Pool Reporting, Literally

Jun 30, 2016 · 34 comments
Christopher Rillo (San Francisco, CA)
The issue is government resources are used to support a religious choice. The First Amendment establishment clause forbids such state action. While a municipality closing a pool to the general public (or men) during operating hours seem innocuous, it is really the same choice as providing public support to fundamentally religious choices such as tuition reimbursement for religious schools. If these women need exclusive bathing hours, they should rent the public facility or a private one, at hours when they are closed.
A. Cleary (<br/>)
I'm not troubled by this very short period of time being set aside for these women. I swam almost every day at a city pool when I was growing up and the morning hours were set aside for children under 12. There were also blocks of time set aside in the later evening hours for adults only. I don't know if this is still the case, but I don't see why setting aside time for women only is a problem.
OWH (.)
"... a friend who is a Marine had given me his combat notebook, which can be doused in rain and written on with a special pen ..."

FWIW, several varieties of those notebooks can be ordered online.
dg (Teaneck)
Aren't separate bathrooms also ultimately rooted in prudish, religious sensitivities? If we simply dispense with any legal recognition of gender difference, the Constitutional and political correctness issues of same-sex marriage, separate swimming, gender-neutral bathroom rules, transgender in the military, etc., all fall away. True equality of the sexes or genders or whatever we call them these days. Anything short of that will ensure that we need to continually revisit more aspects of this very issue.
reader (ny)
Can't say I understand the point of this piece, which is the author's commentary about her personal experience writing the separate, substantive article. It's more like a facebook post on the author's personal page or a diary entry in her private journal.
Geoffrey King (Jackson Heights)
Exactly. The NYTs -- or at least a good part of it -- is competing head on with Facebook these days, and Sarah's stuff is emblematic of that trend.
Jason Neiman (Chicago, IL)
If instead of providing hours for separate swimming, the pool was instead closed during those hours, that would not be an issue of "discrimination" against women or men who want to swim together, since they can of course swim as they like when the pool is open.

If the pool did not provide hours dedicated to mixed swimming, it would indeed be discriminatory against people who want mixed swimming. Similarly, if it does not provide hours for those who desire separate swimming for religious reasons, it is discriminatory against those people.

Pools are an amenity that there is no fundamental requirement for the city to provide. They should serve all residents, in a proportional and reasonable way. When the pool is open for separate swim hours, that is a reasonable way to provide an amenity to people who want to swim separately and serve all residents fairly.
Tom Hirons (Portland, Oregon)
I am a public pool type of guy. I've swam in many different public pools in America and Europe. They all have their different rules and local cultural customs. But, I love lap swim, so I try to let it be. For me a lane to myself is absolutely best part of my American experience. It only happens once in a while. But, when it does I am so grateful.
Andrew (Notre Dame IN)
In the late 90s/early 2000s, a state university I was associated with (not giving the name to spare them the grief) occasionally allowed muslim women to use the gymnasium alone to be away from prying eyes. As far as I know, no one had an issue with this. To me, the swimming pool issue is similar - an accommodation driven by cultural/religious beliefs (that are difficult to separate) that has only minor impact on others. This is something I can live with.
Erica Woods (Raleigh, NC)
The problem is not the women only time it's the city-owned pool. And no other group gets that privilege.

It's also for a certain CLASS of people. The hours are during the morning.

And while there will be lots of denials about this, I don't think women of different ethnicities would be comfortable at the pool during these hours.

Public entities can't do this.
Kat (Peoria)
Any thoughts on whether they would allow transgendered people into their pool party?

As an aside, the reason people are expected to wear bathing suits in the pool, instead of tights, leggings, pants, and dresses, is for safety (ever try to haul a clothed body out of the water?) AND it's unsanitary. How do I know your volumes of clothing are clean, and haven't been worn on the streets, contaminated with dirt, road salt, or pet or animal feces? What's next, wearing street shoes into the pool so we can't see your toes?

I just wish we could stop the nonsense, the shaming about our bodies, the false modesty, the religious edicts and strictures.
Steve B. (Brooklyn)
As a practical matter and fully in agreement that no one religious group should get special privilege, I understand the problem of this kind of special treatment.

And yet as an avid fitness swimmer I am happy these women have an opportunity to get the exersise and feel that a bit of bending of the rules of the 4th amendment should be allowed. They live in an otherwise very intolerant society where any kind of exercise is generally I tolerated.

I think we can tolerate a bit of rule bending for the benefit of healthier members of society.
Thomas Busse (San Francisco)
The beauty of federalism and municipalism is the ability to adapt broad principals to local customs and circumstances. America's ability to assimilate is one of its strengths. I do feel the Hasadim's resistance to this can be a detractor, but taken in context of the remarkably accommodating state of the majority of American Jewry as well as the peaceful relations between the New York's Hasadim and the wider community, this separation is to be embraced as a cultural treasure like the Mennonites. If this were a nationwide legal movement among public services, we should be concerned, but as a local phenomenon, it is a landmark...or a tourist trap.
New Yorker In Philly (Philly)
Uh, shouldn't reporters do basic homework on their subjects first? You seem proud that you went in clueless and unprepared, but my editors would have been furious. It's not like this was a breaking story you were thrown into. Reporters have a bad enough reputation for carelessness and inaccuracy, please don't make it harder on the rest of us.
Geoffrey King (Jackson Heights)
Agreed. Sarah eagerly attempts to make a virtue of her ignorance, but her selfie strikes me not only as self-serving but as heraldic of just how much she doesn't get the context she is in.

