Gender Segregation in Universities

If you believe the hype, you’d think British universities are going to be routinely segregating by gender in order to appease islamists. Twitter is outraged. This is about new guidance from universities UK which suggests that some external speakers may be allowed to segregate their audience by gender. The libertarian in me says as no-one is going to be forced to attend such an external event, segregate away, as it’s no skin of my rosy nose. It advises for example that segregation is left to right, not front to back, to ensure equal participation, but in the competing “rights” of equality of gender and religion, compromises should be available. Money quote:

“…Concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system…”

Of course any speaker demanding gender segregation at a UK university is not being culturally sensitive. The kind of speaker who would demand such a policy doesn’t care. Indeed the hue and cry will ensure more radical islamists do demand it; the ensuing publicity will be far more valuable than the speaking gig, whether or not the event goes ahead.

I would be unlikely to attend an event where the genders were segregated to appease a bigoted Islamist. But I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of making a fuss about it. And if you feel you need to go, the segregation demanded reflects badly on the speaker, but is sitting on the left really so bad?

We have become obsessed by trivial symbols. Is anyone actually going to be forced into “gender apartheid” in British universities as some more hysterical commentators have suggested? Or are you just going to have to sit where you’re told to listen to a ranting islamist for an hour or so? Are we so insecure in our society that rational debate cannot overcome the antediluvian nonsense of these religious throwbacks?

“Live and let live” is the most important mantra of liberal democracy. Let’s not give those who oppose it, the satisfaction of letting them think their ideas actually present a threat.

12 replies
  1. Woodsy42
    Woodsy42 says:

    Personally I don't think it is trivial. The very act of segregation can only happen if there is discrimination between the genders. That's illegal, and if you or I did it in other situations we could be prosecuted. I'm not in favour of behavioural laws BUT – if we have one it should aply to everyone.

  2. the moon is a balloon
    the moon is a balloon says:

    "If you wish to come and speak to us, please be aware that everyone here is equal before the law and part of that is that they may sit where they please. If you have a problem with that, do fuck off as quickly and as quietly as is convenient to you."

    You cannot let some fascist dickhead impose his own rules. Rules? There are no rules. Sit where you like. Rules about where folk can sit down in a public place? Dear me.

  3. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:


    Yes, of course If I were running a university, that is what I would say (and in practice, what I suspect all vice-chancellors/rectors and so-forth will, in practice say). But allowing something, in extremis, is not the same as approving of it.

    I say again.

    Allowing something is not the same as approving of it.

    Please, let people do stuff of which you & I disapprove, or you'll quickly find sodomy banned again.

  4. the moon must not be called a balloon in case it is offended
    the moon must not be called a balloon in case it is offended says:

    "Allowing something is not the same as approving of it. Please, let people do stuff of which you & I disapprove, or you'll quickly find sodomy banned again."

    Quite! Like, err, allowing people to sit where the hell they like. I am happy for anyone to do anything – in the absence of it doing unconsented harm to another, his property or her convenience.

    As a default position, the git thinking up the new rule is to be resisted – always! Each little giveaway is another bit of freedom lost – and probably to some prat with an agenda that reaches beyond the trivial. Seating arrangements now, acceptable clothing tomorrow, no Irish and no dogs the day after. Fuck 'em!

  5. Woodsy42
    Woodsy42 says:

    It might be twaddle if it were a closed club, but this isn't.
    Would you suggest that if a company, like Nat West bank suddenly decided that female customers must use only certain teller windows or carry pink credit cards they would not be subject to legal action?

  6. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Watch BBC's "Songs of Praise" any week and chances are the sexes are separated.

    I can see that they are different sexes. If 'gender' has a meaning then it is how someone feels about themselves. I can't see that.

  7. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    This guidance allows for, but doesn't encourage, a situation where because of the beliefs on one participant, a debate couldn't happen without such a policy, and suggests a way to allow the event without discrimination.

    The way everyone carries on, you'd think gender segregation had become compulsory. NO. Guidance has been given so everyone's rights are protected.

    I simply cannot see why this is such a big issue. People have become obsessed by such tokenistic trivialities.

    No-one's suggesting widespread segregation in businesses or education. That's a straw man. But some religious nutters might in future demand it at a single talk or lecture, and if they do, Universities UK has suggested a means by which their religious nutbaggery can be accommodated.

    A bit of perspective please.

  8. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    A couple of points or three:

    i. The mullahs are talking to the believers not to anyone else, this is not a debate – these are sermons.
    The educated march forth to convert the fertile wastes of inner cities, full of young hotheads ready, willing and able to do a fundamentalist's bidding.

    ii. Universities tying themselves up in hypocritical knots and jumping through hoops to appease the fascism of the salafists by using Cultural Marxist precepts a wonder to behold.

    iii. If this whole palaver brings about a more clear focus, a lens through which the authorities must watch and attempt to halt.
    On how the Gulf States and House of Saud are perverting the campuses all over England peddling their hateful anti western brand of Wahhabist doctrines, then that can only be a good thing.

    Nothing will accrue though, the trend and money has worked it's miracle. Universities are become, 'academic bordellos' – putting out for the highest bidder.

  9. Woodsy42
    Woodsy42 says:

    "People have become obsessed by such tokenistic trivialities."

    I'm sorry but I still disagree. It is exactly by the ignoring of such 'trivial' incidents that a behaviour gets a toehold on normality.
    A less trivial example: When the first 'fixed penalty' offences were introduced (1950s) we let it go as a sensible pragmatic 'trivial' simplification for parking control – and now we face a situation where the traditional court/jury system has been by-passed for increasing numbers of 'offenses'.
    In this case it's also 'trivial', who really cares about such exceptional and unusual occurences? But allow it to happen and a precident will be set for public events run by public bodies.
    So it's important. If the audience choose to segregate themselves that's up to them, but it should never be imposed. Seems like the equalities commission agree with me that it's potentially unlawful.

  10. NuLabourNemesis
    NuLabourNemesis says:

    As an undergraduate 20 years ago, I remember the OTC being banned from the student union building on the grounds of the British Army being "homophobic".

    If Islamists wish to argue their case for discrimination then fine.

    I do not at all see why they would be less able to do this to an audience that correctly reflects the constitution of community.

    It's barmy that a single penny should be forcibly taken by the State from my daughter's future earnings so as to enable bigots to prevent her, on the basis of her gender, from sitting in public beside me (or any other person of her choosing).


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