by Maya Forstater
Tuesday, 19
July 2022
Analysis
07:00

Going ‘gender neutral’ is not inclusive

A bombshell report lays out why single-sex services matter
by Maya Forstater
97% of respondents said single-sex spaces were important to them.

“What is a woman?” is not just a gotcha for politicians but a practical question for those providing services to the public. Increasingly venues, schools and offices are switching to “gender neutral” (mixed sex) facilities, or to “gender inclusive” rules (go where you like), either out of a fashionable conviction that this is the way of the future, or to avoid rows between those who insist gender is fluid and those who say sex is what matters.

Sex Matters undertook a survey to find out how people feel. The response was astonishing. In a little over a week we received over 7,000 replies, 9 out of 10 of them from women. Many included details about how the loss of everyday single-sex spaces was affecting their life.

It includes the voices of hundreds of people spelling out what ought to be obvious: “changing, showering and using the toilet are things that happen in private. Most people don’t want to do any of those things in front of anyone, even people we know, let alone an unknown member of the opposite sex.” 98% of respondents agreed with this statement while 97% agreed that single-sex spaces are important.

Most of all the report sets out the impacts on women. As one of many said: “I recently went to a gig. No female toilets – only male and gender neutral. I am not someone who usually gets scared, I walk home at night by myself comfortably. But this was actually a scary experience, alone in the toilets with a drunk man. I was scared and did not use the toilets for the remainder of the gig.”

A surprising number of respondents to our survey wrote of unisex washrooms with urinals. Many women wrote about awkward, unpleasant, embarrassing and frightening experiences. But most of all they wrote about being excluded. A phrase that came up time and time again was “I didn’t go back”. Women wrote about stopping swimming or the gym, avoiding certain pubs, cafes and venues as well as changing their running routes. Parents wrote about their daughters avoiding drinking water at school. Office workers wrote about having to traipse to a different floor to find privacy from cross-dressing “non-binary” colleagues.

Many politicians say they support single-sex services but they quickly jump to the specialist and controlled domains of women’s refuges and rape crisis centres, as if women who have been raped are not sitting beside you at work and in the pub. The loss of everyday single sex spaces and erosion of clear rules makes every part of public life feel like a dark alley. It is the opposite of inclusion.

Sex Matters’ report calls for the human rights watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission to produce clear, simple, statutory guidance for all kinds of services. The rules about who can enter a female or male only space need to be simple enough to communicate to drunk people under strobe lighting and loud music. The question about whether businesses should provide single-sex facilities in the first place should be simple enough to explain to management who are terrified of conflict with young staff, but want to appear fashionable. Yes, it’s obvious and basic. Ask your mum.

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Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
2 months ago

Regarding the anecdote from a woman going to a gig, if a venue only has the ability to provide two sets of toilets, it seems bizarre that they’d opt for male and mixed. One female, one mixed, seems more reasonable.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
2 months ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Depends on the cleanliness 😀

Nick Beard
Nick Beard
2 months ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

You think males who wish they were female are also entitled to cleaner bathrooms?

R S Foster
R S Foster
2 months ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

…the purpose of the exercise is to allow rather peculiar male-bodied people to demand access to Women’s spaces…completely defeated if they are required to run the risk of dealing with other men, whilst being a bloke called Trevor in a frock. Strikes me as an odd mixture of cowardice and sadistic misogynist bullying…wholly defeats me why anybody think this should be taken seriously as a cause, much less widely taken up in “progressive” circles…

Ulrike Bullerby
Ulrike Bullerby
2 months ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

It’s become quite common: initially they may have set out making all toilets mixed sex but then they find that the facilities with urinals really aren’t suited for repurposing at all. So they stick the men-label back on to that door while keeping the former women’s toilet ‘unisex’.
Infuriating – just like the rest of this war on women.

Beverley S
Beverley S
2 months ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

It is very common. They have male and female toilets but want to turn one into mixed sex/gender neutral. The Ladies has only cubicles, the Gents has urinals and, generally, fewer cubicles. So they turn the Ladies into the gender neutral.

Margaret Gohn
Margaret Gohn
2 months ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

I found myself in that situation. And I also avoided going to that venue in the future. So the result is that women are being excluded.
It seems to me that trans activists are enforcing the punishment onto women that trans people used to face. Exclusion. (Except for those women willing to share private spaces with unknown – drunk – men).

