Save Single-Sex Spaces

Save Single-Sex Spaces. By Helen Andrews.

We’ve learned a lot in the [last] four decades …. Among other things, we have learned that abolishing single-sex institutions has been far more costly to society than anyone in the 1970s predicted.

People underestimate just how much of American life used to be sex-segregated. The average suburban dad in the 1960s would have spent much of his free time in all-male organizations, from the Rotarians to his local golf or tennis club. Mom’s church committees were usually all-female in practice if not officially, as was the PTA.

That began to change in the 1970s and ’80s as feminists launched lawsuits to force institutions across America to go co-ed. The Rotary Club took its case all the way to the Supreme Court, where it lost in 1987. The Elks agreed to admit women in a settlement with the ACLU in 1995.

The rationale behind these lawsuits had to do with networking. It was all well and good for women to be hired by big corporations, feminists said, but they would be held back in their career advancement if they could not join in off-hours schmoozing. …

Most anti-discrimination statutes permit exceptions in cases where it can be shown that excluding women is directly relevant to an organization’s purpose. However, these exceptions fail to recognize that single-sex spaces are a good in themselves.

In the Boys’ Club of Santa Cruz case, for example, the court ruled that keeping out girls had no relevance to the club’s purpose of providing recreation. But boys flourish in the company of other boys in ways that the presence of girls inhibits — this is perhaps especially true of the kind of boy otherwise at risk of becoming a juvenile delinquent. Men form deeper friendships in all-male groups, which may be why civil society organizations like the Rotarians that were legally compelled to go co-ed in the 1980s have gotten weaker ever since.

Feminists sneer that if there are jokes men were planning to tell at the club that they can’t say around their female colleagues, then maybe they shouldn’t be telling those jokes in the first place. This misses the point of single-sex spaces, which is not about off-color jokes but about basic principles of group dynamics.

It so happens that these differences have been studied extensively by (brave) psychologists and anthropologists, but we do not need experts to tell us what is obvious: Just as men are different from women, groups of men are different from groups of women. They operate by different rules and have different strengths and weaknesses. They vary in competitiveness, in whether decisionmaking is egalitarian and consensus-driven or hierarchical, in what kinds of conformity are enforced and how.

Good old feminists and leftists wrecked another useful part of western culture, that evolved over centuries. Gone.