How to segregate your lecture

Following the announcement that UniversitiesUK has decided that it is acceptable for audiences at events held at UK universities to be segregated by gender, I thought I’d would explain how such segregation should be achieved for speakers who require it.

To start with the lecture theatre chosen for the event should be equipped with suitable man-sized box trunk or cabinet into which the guest speaker is to be placed. An illustrative example of the type of container required is shown here:


Care must of course be taken to ensure that the box is of sufficiently large dimensions that it is capable of containing the speaker without causing undue discomfort.

Before the audience is admitted to the event, the speaker should be placed inside the box whereupon it should be locked.

The audience can then enter the lecture theatre, sit down wherever they like and make themselves comfortable, being confident that the appropriate level of segregation has been enforced.

An additional advantage of this scheme is that a suitably chosen box will make it impossible for the audience to hear the stream of misogynistic drivel produced by the invited guest, thus ensuring that the event runs smoothly and without disruption.

I hope this clarifies the situation.

17 Responses to “How to segregate your lecture”

  1. The Guardian article you link to above is an honest description of a real problem. Everyone should read it.

    These days, more and more it is (are?) self-styled “leftists” who are the real enemies of freedom. Part of the reason for this is that, thankfully, it has become less accepted to be openly right-wing on many issues, so these opinions are not openly heard. Out of fear of being mistaken for right-wingers, as far as I can tell, many leftists take on a caricature of what should be their position. Does the right want to kill all foreigners? OK, then we will adopt the policy that anyone should be able to immigrate anywhere for any reason and immediately have the same rights as the natives. Jews were discriminated against at many times and places in history? OK, they have the right to genital mutilation of their children. (Some modern religious sect which did something similar, say tattooing babies, would probably, rightly, attract the attention of law enforcement.)

    The sad thing is, this misguided tolerance actually erodes the values which the left has traditionally stood for: equal opportunity, freedom from religion, individual freedom, democracy etc. Also, in some cases I suspect that some left politicians hope that catering to the special interests of some immigrant groups will be repaid in votes. But actually, if the people involved can vote (perhaps through making naturalization easier), they will probably form their own religiously conservative political party.

    Another side effect is that “right-wing”, “populist” etc parties are attracting more voters, not necessarily voters who share the core beliefs of said parties, but because increasingly some voters see them as the lesser of two evils.

    Just today, I read that someone has gone to the European Court of Human Rights to protest against the burka ban in France, arguing that it violates personal freedom. Supporters of the ban would question whether everyone who does so does so voluntarily. Those in-between say that even if a ban is good in principle, it will backfire because the people in question then wouldn’t be in public at all.

    Some would argue that a burka is a somewhat more flexible version of the trunk you mention above.

    Some will say one shouldn’t worry about the burka in France since only a few hundred people in a country of tens of millions actually wear it. That’s like telling a Black person in the southeastern United States not to worry about the KKK since there are only a few hundred Klansmen. If something is wrong, one shouldn’t ignore it just because the numbers are small, especially since it is easier to correct something when the numbers are small.

    My own view is that since in all countries of the world, the majority determines what everyone can and cannot wear in public, so I see no reason why exceptions should be made for religious reasons. If the majority want to ban the burka, how is that any different from not being able to walk down the high street (or, in many places, even sunbathe in a public park) nude? In both cases, the real reason is that the majority don’t want to see it (and in both cases this feeling is primarily religiously motivated). If one really and truly believes that everyone should have the right to determine what he or she wears, or doesn’t wear, anywhere and at any time, then this must apply to, and be enforced for, everyone, not just those who claim the right in the name of an established religion.

    The real danger is falling for the claim that one should be able to wear the burka in a society where this is not desired because being prevented from doing so violates personal freedom, religious freedom, is discrimination etc and not realizing that such groups want freedom only for themselves. One has to but look at societies where the burka is not just allowed but also required to see how other groups (those of other or no religion, LGBT people, those of different political persuasion etc) are treated—assuming that they are not killed outright, as is often the case. I see no reason that the same would not happen in a society which has a more enlightened tradition and, indeed, it is already the de-facto state of affairs in many regions, where self-styled religious police enforce Sharia law and the real police turn a blind eye.

    • I don’t know about other countries – but in the UK you’re allowed to walk down the street nude, and you’re allowed to wear a burka. I think trampling on either of these freedoms without good reason would be terrible, and I hope the EU rules that there’s no good reason for France to make that ban. There doesn’t seem to be one.

      • “in the UK you’re allowed to walk down the street nude”

        I suspect that Steve Gough would disagree with you.

        It doesn’t matter whether it is technically legal if it is not possible in practice. It doesn’t matter if one is arrested for public nudity or for “disturbing the peace” or whatever. If one agrees that it is OK to arrest someone for public nudity if someone files a complaint claiming “distress”, then I see no reason why someone could not be distressed by the sight of a burka and incite the police to arrest the person inside. In both cases, any distress or alarm is purely subjective on the part of the plaintiff. (In the case of public nudity, law enforcement would probably react according to what is perceived to be the wish of the majority of the population. Where is the difference between the majority of the population not wanting public nudity and the majority of the population not wanting burkas in public? At most, the latter is religiously motivated, but I believe that there should be no exceptions to general law for religious reasons.) There are two logical positions: one allows, and enforces, both; or one forbids, and enforces, both. Anything else is hypocrisy.

