For the past 20 years, the Metropolitan Recreation Center in Brooklyn has reserved women-only swimming times at its public pool. Now, the New York Times has the policy in its crosshairs.
It started with an anonymous tip to New York City’s Commission on Human Rights. According to the Commission, someone complained that the pool’s policy was in violation of city discrimination laws because it established swim times for Hasidic Jewish woman who sought to avoid sharing a pool with men for religious reasons.
After the complaint was filed, pool staff began informing women that the exclusive swim times would be eliminated, starting on June 11. An outcry ensued, with the heavily Orthodox community where the pool is located speaking out against the change. As a result of this backlash and pressure from local politicians, the Center then reversed its decision, saying women-only swim would continue while the policy was reviewed.
Responding to the pool’s reversal, the Times penned a harsh editorial lamenting the policy as an establishment of religion: “A public swimming pool…in Brooklyn will be temporarily unmoored from the laws of New York City and the Constitution, and commonly held principles of fairness and equal access.”
The argument that a women-only swim policy is an establishment of Orthodox Judaism because Jewish women comprise most of the users is as ridiculous as saying that a local little-league team establishes Catholicism if most players are Catholic. Cities across the country have reserved women-only swim time in public pools, and women from all religious or non-religious backgrounds can and do take advantage of them. It’s not as if non-Jewish women can’t use the Metropolitan Recreation Center pools during the reserved times.
And the Times’ argument that the policy is also more generally discriminatory is overblown as well. Women-only, children-only, adults-only, and even adults-with-children-only policies are in place in public accommodations throughout the country, including parks and pools. Though maybe I should hope the Times doesn’t catch wind of them; I can see the headlines now: “Skate Rink for Children Only, Adults Outraged,” “Park Reserved for Parents and Children, Childless Adults Mobilize,” or maybe “Swimming Pool to Be Reserved for Sensible People, NYT Editorial Board Feels Left Out.”
But jokes aside, the simplest solution to this (very small) issue is to establish men-only swim times at the Center to provide a reasonable alternative. This way, men and women can swim, or not, with any gender they would like.