Flat White

What Men’s Sheds and the Gay Games have in common

18 May 2021

1:34 PM

18 May 2021

1:34 PM

Recently, I was one of four female panellists at a Menzies Research Centre event in Melbourne. 

Our discussion point was the Gender Agenda with a focus on women in politics. 

A rowdy mob greeted us at the door. They yelled at us, banged drums and generally wanted us to understand that we were fascists, racists, and phobic of just about everything.  

In truth, we were just a group of people – men and women – who were interested in discussing a contemporary issue.  

It was a great discussion – and we even had a laugh. 

But it made me wonder about who — under Woke convention — can gather together without feeling bad about simply walking into a room. 

Who is allowed to go into certain places or buildings? Who gets certain jobs? What are we allowed to talk about? Or do? 

This is the age of gender ‘equality’ where boardroom balance usurps boardroom outcomes. 

Equality and inclusion are megaphoned in job advertisements – an immediate sign that being good enough for the job may not actually be good enough to get the job. 

Private companies are under pressure to subscribe to the gender equality mantra: some are leading the way down a very winding path.  

Politics is drowning in it and bureaucracies are way, way down that track. 

In Queensland, the Crime and Corruption Commission has revealed that suitable applications from 200 men for entry into the police force were rejected in favour of women whose resumés, and cognitive assessments, would otherwise not have met the requirements.  That they were women was enough. 

The police force in Victoria has been equally prone to such gender led decisions — exposed when six male applicants were rejected for a detective position – despite no female applying. 

The logic would point to a process that abides and prefers, in theory, an inadequately qualified female applicant over what could have been the best six male detectives in Australia. 

The debate is supposed to be one of unity – of togetherness – of not seeing boundaries and definitions.  Yet all it does is highlight those things, especially when inclusivity in reality amounts to exclusion. 

Women’s sport is bearing witness to this. 

The co-founder of Save Women’s Sport, Katherine Deves, last month told Sky New Australia that women and girls are already self-excluding because of the incoming numbers of transgender males opting to play women’s sport. 

The boys are not required to identify as trans and anyone who complains of the trans athlete’s unfair biological sporting advantage, or the discomfort of a male being in the female change rooms, is the one shown the door. 

It’s a bad day when biological women feel they can’t play women’s sport. 

All this comes at a time when investment in women’s sporting facilities is being rolled out at a rapid rate. 

At sporting grounds around the nation, female toilet and change facilities are popping up for the first time. They are being celebrated as overdue investments and vital in the effort to get more girls playing sport. 

The Victorian Government applauds itself for investing ‘more than $150 million to support women’s and girl’s facilities and opportunities on and off the field since 2018’. 

Given the transgender access – one now assumes these female sporting facilities will now be open to men who identify as women. The girls’ moment in the sunshine was indeed brief. 

This is not to say that transgender athletes shouldn’t play sport.  They should. It is one of the best things we can do for improved mental and physical health, fitness, social engagement – and even just for fun. They should simply do it in a forum most appropriate to their biology. 

However, the gender debate has forced us into this space where we question everything.  No one and nothing can escape the access-all-areas equality-swipe-card. 

Who’s next on the list? 

Single-sex schools must surely be watching intently. All-boys and all-girls colleges might be wondering how long they can hold fort.  

Men’s Sheds Australia is advertising for members. 

The ‘sheds’ are heralded as incredible places of warmth, friendship and camaraderie for men. In its own words “The Men’s Shed movement has now become one of the most powerful tools in addressing health and wellbeing…and recognises, and values, the diversity of reasons why men come together to share activities and common interests in the context of a Men’s Shed.” 

The organisation allows women to join but acknowledges this is a decision made locally at club level. In these cases, the sheds are referred to as “Community Sheds”. 

But given much of their funding comes from state government, will they be forced to comply with the gender equity demands? Will funding be questioned or cut for failing to be all-inclusive?  

It seems stupid to ask.  But lots of things seem stupid at the moment. 

There are female-only gyms that similarly recognise the need and benefits of a single-sex space.  

Are traditional clubs in the sights of those who want what they can’t have? 

Should the men who enjoy the space of male-only clubs be getting uncomfortable in their leather seats? Will the girls – of all varieties – be bursting down the doors demanding their place on the couches?  They have demanded before and failed, they may try again. 

Or will the tide turn, and men be demanding access to the women’s Lyceum Club? The Melbourne Lyceum Club started in 1912 as a forum for women interested in ‘the arts, the professions, science, contemporary issues and the pursuit of lifelong learning’. 

Familiar with ‘contemporary issues’ the modern gals might be expecting a knock on their door. 

Or will gay and lesbian clubs be preparing for change? They advertise as places welcoming of all ‘sorts’, but are they?  

Even the original Gay Games. They now include straight and gay athletes, but in their first iteration would they have been forced to accept ‘straight’ athletes under this sort of pressure? Under the new order of equality, the answer would have to be yes, surely? 

I am not arguing this case, but I’m suggesting these debates may be heading our way.  

I argue that individuals should be free to assemble in any format they choose. 

Hippies can gather in trees if they want.  

Men and women are different. They bookend the spectrum of ‘identity’ options. 

There is nothing wrong with difference and celebrating the difference. 

But nor is there anything wrong with men wanting space or sport for men, or women wanting space or sport for women. Gays spaces for gays. Lesbian spaces for lesbians, and so on.  

It can be argued that it is not just a want, but a need. 

It all works. It celebrates individuality.   

It is in appreciating our differences – and our different needs – that we best show our understanding and hopefully some wisdom.  

There is unity when we acknowledge the sum of our parts. 

Beverley McArthur is a Liberal Legislative Councillor for the Western Victoria Region.

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