Unreasonable accommodation (rant)

I was listening to the radio today and heard a story about a student who had made a request to a professor not to work with women because it went against his religion: (More details here)

As the article points out, the professor outright refused to accommodate the student, made that clear to him and the student subsequently agreed to do the project without any issues. I’m not going to get into the student’s right to practice his abysmally stupid, offensive and backward religion. He’s lucky enough to live in Canada where most people are at least tolerant with his right to oppress whomever he chooses in the name of spirituality in his free time, and not get persecuted for it, as long as he himself demonstrates (out in society anyway) an equal ability to be tolerant and play nice with the other kids. (I’d argue that he crossed that line, but since he eventually acquiesced, the issue was dropped and I won’t get into it… I mean, I could write an entire essay on how absolutely unacceptable a move that was on the student’s part, and how infuriating to the core it feels, in this day and age, to STILL be debating whether or not women should be in school as contributing members of a classroom and society in general BUT I GUESS I F*CKING DIGRESS).

Anyway, the real kicker in this story is that the university, meanwhile, decided that the professor, who said: “My main concern was that for religious beliefs, we also can justify not interacting with Jews, blacks, gays, you name it. And if this were allowed to go through, then all these other absurd demands could be made.” was not being accommodating to the student and ultimately forced the professor to tell the student that he was not obligated to work with women.

… Uhm, pardon?

An institution for higher education operating in a country governed by the Charter or Rights and Freedoms did what?

Honestly, I’ve been trying to find the right words to express in writing how absolutely insulting to my very existence this is, and I find myself coming up short (probably why that religious kid didn’t want to work in projects with me, I’m so gosh darned stupid when on my bold whims, I foolishly decide leave the kitchen…). I understand and truly believe in the idea of reasonable accommodation. I mean, what’s going on in Quebec right now, with the Charter of Values (which nobody agrees with), is a complete joke.  (Long story short: Our hillbilly government tried to pass a charter where visible religious symbols including hijabs, kippas, turbans and the like, though they MYSTERIOUSLY want to keep the GIANTASS cross up in Parliament, because that has historical value, would be essentially banned from public positions which, in many cases, would result in a LOT of immigrants and minorities losing their jobs. It’s and attempt at neutrality-excused racial cleansing by a party afraid of anyone not white or French in my personal opinion, but anyway.) I believe that reasonable accommodation and tolerance are not only important, but essential in a society of equals.

Under that logic, it might seem like I’m agreeing with the university’s move because reasonable accommodation includes having to deal with requests like this, right? We wouldn’t want to offend the misogynists out there, after all. But where’s the line? And that’s constantly the issue with debates like this… it’s a difficult, mutable landscape. Wikipedia defines “reasonable accommodation” in Canada as: “to refer to the theory that equality rights set out in provincial and federal anti-discrimination laws and in section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms demand that accommodation be made to various minorities”. 

Here’s the problem I have with all of this, York University, and I know it might come as a shocker but : WOMEN AREN’T MINORITIES. There are Jewish women. Christian women. Gay women. Otherwise-abled women. Vertically-challenged women. Transgendered women. We are part of the same goddamned whole. There are different kinds of apples, green ones, red ones, ones that are mixed with pears, big ones, small ones, apples that make sauce, apples that end up in pies… but whether or not the apple has seeds in it or not doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a fucking apple. And so help me, I admit I’m having an issue expressing this, because of the inherent difficulties with  language in dealing with these subtleties (I’m also slightly out of blogging practice), so maybe some commenters can help me but shit, this is ten shades of wrong. And really, I could argue the same about all kinds of minorities too… that we’re all just part of the same whole, but what bothers me about the whole gender (and race) issues is that by and large, it’s a biological function that the student was discriminating against, and the university said: “sure that’s cool bro”. There has to be a balance somewhere, because at some point, what Professor Grayson mentions is true… would a university “accommodate” someone who made a request not to work with black people because his religion forbade it? How come THAT request would seem so ridiculous, and yet patting this student on the back for his desire NOT to work with women isn’t?

Newsflash student guy: You started off life as a hermaphrodite in your MOTHER’S WOMB. (I’m guessing she can’t help you with your projects either, not in public anyway.)

I guess I can’t properly express this, and I’m getting even more frustrated trying to. It’s a deep and searing frustration too, which disturbs me to the very fiber of my being and causes a discomforting rage. That a university would accept such a thing is offensive on levels I can’t even begin to define. So yes: Let him practice his religion, whether you agree with it or not, fair is fair. Let him wear visible symbols of his religion, let him believe what he wants. But grow a spine and disallow requests that clearly throw us back 50 years and send a clear message of Institutionally-backed discrimination. To me, this comes off as an insult to every female professor, graduate and employee ever to set foot in that University. What if the class had been taught by a woman? And frankly, it should be equally as disturbing to men, as it was to Professor Grayson whom I applaud here, because he recognized when the right time and the wrong time was to make such distinctions and accommodations.

In short, I think Joss Whedon said it best: “You either believe that women are people or you don’t. It’s that simple.” . And sadly, there are a lot of folks which still, due to a plethora of reasons, disregard women as people with all the rights and freedoms that entails. But what bothered me most was that a world-renowned University, through supporting such a request, was all too happy to agree.

Unreasonable accommodation (rant)

2 thoughts on “Unreasonable accommodation (rant)

    1. Bran MacFeabhail says:

      And yes, the university shouldn’t have honored this student’s request. He doesn’t have to go to school there. Perhaps a men’s college is a better option for him?

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