Saturday, 30 November 2013

Segregating women

There's been a few stories recently of UK universities allowing the segregation of women at debates held on their campuses. Highlighted when Lawrence Krauss threatened to walk out on his debate with Hamza Andreas Tzortzis. 

Why was the audience to be segregated? Because Hamza Andreas Tzortzis is a Muslim, the event was organised by a Muslim group and for some invalid reason a Muslim thinks men and women shouldn't be sat together when viewing a debate (and, one imagines, for other things too). 

Of course that men and women travel together to get to the debates and attend universities where lectures aren't segregated doesn't seem to matter. 

Try this as an experiment - if segregating an audience based on race isn't acceptable, segregating it based on gender isn't either. 

But we live in a world where, for some reason I can't fathom, religious sensibilities are taken into consideration. We live in a world where because a Muslim man has been told that sitting with the women is 'wrong' (or whatever word it is) then in order to be culturally sensitive to Muslims we need to keep men and women separate at an event where there happens to be a Muslim speaker, or if a local campus Muslim group has organised the event. 

Let's get one thing straight - pandering to this kind of religious ridiculousness serves no other purpose than to perpetuate the nonsense. It is up to decent people to stand up to this backward, primitive thinking and say 'No!'. As a society we must take a stand against foolishness and say 'I am a decent human being. I *will* choose where I sit at this event and your religious teachings do *not* carry any more weight than my sense of decency'. 

The way I see it - if you want special consideration because of your religion but you cannot demonstrate that the basis for your religion is valid (and let's face it, who can?) then your requirement for special consideration is invalid. 

I go one step further. Even if a theist could demonstrate that their god is real and they could demonstrate that their god doesn't want men and women sitting together - so what? We are grown ups. We are educated men and women who should decide for ourselves through empathy, compassion, understanding, logic, and discussion such things as whether or not men and women should sit together at at debate at what is meant to be a secular university. I do not think so poorly of myself that I will accept any arbitrary instruction just because a 'god' says so. I would still demand to know why the instruction is valid, what are its benefits versus its cost. Throughout human history we've seen enough 'do it my way or be punished' leaders and it is never good. Any being worthy of the title 'god' would understand this and not expect us to follow blindly, but would provide reason for what is, on the surface, such an arbitrary and nonsense decision. 

So I commend Lawrence Krauss for his stance and any others who take the same stance - kudos to you. We don't have to lower our standards as people just because some religious person thinks not doing so will offend their beliefs. 

I can't help but think the only proper response to 'I'm a Muslim, therefore I believe this audience should be segregated' is 'Really? I'm a decent person and I think people should be allowed to sit where they like'. 

1 comment:

  1. I remember this event and was definitely on the side of Krauss (on every issue to date as a matter of fact). There comes a stage when being the member of a society of grown-ups means that one has to abandon these outdated descrimatory practices.

    Perhaps even more insulting in this instance was the fact that women were obliged to sit at the back. No concern was demonstrated by those sitting at the front, who were probably taller and more difficult to see over.

    Just as walking several paces behind the husband is symbolic of the inferior status of women, so too is being seated at the back so as not to inflame the passions of those poor males at the front so wanting in the means of self control.