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Have Men No Right of Free Association?

Why are all-male environments illegal?

By Will Offensicht  |  August 9, 2012

Back in the early 1900's, New York City had a number of establishments which were known as "saloons."  Most of them were places where man gathered after to work to discuss politics, exchange views on sorting events, and do a little discreet drinking.  Women were not welcome.

Over time, women demanded and won the right to patronize saloons.  Mixed drinking led to incidents such as William Kennedy Smith meeting a woman at a "singles bar," taking her home, and being acquitted of a criminal charge of raping her.  Although men have always been able to get together with women for whatever purposes they mutually desired, there were "reduced temptation zones" back when men had the right to gather together with no women around.

During WW II, so many men went off to war that women were urged to get jobs in factories.  As legend has it, "Rosie the Riveter" won the war by producing the planes, ships, tanks, and other implements of mayhem the men needed.

When the men got home after the war, most women quit their jobs, married, and settled down to raise children.  In 1900, 20% of all women worked, but 43% of single women had jobs: most women stopped working when they got married.

By 1950, 12% of mothers worked and 23% of married women worked.  Most people expected a working woman to quit her job when she had children.

Fifty years on, that ethos is dead.  By 2000, 60% of all women had jobs whether single, married, or mothers.

Unintended Consequences

So many women going to work nearly doubled the labor supply.  As Adam Smith's laws of supply and demand dictate, this depressed men's wages such that today, two incomes are needed to provide the same lifestyle that one used to support.

What's more, until the housing crash, the extra family income made it possible to pay more money for houses.  This raised the price of housing so that many women who'd have preferred to remain at home had to go to work to help pay for a place to live.

Doubling the labor support meant that previously entirely-male workplaces absorbed a great many women.  Automobile plants in particular had been bastions of masculine expression, as exemplified by plentiful girly calendars and similarly salacious wall decorations.

Instead of adapting to the culture they found, the newly-empowered female auto workers claimed that male-chosen artwork constituted intolerable sexual harassment.  Over time, the courts agreed.  Artistic expression was banned to individual private lockers and men could be charged for leaving a locker door open and letting their private sexual preferences hang out.

Gaming Turns Serious

The New York Times recently pointed out that the male-dominated world of online gaming can be as hostile to women as the chauvinistic auto plants of old.

Sexism, racism, homophobia and general name-calling are longstanding facts of life in certain corners of online video games.

Having recruited about as many male players as they can, companies that sell games are interested in trying to stamp out almost anything that will keep more women from playing.  Online sites are springing up to where women can complain about the crudities of the gaming world, and money is being raised to "increase awareness."

This is reminiscent of the rise of feminism who labored at "consciousness raising" and accused working men of not wanting to change their favored culture:

“The gaming industry is actually in the process of changing,” Ms. Sarkeesian said. “That’s a really positive thing, but I think there is a small group of male gamers who feel like gaming belongs to them, and are really terrified of that change happening.”

The world of gaming is vast.  Women who don't appreciate the atmosphere on a particular gaming site have no trouble finding more congenial places to play:

Women report greater levels of harassment in more competitive games involving strangers. Some abandon anonymous play for safer communities or “clans” where good behavior is the norm.  [emphasis added]

Assuming that more and more women really want to play computer games, businesses that offer women-friendly environments will prosper.

Is Coercion Appropriate?

Back when auto plants paid far better than most other jobs, there was some justification in forcing them to be more women-friendly.  With the infinite vastness of the Internet, however, there is no such justification for forcing men to allow women into their communities and then forcing them to modify their behavior so that women like being there.  Nothing prevents women from choosing alternate sites where they're comfortable.  If there aren't any, then there's an excellent business opportunity for some enterprising woman to create one and make a fortune.  Isn't that a good thing?

Instead of letting well enough alone, women claim a special right to have women-only places where men aren't welcome but not the reverse, just as blacks insist on their right to black-only neighborhoods or resorts where whites aren't welcome but don't tolerate the existence of the opposite.  Like blacks, women seem to insist on being able to join any male group they choose while continuing to exclude men from their groups.

In Boy Scouts of America et al. v. Dale, 530 U.S. 640 (2000), the US Supreme Court ruled that, as a private organization, the Boy Scouts had the right to exclude homosexuals both from membership and from leadership positions, a result quietly supported by other more politically correct organizations who'd like to be able to exclude people they don't like either.

Any business which seeks to attract more women gamers has the right to police the behavior of its members, of course, but if "freedom of association" means anything, it includes the right of men to associate with like-minded men in creating communities like the saloons of old where women might not feel welcome or might be explicitly excluded.

Is there justification for forcing all men, everywhere, at all times, to be more women-friendly?  Are there truly not enough places where women can play comfortably?  Or is this just another effort by the "thought police" to force everyone into their "politically-correct" mold?