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“Gender segregation would be outlawed by labour” says Chuka Umunna, still aboard the bandwagon afforded him by the Today programme yesterday.
But the nasty party have countered with: “Gender segregation in universities is pandering to extremism,” Michael Gove has said, as he became the latest politician to wade into the divisive row over external speakers."
While the hard-copy Telegraph has the headline: “Forcing sexes apart is not permissible says equality watchdog” to an article by home affairs correspondent David Barrett, the online version’s headline is:
“Official watchdog says university sex segregation plans 'not permissible'”.
After yesterday’s discussion with Justin Webb, many people felt that Justin made mincemeat out of Ms Dandridge. But I’m not so sure. While “Forcing sexes apart” sounds unseemly, “Forcing them together” almost sounds worse. Imagine compulsory seating arrangements a la the dinner party regulations: Man, lady, man, lady, man lady.
Enforcing seating arrangements of any kind seems regressive and inappropriate, and haven’t the universities argued that they’re ‘providing’ separate areas rather than imposing blanket restrictions, though the “brothers/ sisters” notice seems to contradict that.
Nicola Dandridge feels that if brothers and sisters wish to self-segregate that’s up to them. We can’t have gender police standing at the door forcibly mingling lads and lasses, surely. But it’s a big ‘if’, for who’s to say what’s really behind this business of being “comfortable” or “uncomfortable”, with such things?
As for gender apartheid in general, no-one can even agree on the effect, if any, that ‘gender’ has on our cognitive abilities. All this business about vertically wired brains versus horizontally wired lady-brains is dubious. Now that even our anatomical, gender-related characteristics can be surgically reversed it’s all a blur. But there is, nevertheless, an anatomical difference between men and women, no matter how much we like to pretend otherwise. Common sense should be the arbiter of what’s best for whom.
It seems that everyone, except Nicola Dandridge and the young conservative chaplain Saleem Chagtai, who defended it on the Today programme (08:32) agrees that separate seating at Islamic meetings is misogynistic and unacceptable in universities at any time and under any circumstances.
However, doesn’t this whole kerfuffle about gender segregation in universities seem like a red herring? It certainly does to me. It’s a bit like all the other Muslim/Islam-related phenomena, which seem so antithetical to what I assumed was modern civilization. Things that should be accepted as ‘given’, like women’s right to education, the right to equality and enforcing the law against FGM and honour-killing now appear to be a matter of debate. Why, in this day and age should the acceptance of rabid homophobia and antisemitism even be debated let alone tolerated?
I can’t see how the stridently feminist Sara Khan, or any other ‘brave’ modernising Muslim women can be all that liberated, empowered or free if despite championing certain reforms they’re still associating themselves with Islam.
We’re guilty of pretending that we object to gender segregation merely because it’s a symptom of paternalism and misogyny, which is how I interpreted what Sara Khan said this morning.
Well yes; and a symptom of a paternalistic, misogynistic, homophobic, antisemitic, barren, hypocritical, superstitious, warmongering, jealous, medieval religion. Sorry Sara, sorry Nicola, sorry Saleem, sorry everyone, but while you’re denying the incompatibility of ‘Islam’, ‘University’ and 'Great Britain', you’re not making much sense.