Gender Segregation and The Fall Out From Rational Association Article

I have mentioned in the past the concern about how blocking Muslim immigration, under the guise of concern about Islam, tries to hijack and use criticism of religion. The usual way to spot this is when secular issues are only ever raised when Islam is mentioned. Such is how the extreme right operate.

With the Equality Commission and David Cameron telling University UK (UUK) their advice on gender segregation at a public meeting misunderstood the weight of free speech at the expense of gender equality, the UUK pulled guidelines  as it reviews advice. Protestors outside University UK headquarters could feel their protest had been worthwhile.

Then the Rational Association (RA) printed an article by Priyamvada Gopal:

    “The right may have hijacked the issue of gender segregation but thats no reason to ignore it”

Her distortion left a bad taste in the mouth of the protestors and organisers who had led the campaign and written against gender segregation. Priyamvada’s piece starts as a critique of “Student Rights” pressure group. On their website Student Rights had themselves praised the campaigners for tackling the gender segregation issue:

Finally, congratulations to all those involved in this campaign, including:

One Law for All; Southall Black Sisters; Left Foot Forward; the Lawyers’ Secular Society; the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies; LSE Atheist, Secularist, and Humanist Society; the National Secular Society; the Peter Tatchell Foundation; the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain; British Muslims for Secular Democracy and many, many, others. [Student Rights]

The above groups mentioned are most definitely not right wing organisations – hence the twitter storm that followed. It also belied how Student Rights themselves view their place in the campaign, having earlier said of the rally outside UUK HQ – which they participated in:

It is continuing campaigns by the broad church of activists and campaigners from across the political spectrum that rallied last night which will keep this issue in the public eye until then.

As Chris Moos said last night on ending the protest, this was not the end of a rally, but the beginning of a campaign; one which Student Rights is firmly behind. [Student Rights]

Never was a high jacking done so politely putting other organisations and people at the front and centre.

Priyamvada suggested people learn to read when responding to the twitter storm that followed; good advice for all to follow. Because her piece was suggesting the campaign was led and hijacked by Student Rights. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It was suggested that she and the Rational Association may want to change the title.


Duly the title was changed to:

    “Even if you’re suspicious of the campaign against gender segregation in universities, that’s no reason to keep silent”

The right wing connotation to high jacking the protest gender segregation finally was removed.

Priyamvada linked in the above tweet to Gavan Titley’s defence of her to demonstrate the point of both her article and the issue detractors were missing. This was not helped by Gavin saying that she was “untainted by support for imperial slaughter” and that universal principles for critics “does not hang in a locket around their necks, nestling in their chest hairs, next to the scapula of Hitchens.”

This was a reference to the Henry Jackson Society mentioned in the RA article:

I want to raise this because of the deft way in which Student Rights, an offshoot of the bullishly paternalist Euro-American think tank, the Henry Jackson Society, has managed to bring ‘gender segregation’ at some campus events to national attention despite evidence that events in which the audience is so segregated are not numerous.

There is an irony that James Bloodworth, who was criticising Priyamvada’s article neglecting others involved in the protest/general campaign and the piece’s title, is linked to on the Henry Jackson Society where he calls them illiberal.

The thing is that universal principles of human rights are not exclusive to the west or muscular liberalism. The problem is when cultural relativism sees as acceptable for human rights to be denied. It is disingenuous framing people standing up for universal principles as for military “imperial slaughter”, or to do so playing a race card where white people who know best tell former colonies what to do. [Neither of these points suggest gender equality can take a back or side seat; let alone that humanitarian interventionists are incapable of making a rational gender equality argument.]

Titley’s rebuttal goes on:

Focusing on the SR campaign – which is mentioned three times in clearly circumscribed ways – as the main driver of significant national coverage is entirely consistent with a reading of the media coverage over the last ten days (other organisations were name-checked and quoted in relation to the debate, certainly, but a scan would clearly show the centrality of SR to media framing).

What is not mentioned is the context that Student Rights may have been quoted, which was usually to do with research they had carried out:

The anti-extremism group Student Rights has conducted research that shows radical preachers spoke at 180 events at universities including Cardiff and University College London between March 2012 and March 2013. Gender segregation was either promoted or implied at more than a quarter of the events, at 21 separate institutions. [Daily Telegraph]

Is Priyamvada really suggesting an average of one event a week where gender segregation is promoted at 21 institutions is not “numerous”, but neglecting the impact that UUK guidelines may have had by suggesting this could be facilitated widely whatever notions of gender equality might hold in the UK? Hence the outcry to her piece together with not acknowledging the real people and organisations behind the campaign. [EDIT: it transpires she was unaware of the protest at the UUK HQ and the leaders of it]

So her other points were lost, because of her determination to do a hatchet job on Student Rights and ad hom to critics.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

Follow @JPSargeant78

My Huffington Post Blog



Filed under British Society, secular

3 responses to “Gender Segregation and The Fall Out From Rational Association Article

  1. Dave

    I think the main point of her article was a sound one, but there were some unfortunate matters of detail. She linked to a c4 news article about the demo, making the false assumption about the role of SR / hjs with it. So group 1 noticed and took umbrage with being conflated with group 2, and it turns out she knew nothing of group 1. The other main thing that led to dispute was the ambiguity about who specifically she was criticising beyond Sr and hjs. I think I know the kind of sentiments she means (as Alex Gabriel detailed on his blog), though I can’t think of more than one or two examples in the press that I saw. Some quotes would have helped. Oh well, these things happen.

  2. Dave

    I saw that people who demonstrated were also on the news (Maryam Namazie and the head of Southall Black Sisters) and quoted in newspapers (Maryam and Chris Moos of LSE) and maybe others, and these guys were also behind the petition, I believe, and wrote articles. So I hope Priyamvada eventually takes note that it was more than just a small demo – they had a much bigger role than Student Rights.

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