Graeme Kemp
Graeme Kemp
2 months ago

This really does explain (yet again) the madness gripping society. Articles like this deserve to be more widely known and shared. As previously suggested by Sex Matters, this needs to be a ballot box issue. End the ideological madness !

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 months ago

The majority favours secure borders, law and order, at least a token attempt at sound money, nuclear power and many other rational things. But always and everywhere we are destined to be governed by a malicious and incompetent minority.
Plus ca changing rooms, as one might say with regard to this particular issue.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
2 months ago

Maya, I am one of your supporters and I do think single sex spaces are important, however your “bombshell report” seems meaningless to me.
From what I read (and it wasn’t easy to access; I had to click and click and click and in the end I had to get the full report) this was simply on online survey. Couldn’t find where and how it was carried out – is it Twitter survey perhaps? – but very likely it would have been within your “bubble”. In that case it doesn’t matter what the question was, it would have always received an overwhelming positive response. By the same token, if you had asked the same question elsewhere (pink news readers, perhaps), the response would have been wildly different.
Such surveys are just a bit of fun and do not inform in any way. Let us not pretend they do, you are better than that, and, most importantly, you *know* that.

Last edited 2 months ago by Andrea X
Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 months ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

Agree. That was my thought and I was disappointed when I saw the survey is what we might call anecdotal rather than scientific. This is important because the issue needs to be taken seriously by those who can effect change.

Last edited 2 months ago by Judy Englander
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 months ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

Yes, to counteract propaganda you need to present bulletproof evidence.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Which is easily obtainable.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
2 months ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

Really? How? Please share your wisdom…

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Why should we have to resort to expensive studies to refute something as patently ridiculous as trying to make it illegal to have single sex showers? No study is needed, only a bare minimum of common sense and a willingness to ask the simple question: “are you off your bloody rockers?”

Last edited 2 months ago by Brian Villanueva
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 months ago

By bulletproof evidence I had in mind something better than a survey that suffered the defects outlined by Arkadian X.

Beth Vaughan
Beth Vaughan
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

In this evidence is anecdotal. Do you expect the surveyor to sit in a gender neutral toilet and pounce on anyone entering waving a clip board.
And since when is women stating men in their single sex spaces make them uncomfortable, propaganda?

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 months ago
Reply to  Beth Vaughan

The propaganda I referred to was the propaganda that women would and should be fine sharing toilets and showers with men. The exact opposite of what you seemed to think.

Mathieu Bernard
Mathieu Bernard
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Nah. Facts, evidence, reason and common sense are all the “master’s tools” to maintain the existing social superstructure and it’s latent systemic oppressions.

John Tyler
John Tyler
2 months ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

Agreed! Fight irrational arguments with rational ones; discredit selfish, socially-destructive philosophies with respectful, socially-constructive ones; and and destroy unscientific twaddle with scientific evidence. Maya’s sentiments may be fine, but this “report” is unworthy of any attention.

Warren T
Warren T
2 months ago
Reply to  John Tyler

I agree with you, but in today’s world it would like taking a knife to a gun fight.

D Day
D Day
2 months ago
Reply to  Warren T

Better than taking a water pistol. If you treat the findings of self-selecting online questionnaires as “bombshell reports” then you join in with the opposition’s game of “my pseudo-science is -just as valid as real science because I feel it to be so.” You undermine your credibility and that doesn’t help the cause.

Raymond Inauen
Raymond Inauen
2 months ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

If you’ve seen the movie “Starship Troopers,” you know the famous scene with the shower where both sexes wash after a day of training. The movie hit theaters in 1997, and since then this idea of shared private spaces has become increasingly popular with younger audiences, with no real resistance. It seems crazy, but when you grow up in this new reality, it all becomes natural. That this film was provocative at the time is a topic in itself, but look at where we are today.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
2 months ago
Reply to  Raymond Inauen

I have re-watched it recently and remember thinking on the same lines.

Nick Beard
Nick Beard
2 months ago
Reply to  Raymond Inauen

Great – so until everyone is comfortable, we should have female-only spaces and mixed-sex spaces.

