• Discriminating Discrimination

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    On page 29
    of its 2009–2010
    Undergraduate Catalog
    , Bryn
    Mawr College
    makes the following statement:

    “In conformity
    with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, it is also the policy
    of Bryn Mawr College not to discriminate on the basis of sex in
    its educational programs, activities or employment practices. The
    admission of only women in the Undergraduate College is in conformity
    with a provision of the Act.”

    So, does Bryn
    Mawr College — which does not admit men to its undergraduate programs
    of study — “discriminate on the basis of sex in its educational
    programs”? According to Bryn Mawr College and the U.S. government,
    that would be a “no” (said with a bureaucratically straight face).
    In fact, according to BMC, it is their “policy… not to.” Of course,
    we all know that discriminating on the basis of sex would not only
    be illegal, but immoral, and downright illiberal. So, of course,
    Bryn Mawr College would never discriminate based on sex. That simply
    doesn’t happen at Bryn Mawr.

    Now, I understand
    that such discrimination as a college admitting only one sex or
    the other is legal discrimination according to the definition
    of the law. But to say that Bryn Mawr doesn’t discriminate
    or to say that it is the “policy” of the College “not to” is simply

    In fact, nearly
    every private business, private or public school, and government
    office discriminates based on sex — at least if they have sex-segregated
    restrooms or locker-rooms. It is not uncommon for colleges and universities
    to have sex-segregated dorms. Every individual who is not bisexual
    discriminates on the basis of sex. Any time a business, educational
    institution, or government entity opts to use a sex-based title
    such as Mr., Mrs., Miss, or Ms. — there is discrimination based
    on sex. When the TSA uses only men to do whatever they do to male
    airline passengers, and vice versa, there is sex discrimination.
    And every time women are denied a stand-up urinal there it is —
    discrimination — shining like the glint in the chrome-plated flush
    handle. And what about the poor men whose toilets are bereft of
    sofas? Will this injustice ever stop?

    We all discriminate
    based on sex. We might as well be man (used in a gender-neutral
    way, of course) enough to admit that everyone discriminates based
    on sex, and we do so shamelessly. It is our policy to discriminate
    based on sex because we are hard-wired to do so. And while government
    makes it illegal to do so in some matters, it apparently blesses
    the kind of sex discrimination that is shamelessly practiced by
    Bryn Mawr College (and all other same-sex institutions) — its Newspeak
    denial notwithstanding.

    Only government
    (and their allies in the academy) can look us straight in the eye
    and claim discrimination is not discrimination. Of course, one of
    the definitions of discrimination is “to use good judgment.”

    So maybe there
    is something to such denials after all.

    27, 2010

    Larry Beane [send him mail]
    serves as pastor and teaches junior high Latin and Religion classes
    at Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in Gretna, LA. Visit
    his blog.

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