out. I am very aware of the many different interpretations of islam - as I am very aware of the interpretation of islam offered by iEAR. This isn't anti-muslim sentiment, this is anti-fascist sentiment. You should do some research before you accuse people of sweeping statements and intolerance. Solidarity. Anvil.

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

Only - AGAIN - it was not segregated. The video released of people filing into the hall shows quite clearly that both men and women were sitting together in parts of the hall. Having an area where women who wish to sit together can do so is very different from having a men only bar.

madge hirsch
madge hirsch

I don't know how old you are but I remember friends at uni in Edinburgh going on "invasions" of men only bars. The early feminists were most unhappy that men had their own spaces. The idea of men only or women only spaces in the public arena is just not on. If people wish this sort of gender segregation at private events fair enough. The UCL authorities had given assurances that the event would not be segregated but iERA seems to have decided to go ahead with this policy anyway and then lied when they said this had been agreed.

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

What is so difficult to understand about women wanting their own space? This is so damn typical of men, who cannot understand boundaries and barge their way in, then play the victim when told to sod off. Its all about male entitlement - men continally disrespect the wishes of women to be left alone and then get all prissy about how they werent doing any harm when the women dont act incredibly grateful for having male attention bestowed upon them. What they were saying was really that we are dudes, we should have access to women when we are in a public place, the wishes of the women are irrelevant because we are entitled to encroach on womens spaces. In this case, the fact that they were white dudes is very relevant - what they wanted to do was to make a point that they - as white dudes - should have the right to disregard the wishes of women who didnt want them to sit next to them as a means of challenging the (predominently) Black men, who were supporting and facilitating the women's wishes

T Dog
T Dog

I know, right! I mean, what's wrong with the world today when a woman can't get her own dick-free space. As a 1930's white dude, I find it ludicrous that people can't comprehend how I need my personal white dude space and that people are ACTUALLY going to protest this in the 50's in America. If you want to go and sit with a black dude that's fine by me just don't let me sit next to one! Why on earth does the desire for a black girl to sit next to me totally override my right to not sit next to her. What has the world come to?!? By the way, I'm not white and I'm not going to say what I am. I think there are some valid points to this particular discussion about women segregation seeing as it still happens in western society in the 21st century but making people infer that what these guys did is because they're white and male? What goes through your mind when you meet a whitie?

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

The reasons that they wanted to sit seperately are neither here nor there. The point is that they did, and the organisers facilitated that for them other men decided that their opinions on the seating arrangements for women were more "worthy" than their own wishes.

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

You clearly have no idea how racist and sexist society is. What - really - is the problem with women choosing to sit beside other women without men? Why is it such an unacceptable thing for you that space would be allocated for women?

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

Actually I was primarily judging them by their gender, but yes, it is certainly true that white people tend to disregard the wishes of non-white people in a similar manner that men ignore the wishes of women.

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

Well - tell you what - look carefully at the telly next time they discuss a story about islam or muslims and count the number of white people compared with the number of non-white people, and I think you will find that non-white people outnumber the white people by a considerable degree. I'm amazed you haven't noticed

Kavafy
Kavafy

@mhairimcalpine Then you're hurting your own cause, aren't you? Like I said: can't see the wood for the trees.

mhairimcalpine
mhairimcalpine moderator

@Kavafy Islam is no more patriarchal than other abrahamic religions, although admittedly some interpretations in countries traumatised by imperialism have interpreted it ways which surpass even the Christian Right.

I want womens spaces to be respected, no matter on what basis the women are electing to have a separate space.

Kavafy
Kavafy

@Mhairi McAlpine Islam is incredibly patriarchal. Yet you've twisted yourself into the position of supporting a specifically Islamic stance on gender relations because you want "women's spaces" in a *public meeting*. You're failing to see the wood for the trees.

Kavafy
Kavafy

@mhairimcalpine I think that's back to front. It's vital there there should be no segregation on irrelevant grounds in public meetings and discussions. So, if there is a difference, I believe it's the exact opposite way round from the way you explained it. Segregated public meetings - even "partially segregated" ones - are a public evil. Segregated bars are comparatively small beer.

mhairimcalpine
mhairimcalpine moderator

@Kavafy Can you really not see the difference?

Let me spell it out to you.
1. Men colonise public space - look around you to see that.  Look at the way men sit on buses; the way men take up space on pavements, look in playgrounds and teen hangouts for the start of this happening and then look around you at how they behave as adults.  Women need to reclaim physical space and say solidly "this is mine, dont enter."

2. In a lecture with segregated seating, all can participate, whether it is segregated or not doesnt impede on their experience - although the seating arrangements do impact, which is why it was disappointing that the women's area was at the back.  The mixed area was in prime position right at the front, so women had the option of a desirable seat in a mixed area, or a less desirable seat in a segregated area, some women chose the less desireable seating.  That they were forced into such a choice is regretable, but I am not holding up the organisers as paragons of feminist virtue, but shaped by the same assumption of dominence which affects all institutions, religious, civil, political, social.

3. In a bar which is men only, women cannot participate at all.  Their banning means that they cannot have the experience of being in that bar.  They dont have the choice of any entry at all, so cant choose to mix if they wish to.  Men also cannot choose to mix to if they want to, their only option is also to deny themselves access to the bar in solidarity.  So only those who want a men-only space can participate.


Kavafy
Kavafy

@Mhairi McAlpine Why?

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