Exclusion on any basis tends to annoy me. Always has. The exclusive nature of apartheid in South Africa was probably one of the things that taught me that exclusion was a bad thing. After all everyone was saying how bad it was, and South Africa was a pariah among “western” nations… so clearly excluding people on the basis of skin colour was a bad thing. This much I figured out.
I also wasn’t a fan of unfairness which wasn’t quite exclusion, but was almost. Someone being treated unfairly because of a real or perceived difference by someone else. A beautiful, intelligent and patient Aboriginal girl at my primary school was made to repeat Grade 3 (after finishing Grade 6) because the school did not know what to do with her. Suddenly an 11 year old girl was placed with the 8 year olds. When I spoke to her about it, she said that she would transfer to Yirarra and finish her education there as soon as she could. In a typical 8 year old fashion, I never chased it up nor do I remember if she eventually did.
My parents, well more my mother, was big on fairness, non-discriminatory behaviour and treating people equally regardless of who they were and where they were from. The missionary inspired teachers that taught me in Alice Springs were also big on social justice, and the nuns and brothers of the Sacred Heart in Alice Springs were also big on social justice.
One good thing about my Catholic upbringing, was generally the ability to discuss social justice issues and talk about fairness and justice in general. Certainly more useful in my primary school in Alice Springs versus my secondary schooling in Bendigo.
My mother, in Alice Springs, taught Aboriginal students in the Aboriginal Unit of my Catholic Primary School. She thought that it was exclusionary for those students who had good attendance and who did not need the extra support that the Aboriginal Unit was developed to provide to be kept away from the mainstream educational system. She fought for those students to be included in mainstream schooling and only for those who needed extra support and attention to be in her unit. She had the support of the Parish Priest, but outraged those social conservatives who thought they knew best about what these students needed, and lets face it who were probably consciously or unconsciously racist, to be kept in the Aboriginal Unit. So outraged were they, they started a smear campaign against my mother and the Catholic Priest, suggesting that they were having an affair and were horrible to me and my sisters. Thankfully we left town for unrelated reasons just as this started to get really nasty.
So why this blog post… well I’ve had some interesting conversations with people about exclusion recently, and read some interesting articles about exclusive clubs and the Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission’s thoughts on exclusion for clubs. It has been suggested by the Government I believe that exclusions granted to clubs and institutions to discriminate on the basis of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and the like may actually not be in line with Victoria’s Human Rights Charter.
Of course religious groups have complained that the state is interfering with their religious freedom by not letting them discriminate and exclude people whose lifestyles and/or beliefs are not in line with their religions, and Men’s clubs in Melbourne are also under attack. Both of these, of course break my heart and bring tears to my eyes… not.
You see… I’ve rethought exclusion. I have a problem when a powerful group excludes a powerless, or less powerful group…. though there are caveats here. So when white Afrikaans in South Africa excluded all black people… they were a powerful minority, the same goes for Sunnis in Bahrain excluding the Shia in Bahrain. Its not about the size of the group, just the power that they possess. So a Men’s club in Melbourne being under threat by a change of law? Yippee! Force them to live in the modern day and age… and deal with some diversity – because I’d suspect that they’re not only a male only club, but they also have “standards” as to who their members can be… so I’m guessing wealthy, mostly white business men.
The same goes for religious groups… and I’m looking mostly at Christian churches here, because that is where my experience is. A group that has spent time persecuting and excluding less powerful members of society or their own less powerful members… they’ll suddenly have to employ single mothers, queer folk, divorcees, etc. This cannot be a bad thing, as much as they may sook about it. I’m quite happy that Christian school children will actually have a wider world experience with people from different situations in society. It’d be really nice if there was a way to force the Catholic Church to accept women and married men as priests… but I don’t see that happening at this point.
The legislative change also goes for Women’s Clubs… which I have a bit more of a problem with, because traditionally women actually have less power, and need safe space to network and generally exercise. I suspect that Women’s Clubs will be able to successfully fight for their right to exclude men on the basis that far too many women are harassed and killed in gyms than men (just look at that recent massacre in the US for instance), and that women’s clubs are required until women really do have full equality with men .
But what happens when a persecuted minority group, who has their own private club on private land, begins to exclude others? I can understand a lesbian’s collective excluding men… and to an extent I can understand them excluding heterosexual women. But by what token can they exclude bisexual women or even trans-women? Apparently the argument for excluding trans-women is that they were born male and therefore have accessed the privilege that men have… but surely by transitioning to female, they’ve not only forgone any privilege they may have had (and since when was the queer looking boy at school granted any privilege?) they’ve also assigned themselves far into “other” territory and are far more discriminated against and excluded than lesbians. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
I guess bisexuals, by their argument, have the best of both worlds, spend time passing as heterosexual or something. This is not an issue which I have spoken to any radical lesbians about, I just participated in a conversation with someone who is bisexual who was aware of this conundrum.
An ideal world is one where people are recognised for the intrinsic value they possess and the unique gifts they bring into the world. A world where gender, sexuality, relationship status and skin colour aren’t even noticed.
Doctor Who – The Doctor Dances 
Captain Jack Harkness: I’ve gotten to know Algy quite well since I’ve been in town. Trust me, you’re not his type. I’ll distract him. Don’t wait up.
The Doctor: Relax. He’s a fifty-first century guy. He’s just a bit more flexible when it comes to ‘dancing’.
Rose Tyler: How flexible?
The Doctor: Well, by his time, you lot are spread out across half the galaxy.
Rose Tyler: Meaning?
The Doctor: So many species, so little time.
Rose Tyler: What, that’s what we do when we get out there? That’s our mission? We seek new life and…
Rose Tyler: and…
The Doctor: [nodding] Dance.