Yup, that’s the law in California–or or at least the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing says it is. Wendy McElroy of ifeminists reports on the department’s recently filed lawsuit against Body Central, a Santa Rosa fitness outfit that has hitherto catered strictly to women, on the theory that most gals over age 30 would rather not display to the opposite sex those abs they’re trying to shape up. Body Central’s philosophy is:
“We specialize in fitness for women, with a women only policy you get the privacy of the entire gym.”
Privacy, schmivacy, says the state agency, which is backing the claim of one Philip Kottle that he has a “right” under California’s anti-discrimination law to be a member of the women-only gym. Body Central has been dickering with the agency for two years trying to work out a compromise that would, while allowing men into some women’s classes, avoid the expense of building them a separate locker room. Wendy writes:
“The owner may have gambled on the possibility that California would ultimately ignore a cause as unpopular as a man forcing his way into a woman’s gym. After all, the cost of compliance is high. Body Central’s equipment and facilities are geared exclusively for women’s specific needs, and other gyms have gone bankrupt under the financial strain of expanding to accommodate both sexes. If so, the gamble lost. A “status conference” on the DFEH lawsuit is set to be heard in April before the Superior Court.
“The facts may be clear but the appropriateness of involving law in the customer policies of a private business is in dispute.
“An ideological conflict underlies the attempt by either sex to force open the doors of ‘exclusive’ businesses: individual rights versus egalitarianism. Under individual rights, every human being has control over the peaceful use of his or her own body and property. Under egalitarianism, access to and use of property is equally distributed across society, with or without the consent of owners….
“In terms of Body Central, I don’t believe any man or woman has a legal ‘right’ to exercise on someone else’s private property. I do not believe anyone has a moral obligation to provide another person with exercise. Freedom of association means that individuals, including property owners, have a right to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ at their own front door.”
Unfortunately, California law seems to be on the side of Kottle’s right to barge into a women’s fitness center no matter what the owners or members might think. The state’s courts ruled a decade ago that men-only golf clubs violate the state’s anti-discrimination law.