      • Phillip, I’m not at all clear on what you’re arguing. Are you genuinely saying that you think someone wearing a burka is as genuinely distressing as someone being nude? There’s an element of common sense involved in rulings by judges, particularly on these matters, and I very much doubt that sort of reasoning would fly. Do you?

      • Personally, I do find a burka more distressing than nudity. That’s not the point. As Rosa Luxemburg said, freedom is always the other person’s freedom. The point is that if one values individual freedom, then it shouldn’t be granted only to groups who claim it on religious grounds. If you object to allowing public nudity on grounds of “common sense” (such reasoning was used in the past to outlaw homosexuality and any number of things which, today, most enlightened citizens agree should not be forbidden), which essentially means that that is what the majority think, then you shouldn’t condemn the fact if a majority decides it doesn’t want the burka seen in public.

        Either personal freedom is more important and should be defended even if it disagrees with the majority. (Democracy doesn’t mean that the majority decides everything, but rather than the majority decides if a decision needs to be made. Looking at history, one could almost define progress, at least in some areas, as the realization that certain things should not be decided at all, but left up to individuals.) In such case, wiggle terms such as “common sense” and “community standards” should be avoided. This is what I personally think as best but my observation that this exists in no country with respect to the question of what clothing is allowed/required in public leads me to believe that the time is not ripe for this. (Countries do differ, of course, in the degree to which such things are dictated, but do not differ in kind.) Or one believes that the majority should decide what everyone is allowed/required to wear in public, and thus should accept the fact if the majority decide that they don’t want the burka. No special pleading for special groups. Of course, one is free to try to convince people who think differently, but a basic rule of society should be that the same rules apply to all people. Thus, if my preferred situation is not possible at present, I think allowing the majority to ban the burka if so desired is the lesser evil compared to allowing freedom for groups who have religious reasons, who threaten terrorism if their demands are not met, who have the money to lobby their causes, who bribe politicians or whatever but deny them to other groups. In other words, I think it is hypocritical to say that people should have the right to wear the burka even if the majority doesn’t want it but say that public nudity should be banned due to “common sense” (which is essentially majority thinking).

        “Do what you want” is a defensible position. “The majority decides” is a defensible position. I prefer the first. However, if is not practical, then “the majority decides” is preferable to “the majority decides, except for groups who claim to require special treatment”.

        It wasn’t that long ago that homosexuality was outlawed because of common sense, because it caused distress, because people were offended etc.

      • Alright, that is clearer. I do think the UK is too harsh on public nudity, where completely separate laws are now being used to enforce a societal standard. Fine; I’ll take progress where I can get it, but I can also see sensible reasons you’d want to prevent genuine distress caused by someone wandering around without clothes. I don’t think I need to spell out examples. And that is the principle for that rule – not majority preferences about nudity but about actual harm.

        On the other hand, I can see very little (if any) cause for banning a burka – perhaps with the exception of things like court appearances, where identification or vision of a person’s face is critical (which if I recall is where the UK law has ended up).

        And what I meant by common sense is just that: no judge in the UK is going to accept the public is distressed more so by a burka than by nudity (your personal feelings not withstanding). And given nudity is rarely enough to actually qualify for disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace (whatever the police may say) no judge is going to rule wearing a burka does anything close.

      • Take it from some people who have more experience with this than I have:

    • “Just today, I read that someone has gone to the European Court of Human Rights to protest against the burka ban in France, arguing that it violates personal freedom.”

      The European Court of Human Rights has no ruled that France’s “burka ban” is allowed. No appeal is possible.

  2. Interestingly, most people don’t object to “separate but equal” public toilets. Why not? They are not uncommon in Scandinavia, even in an academic context (at Nordita, for example). On the other hand, public saunas in Scandinavia are usually segregated (unless, unusually, nudity is not allowed), whereas in German- and Dutch-speaking countries, the reverse is true, with almost all public saunas being mixed (with nudity required) and most public toilets segregated.

    (Most defenses of segregated public toilets implicitly assume an exclusively heterosexual population.)

    Is one man’s prejudice another man’s custom?

  3. I am very concerned that you require a ‘man-sized’ box. Do you only anticipate having male guest speakers?

    • telescoper Says:

      I chose that word deliberately, as it seemed to me that the sort of speaker likely to demand audience segregation would have to be a male person.

      • As a public speaker, probably. However, I don’t think there is much difference, statistically, between men and women on any political question. (Of course, some feminists would argue that this is because the women have been brainwashed by the patriarchy, but of course most men could claim the same defense.)

        By the way, someone has put a much larger trunk on Red Square in Moscow.

  4. “I’ll take progress where I can get it, but I can also see sensible reasons you’d want to prevent genuine distress caused by someone wandering around without clothes. I don’t think I need to spell out examples. And that is the principle for that rule – not majority preferences about nudity but about actual harm.”

    What actual harm occurs from public nudity? Note: Someone saying “I am offended” doesn’t count, as this can (and has been) used to outlaw any number of things. (If there is some sort of harm caused by something in addition to public nudity, then regulate that, not the nudity.)

    “On the other hand, I can see very little (if any) cause for banning a burka”

    Most people who want it banned do so because they fear that it undermines values which the majority of society, rightly in my view, accepts. Yes, it is “just a piece of cloth”. However, that’s not the point; the point is the meaning of the symbol. A flag is also just a piece of cloth, but some of them are banned.

    My main objection is that, in practice, what is allowed and not allowed with regard to clothing is determined, directly or indirectly, by the wishes or whims of the majority. I don’t think that is ideal, but granting a religious-based exception is worse.

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