The debates around gender equality and feminism are some of the most divisive on the internet, with some people believing that women are very marginalized in today’s society and that this can be helped by giving more rights to women, and others believing that singling out women for any kind of treatment – including positive treatment – actually exacerbates problems between men and women.

women only spaces
IMAGE: PA WIRE/PRESS ASSOCIATION IMAGES

Wherever you stand as a woman when it comes to these issues, there is no denying that there does seem to be a demand from feminists to provide spaces where men aren’t allowed, and women can therefore feel safer. This is seen by some as a fairly harmless thing to offer, but to others as unfair on men who might be seen as sexist if they demanded areas where women couldn’t go, or as actually contributing to the divide between new wave feminists and the rest of the population.

Here, we take a look at the rise in women only spaces, and where in some cases, they may actually be very beneficial – for example in drug and alcohol treatment programs which keep genders separated like the women only programs at Balboa Horizons.

The Popularity of Women Only ‘Safe Spaces’ on College Campuses

The topic of ‘safe spaces’ is one that originated in college campuses here in the USA, and is not tied strictly to gender. The theory is that people who feel in any way threatened and unable to express themselves in a diverse population like a college campus should have access to safe spaces where they don’t have to worry about the potential for racism, sexism, homophobia or even other things like size-ism. As women on the whole form a much larger group than others who may feel they are threatened in the general public, women only spaces are much easier to create and instigate than safe spaces for other groups, so women only safe spaces tend to be the most commonly found.

Women Only Spaces at Major Events

Outside of American colleges, other places where predominantly younger people go are starting to respond to the demand for women only safe spaces. Glastonbury festival in the UK – a hugely popular music festival in a similar vein to Coachella, which has a long history of having a very diverse and tolerant attendance – announced this summer that for the first time it would have a women’s only area for its guests. This news garnered a mixed reception, with some women looking forward to seeing what it would be like in a festival tent where no men were allowed, and other people believing it was at best unnecessary and at worst sexist and divisive. In the end, the festival experienced such bad weather that many of the women who made their way to the space were probably just relieved to find a covered area safe from the rain, rather than safe from men, but it is still interesting that this decision was taken.

Women Only Therapy

Of course, what happens at colleges and music festivals is normally just a response to what young people currently want, rather than something based on evidence to be beneficial. However, some studies have shown that women with mental health issues or addictions actually recover more successfully when they are in women only therapy groups or treatment centers. This could be for a number of reasons. On the whole women are used to being separated from men when it comes to medical issues, because we do after all have different bodies and feel far more comfortable discussing things like reproductive health with no men around. It is logical then that we might prefer all female environments when it is our mental health that is in need of attention, too. Additionally, the underlying causes of addiction can differ in men and women, so treatment programs specifically tailored to a gender could well be better at addressing them.

In reality, a big helper in overcoming emotional problems or addiction can be being around people who understand what you are going through and will not make you feel guilt or shame. This is why group therapy works. For women who feel threatened in male company or whose problems may stem from bad experiences with men, an all female environment could well provide the sense of comfort and freedom of expression that can help them work through their issues.

It is interesting to see where women are looking for their own spaces in the busy modern world, and where those spaces actually make a difference to how they feel.

Author

Hey there, I’m Tiffany! I’m a work-at-home mom of two rambunctious children (Jasmine, 9 + Sean II, 5) and recently widowed at just 35 years old. I've remarried and currently live right outside of Baton Rouge in Denham Springs, Louisiana with two adoring cats and a dog. Let's connect on Twitter @fabulousmomblog.

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