Beth Vaughan
Beth Vaughan
2 months ago
Reply to  Raymond Inauen

What the movie doesn’t show is how many female forces staff are raped, sexually assaulted and harassed in real life. Male sexual violence is a serious issue in the forces. In real life at least 2 women in that scene would be attacked later that night by one or more or a gang of the men.

Warren T
Warren T
2 months ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

This is the definition of “click bait” and we all fall for it. That’s the sole purpose of media today, gaining eyeballs.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
2 months ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

Not a bit of fun but a serious attempt to find out what people think of women’s spaces being given over to men, wholesale. I am in “the network” but I shared the link with friends and colleagues who are not. Ordinary women who have an opinion but nobody has listened to them before now. My dad got involved as he has 2 daughters and 4 granddaughters and worries that these policies will have a negative impacts on our lives.
Surveys like this do inform. Surveys like this are important in research terms as they reach people that may not take part in face to face research. Don’t know your background, but as a researcher with 40 years experience of working with people and looking at “lived experience”, these surveys are an excellent way of gathering information and evidence of what is happening to ordinary people, in this case, women and their supporters.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 months ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

Another red flag from the “study” is this: “Almost half the women who responded had experienced sexual assault in their lifetime.” The only way this could be true in any Western population is to define “sexual assault” in such broad terms as to be meaningless (being whistled at as you pass a construction site in a miniskirt and heels ay be annoying but it isn’t a sexual assault.).

While the stat may be true of their survey, it illustrates how non-representative of the general population their universe actually was.

Last edited 2 months ago by Brian Villanueva
MJ Reid
MJ Reid
2 months ago

Yet another man who knows what women mean by sexual assault. You think that being whistled at and jeered by men is a good thing? What we mean by sexual, assault, for the uneducated, is flashing, unwanted touching, groping, unwanted kissing. Doesn’t just happen in the pub/clubs, but on public transport, in the street and often, unfortunately, in our own homes. Maybe ask the women you know, if you know any….

Simon Tavanyar
Simon Tavanyar
2 months ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

This is one of those debates (“why do women need single-sex spaces?”) which absolutely doesn’t need a scientific study. Anyone over the age of 10 knows why, darn well. And I can only imagine the mystification in our grandchildren in 20 years time who will ask, “Grandma, what did you say when they told you a man can be a woman if he wants?”

Ulrike Bullerby
Ulrike Bullerby
2 months ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

I think you misunderstood the nature and purpose of this poll: it’s not about percentages but about reasons.
Like Helen Joyce said recently: single sex spaces and services are a human rights issue, not something that a majority (even if there was a majority in favour of giving them up which there isn’t) can give away for the rest of us.
This survey was undertaken to understand and illuminate WHY single sex services are so important, not how many people they are or aren’t important to.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
2 months ago

Reading this article you don’t really get that impression, do you. You need to click and click and read the rather heavy going report. It shouldn’t have been presented as a “bombshell report”, but at least they changed the headline which read “Overwhelming majority favour single sex spaces” which is clearly misleading.

Beverley Siddle
Beverley Siddle
2 months ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

It is stated clearly that “The voices we heard are not representative of the population, but they do capture in detail the practical, emotional and safety reasons why single-sex services matter to those who responded”.
That does NOT mean that this was “a bit of fun”. Why would you want to dismiss the opinions of over 7,000 women who took the trouble to respond because this is clearly an issue for them? Do their opinions not count just because the readers of Pink News might have a different view?

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
2 months ago

But that’s fine. You say you have collected a number of anecdotes and you wish to present them (but one could easily produce something similar with opposing views).
The issue is that with the previous headline this was presented as a some kind of serious research study. Even now the article reads:
“Sex Matters undertook a *survey* to find out how people feel. The response was astonishing. In a little over a week we received over 7,000 replies, 9 out of 10 of them from women.”
I don’t think this is even a survey because the people surveyed are self selected. As I said, had you run such a “survey” on pink news you would have had opposite results. This is not a study, nor a survey, but a twitter straw poll, if you like, so you are not really allowed to draw any conclusion. Most certainly this is not a “A bombshell report” and Maya knows this full well. I really do not understand why she didn’t present it for what it was.
The old headline, visible when I first commented, read “Overwhelming majority favour single sex spaces” and that is very misleading.

