It’s sad and ironic: Hundreds of progressive women are preparing for the third annual Women’s March, but meanwhile, the progressive movement is seeking to eliminate female-only spaces in society that offer myriad benefits to women.
This effort is rooted in the left’s misunderstanding of the sexes and will ultimately reveal a deeper conflict: You can’t be pro-woman if you deny that womankind is distinct.
The Assault on Women-Only Spaces
Here are two troubling developments. The Anchorage Equal Rights Commission is investigating a women’s homeless shelter for turning away a man, threatening to force the shelter to close. Homeless women, particularly those who have been victims of abuse, deserve to have women-only spaces where they can feel safe.
Harvard University, after attempting to sanction students for participating in single-sex groups and clubs, is involved in litigation with sororities challenging the rule. This wrongheaded university policy ignores the important ways that students, especially women, benefit from and feel empowered by single-sex organizations.
The Harvard policy is so overreaching, even applying to students when they are off-campus, that it raises the question: Could Harvard women face sanctions for participating in the overwhelmingly female women’s march? See the conflict here?
Obviously, although female-only spaces are helpful and desirable to women in some situations, this is not to say that all of society should be segregated by sex. Women and men can––and do––work together in our homes, communities, and workplaces. But we should also have the freedom to associate and organize in single-sex groups.
The elimination of women-only spaces might seem like an innocuous effort to include men or transgender people, but it’s ultimately rooted in the left’s view that women and men are not or should not be different in any way. After all, they came first for the male-only groups, like the Boy Scouts (now just “Scouts”). Perhaps the assault on women-only spaces was just the logical next step in the left’s effort to erase or cover up sex differences.
Thankfully, Women and Men Aren’t the Same
Behind these efforts is a confusion of equality with sameness. This is evident in the never-ending and misguided quest for gender parity in all things. While we should all welcome equal opportunity for women and men in all aspects of life, we should also recognize that, due to sex differences, men and women will often make different choices that result in different outcomes.
The wage gap is a classic example. Women earn less than men do on average, primarily because of choices. Other examples, such as a disparity in bicycle riding and pot smoking, range from interesting to ridiculous, but still don’t represent gaps in need of closing. Inevitably, closing all gender gaps would mean urging (or requiring) women to act more like men, and vice versa, rather than allowing the freedom to be feminine or to follow one’s individual preferences, whatever they may be.
Folks on the left might admit that women make different choices, but they often couch this admission in language about “gendered expectations” or the different socialization of girls and boys. While of course it’s true that our society (and every society in history) treats girls and boys differently, it’s also true that much of our differences as men and women are hardwired. It’s actually sexism of a different strain to essentially suggest that women are all brainwashed into making what the left considers inferior choices.
Physically, men may have a natural advantage over women, but this is not to say that all natural differences between the sexes offer men the upper hand. Women, on average, have higher social and emotional intelligence, are less violent and aggressive, and live longer than men. Rather than try to ignore or hide these characteristics, we should celebrate sex differences as another form of diversity.
How Not to Fight for Women’s Rights
It’s understandable that today’s political environment would make many women feel discouraged, alienated, and frustrated. Powerful leaders in both parties have been involved in sexual misconduct and have made lewd comments about women. We should respond to this and stand up for women, but in order to do so, we must recognize that women are a distinct group deserving of certain considerations and yes, even legal protections.
Today’s political left has trouble doing this. No doubt, many of the women lacing up their marching shoes for this weekend’s demonstration would support the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which does not mention “women” but would instead erase all legal distinctions between the sexes. This is in keeping with the flawed ideology that suggests women and men are the same.
This ideology will necessarily hurt women. For example, feminist supporters of the ERA should ask themselves: Would it really be a victory for women to be forced to enroll in the draft?
We shouldn’t strive for men and women to be the same, and we shouldn’t allow women-only groups (or men-only groups, for that matter) to become casualties of the left’s cultural confusion. Women and men can be equally valuable members of society without being stripped of the sex differences that make us distinct. A truly pro-woman movement would celebrate womanhood rather than seek to erase it.