Have you ever joined a social group in which membership depends first and foremost on your gender?
I have. Many times. And I probably will many more times. There are certain topics of conversation and types of activities I do not feel comfortable sharing with the opposite sex. So I am not totally opposed to gatherings held exclusive to for one gender only.
But I am opposed to excluding the opposite sex from conversations and activities that can be shared without much discomfort on either side. For example, I have difficulty understanding why some sporting venues only grant full membership to men.
Let me come back in a little while to explain myself a little further on what I think is really at stake when gender inequality persists in the sports arena.
(Apologies for taking this long to finish my thoughts…)
Maybe because the sport was traditionally played exclusively by men?
But if women are also playing it nowadays, especially if they have fought to gain the right to play over the course of its history, tradition cannot be a convincing reason not to have them as members with equal right to play.
Maybe because the sport cannot be played at equal level between men and women?
But if it can be resolved by setting separate rules or settings, gender differences cannot be a decisive factor not to include women from consideration for granting full membership.
Maybe because the existing male members, who have the right to vote to change club policies, have never felt the need to give equal rights to women, when they can play in the same venue as their guests?
But if they knew that they are risking appearing as domineering husbands and fathers who want to keep their wives and daughters under their control by not giving them equal rights, outside forces cannot be a bad influence on them to feel the need to change.
I have lately been following closely news on two venues of the same sport consisting exclusively of male members, one in the Western society and another in my homeland. I have no doubt they are top-quality facilities, as they have repeatedly been chosen to host world-renowned competitions. But they have either lost, or are in the brink of losing, their candidacy to host future events because of their choice not to change their policies which grant full membership only to men.
As I scan through the media coverage, I see arguments both for and against their policies. But the general tone seems to be in favour of, or at the very least not against, giving women chance to apply for equal rights as full members. Maybe what is currently being sought after is equal opportunity for women to be granted full membership under the same conditions as men (getting actually accepted will depend on fair evaluation, which I think will surely come into focus in the next step). But what is being questioned is the reputation of these venues – can they change with changing times to continue being top-quality facilities, on and off the field?
But maybe what is at risk is something else on a much grander scale. Maybe it is about, especially with regard to the venue in my homeland, being able as a society to bring about change when times change – we have historically been viewed as top-quality nation, but can we maintain this reputation?
It is true that my culture has traditionally been, and still is to a large extent, male-dominated. Patriarchy is so deep-rooted, it takes much longer for the notion of gender equality to establish its own roots and grow bigger and spread wider than in the West. I hate to admit it, but sadly, there are some who see women’s rights movements as invasion by Western culture and threat to our culture own that have continued for thousands of years. But I actually see them as threat to our culture to continue in thousands of years to come.
Maybe what I think is really at stake is our very existence. I strongly hope that when the time comes for the male members of the venue in question to vote on whether or not to change their policy, they realize that they are not simply making a decision for their own future, they are announcing a verdict on the future of our culture.
As I update this post on March 15, 2017, the venue in the Western society has reached a decision to change its policy to admit women as members as well, and their change seems generally well-received around the world. I would love to see this newly planted seed for gender equality grow its roots towards my homeland… I am all for its invasion!