Last edited 2 months ago by Andrea X
Helena Wojtczak
Helena Wojtczak
2 months ago

To those who dismiss “anecdotal evidence”: point me to a campaign among ordinary members of the population in which they tried to get toilets/changing rooms/prisons/sports etc mixed sex? They never have. Almost everyone does not want this and we should stop letting 0.5% impose upon the other 99.5%.

Max Price
Max Price
2 months ago

I wonder how many trans men will be chomping at the bit to go to a men’s jail if sentenced.

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago

Dogs chase firetrucks. Thank God they never catch them.
If they did, they’d be facing essentially this same dilemma.
If you begin by insisting there is no difference between men & women…if you double-down by condemning, with sneer & smirk, such thinking as retrograde ‘biological essentialism’….if you’re convinced that ‘gender’ (whatever that is) is purely a social construct… well then, you’re well on your way to catching that firetruck.
And, having caught it, Abracadabra! You’re faced with the problem of what to do with it…what do you do when the world says, ‘OK, there is no difference and we’re all using the same locker room….what to do when the Maintenance Crew begins installing urinals in what-used-to-be Women’s Restrooms and tampon-dispensers in what-used-to-be Men’s.
That’s cool isn’t it? Or at least Righteous and definitely Woke?!
Women become ‘Birthing People’ and ‘Chest Feeders’. I mean how better to distinguish them from the non-birthers and non-feeders (otherwise know as biologically essential men)?
So now what? When 90% of all responding ‘birthing people’ say this is Blanking Ridiculous….what then?
Well, how ’bout Stop chasing what you don’t actually want. Stop insisting that we’re all identical because we’re not. We never have been. We are two sexes, male & female, and both require same-sex privacy for any numbers of intimate/personal matters which do not need sharing.
My mother, my wife, my daughter — none of them wants men pretending to be women rubbing elbows (and various other whatnot) in the Ladies Room. How could this possibly be surprising?
Long past time we wake-up from being Woke!

Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
2 months ago

I don’t think it’s astonishing in the slightest.

Warren T
Warren T
2 months ago

“98% of respondents agreed with this statement while 97% agreed that single-sex spaces are important.”
It looks like the legacy and social media have some more work to do!

Will Cummings
Will Cummings
2 months ago

It’s all just a variant on, “How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?” A woman is only a woman if the party says so.

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
2 months ago

Comments on the Prof. Kathleen Stock article appear to be blocked/ deleted.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
2 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

I think it is the sodding blank moderation that sometimes plagues this site. Based on previous experiences your comment should appear shortly.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 months ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

Yes, moderation tends to spring into life around 9.00 pm. I don’t know what is moderated out but Kathleen Stock’s articles seem to attract nothing but supportive and appreciative comment and I am sure the occasional mad activist wanting to abuse Kathleen can be easily filtered out via the report button. I don’t see the need for blanket moderation on Kathleen’s articles. Although I am happy to be advised otherwise by Unherd but normally they maintain omertà on the subject of moderation.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I believe it is automatic. No grand design as such. Perhaps they want to be in the office to make sure nothing untoward has been published.

Lillian Fry
Lillian Fry
2 months ago

While traveling recently across the US I stopped at a highway rest stop to use the bathroom. When I exited the stall, there was a guy in there washing his hands. Full beard, and dressed like a man. He didn’t bother anyone – there was one other woman in the bathroom – but no one said anything. It was an unattended rest stop so no one to complain to. I wonder if there will be more of this in a “why not try it?” Kind of way as women’s right to privacy declines.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
2 months ago

definition of a sex change ” Snip, Snip…. and… Bob’s yer’ Auntie”….

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
2 months ago

Huh, has the title been changed? I think so… Better than the previous one as this one is not too grating.
Change the subheadline too in order to remove “bombshell”.

William Shaw
William Shaw
2 months ago

“we received over 7,000 replies, 9 out of 10 of them from women”
Clearly the results are not unbiased. Plus the respondents were self selected, an additional factor invalidating the result. A response such as this only tells us who feels most passionately about the question posed; and it only tells us the views of a little over half of the population.

Last edited 2 months ago by William Shaw