Chris Moos has a good article at the Huffington Post about gender segregation at UK universities.
Mind you, I disagree with him on one thing.
While there should be agreement on the fact that it is the right of students to voluntarily self-segregate, it is also clear there is no right of any campus group to force students to segregate, either by creating social pressure on students by advertising the events as “strictly segregated”, signposting “male” and “female” entrances and seating areas, or by verbally and physically enforcing segregation on the audience, as it occurred at UCL in March, as reported by the Guardian. Worryingly, this widely publicised case where students were refused entry through the “female entrance”, and subsequently intimidated and manhandled when they refused to comply is omitted from the discussion.
I disagree with the first clause. You can’t really have a “right” to self-segregate without segregating others, so there really is no such right. Segregation is from certain others, so it’s not a “self” thing.
He expands on the idea later.
Whether or not students want to segregate, in a liberal and democratic society the right to practising one’s faith stops where one starts imposing it on others. Contrary to what some assert, there is no right of the religiously observant to impose their sensibilities on others. For those who agree to segregate voluntarily, there is no need for advertisement, signposting, social pressure, intimidation or violence. Of course, if the segregation in these 40 cases had indeed been voluntary and agreed-upon by all attendees, the organisers would not have needed to promote or enforce it in the first place.
How could you do that though? How could you get all attendees to agree to segregate, and how could you do it without the risk of pressuring them? Imagine trying that with race. “Do you all agree to separate into white seats and black seats?” It’s not on. “Do you all agree to separate into believer seats and infidel seats?” Also not on. If those aren’t on, it’s not clear why the gender version should or could be on.
No I don’t think so; I don’t think the idea can or should be salvaged. People can sit where they choose to, within reason – but that naturally means that other people can’t tell them where to sit. People can get up and move if they don’t like someone who sits near them, but that’s all they can do. Self-segregation is an oxymoron, unless it just means staying home.