An Australian reader named Angie sent us an email this morning about a difficult situation she faces in the suburbs of Melbourne. She feels that there is no avenue that would allow her to address her concerns without leaving herself open to retribution by the forces of political correctness.
So she sent us her story, and I offered to post it.
I am in a quandary.
Living in outer suburban Melbourne, we have a lot of different cultures/belief systems/ethnicities in the area.
Generally, this is neither here nor there to me — as far as I’m concerned, I don’t care if you’re black, white or brindle. Just leave me to live my life in peace, and I’m fine.
Of course, life doesn’t always work out so smoothly, and I’m finding it annoying to find a decent place for Miss Junior to learn to swim.
Where we used to live, in downtown outer Melbourne, there was a good gym with a pool, and she had lessons there. It catered for a varied clientele, with a completely segregated women’s section for those who were obliged to work out away from men, and a pool with the change rooms right at the poolside as most swimming pools.
I trained in the women’s section mainly because I couldn’t be fussed walking down the hall to the mixed section, and often swam laps while Miss Junior had her lessons.
This new pool she’s going to a couple of suburbs away is a bit bigger with two changing rooms for each sex.
The smaller rooms are considered family rooms, and there are often young boys getting changed when we are in there.
When I say young, I mean under 10.
There must be something wrong with me, because I find that really inappropriate.
As a result, we started using the larger change rooms, and the first time we were there, I turned around to see a lad of at least 10-12 walking by.
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Miss Junior was in an open shower, although I had ensured that she wasn’t in view of passersby, but that’s not the point.
WTF are pubescent boys doing in the women’s changing rooms?
I had a talk with one of the counter staff there, and asked him what were the guidelines for children getting changed.
In the family changeroom (the smaller), it is up to the discretion of the family, so up to around 12.
In the larger changeroom, then you’d be looking at no older than 6.
I did very well at not going off my tree.
First of all, as I explained to the fellow, my daughter is nearly 6 years old and I’m trying to teach her modesty. That means not getting her kit off in front of strange boys.
I don’t appreciate boys who are half a foot taller than her getting changed in front of her, or her getting changed in front of them.
What sort of message does that send her about politeness and dressing appropriately.
I also don’t appreciate young boys trying to peek under the toilet door, and I don’t see why I should feel obliged to shut my girl in a shower cubicle so that she can wash down and dress without the possibility of boys seeing her naked.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a long way from being a prude, but this is ridiculous!
I’ve not even started on my discomfort at changing where young boys are within view.
It’s one thing for their mother to get into and out of her swimwear in their presence, but sorry, I’m over 40 years old, and while I’m not ashamed of my body, I’m damned if I’m getting buck naked in front of unfamiliar males of any age.
Hell, I don’t even get naked in front of familiar males any more!
The staff member was a bit taken aback with my concerns, and offered to get the duty manager to talk to me, but as I told him, what would that fix? Nothing. Just be aware that some of us women don’t like lads being in reach of either us or our girls’ bodies.
Another concern, which I did not voice, is that there are also patrons of cultures that prefer that women not be uncovered.
There have been women in hijab in the changeroom with their sons while my daughter was changing, and I wonder uncomfortably at the message these children are getting.
I’m well aware that under Islam, good women stay covered while the bad ones let it all hang out.
Does this mean that my young daughter will be seen by these young boys as bad because she took off her clothes to put on a swimsuit in their presence?
Catmeat Sheikh Hilaly has a lot of supporters, some here in Melbourne, so why not some who come to our pool?
I don’t swim anymore while Miss Junior is having her lessons, and I’m looking around for another swim school.
I don’t dare raise my concerns to the staff because of our discrimination laws, and the very real possibility of someone saying something to another person and suddenly there’s an outbreak of offendedness.
Needless to say, I’m very, very angry about this, but what can be done to combat it?
I personally get uncomfortable at swimming laps in front of people I know see me as inferior and unclean. While it begs the question of why they go to the pool in the first place, I also get offended at the fact that if I were to express my discomfort, then I would be labelled racist, bigoted, Islamophobia and all the rest.
If anyone else is upset, then it’s my fault for being white and upsetting them.
If I am upset, then it is my fault for being white and not sucking it up.
I know I’m not the only one, but others are also a bit too timid to speak out.