All electronic devices in city locker rooms and YMCA locker rooms are prohibited, and for very good reasons. Sara's selfie is *obviously* shot in the locker room. Privacy is something like a figment of our imagination these days, fully dressed or not. And everyone who violates that prohibition has a lame excuse for why they are an exception to the rules--whether driving, in the locker room or at the concert.

Whatever your position on the Hasidim women may be, we can be reasonably sure they don't blow that prohibition off like Sarah does.
Erica Woods (Raleigh, NC)
I was really put off by the giddiness and borderline incompetence of this piece.

There are so many young (and older ) people not working and even more who have given up looking for work. And you run this piece about someone who who doesn't know enough to ask their assignment editor a few questions before she leaves the office. But in this day and age, she might just be winging it and there is no one supervising her.

At the same time you talk about New Jersey's horrible student loan program and how Chris Christie is fleecing cancer patients and dead people for their student loan payments.

Sometimes you guys are a little tone deaf.
Lil50 (US)
"Uh," well, one of you has a job job at the NYT and one of you doesn't.
FSMLives! (NYC)
"... a pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that has caused controversy because of its gender-segregation policy...'

The 'controversy' is not because of the pool's 'gender-segregation policy', but because the policy is to allow one religion, or any religion, to declare the pool off limits to certain members.

The reason does not matter (next up race? age?) but, in this case, the issue is whether religion should be given 'favored treatment', which is a violation of the First Amendment.
MJS (Atlanta)
Your story is why I am great full that the 1965 estate sale house I bought 5 years ago came with a 1966 pool. My friends 55-66 can swim in bikini's if we want. We do, guilt free!

During the winter I am forced to a pool in a conservative evegelical area of the Suburbs 20 miles north of Georgia. One day this winter one of the older female instructors chided me that my one piece bathing suite had become see though in the buttox area due to chorine wear. I swim almost daily. I replied that, I had ordered new bathing suits on line but they hadn't arrived. Then the next day I stuck my 55 year old body into a bikini and wore that.

I asked the college age life guard about it and he said you are fine. He said the bigger problem are the religious conservatives of all denominations that refuse to wear swimwear in the name of modesty. It is a safety issue, dresses, leggings and pants are not made for swimming. He said in fact they violate the pool rules which state you must wear proper swimwear. There is no recuirement for bathing caps. ( I pull mine back in a pony tail).
AC (Minneapolis)
Can you imagine wearing dresses and pants to go swimming? Good lord. Take a look at yourself, people. I get being modest but feeling shamed due to religion - that's just totally unnecessary. Life is too short.
Sarah (New York)
There are, in fact, leggings made to be swimwear. They are typically marketed as an under-layer for wetsuits. Similarly, long-sleeves swim tops exist, for the same purpose and also to reduce sun exposure. They're both made of the same fabric most women's swimsuits are made of--they don't hold quantities of water.
Lofie (Fairfield, CT)
Thumbs up for the City's sensitivity to the religious practices of a neighborhood. But does the religion-based gender restriction pass constitutional muster?
AJ (Midwest)
No.
no name (New England)
Perhaps in the name of "gender equality" the pool could be reserved 3 hours a week for males. Frankly I do not see the problem with giving 3 hours of pool time for the women who otherwise would find it impossible to go into the pool while males are present. This is 3 hours a week out of how many hours? The city is being friendly to a very specific religious issue -to now take away would be hostile to religion.
rella (VA)
Thet do not find it impossible. Their choice is self-imposed, just as it would be if they refused to share a pool with people of color.
S (C)
Do any conservative Muslim or other religion women also use the pool in the female-only hours?
Or is it used by women of one religion only?
kweansmom (New York)
It is open to women of any religion. Nobody is keeping record of anyone's religion.
Dev (NY)
Would they do the same thing in areas where there are Muslim women who don't go to the pool because of the modesty rule. If it is done for one religion/ethnicity, it should be done for another. But that will never fly in US
Mary O (Boston, MA)
I would think that any Muslim woman who would like to swim with only women present would use the pool then as well. It's not like a public facility could ban someone of another religion from also taking advantage of these hours.
A. Cleary (<br/>)
No one checks to verify your religious affiliation. The reporter wasn't asked if she was Jewish. It's a time when only women are allowed to use the pool. It doesn't mean only Jewish women.
terry brady (new jersey)
Nice story. Political correctness aside, to overly homogenize NYC is akin to becoming North Carolina. The city diversity and periodic catering to subsets cannot be a crime. We should celebrate these women and give them some slight advantage in a world far too complex to fix.
Ami (USA)
Did this author have no concept of what an orthodox religious community is? Just no background at all? Thats insane that you could be surprised by something so simple as the rules of religious "modesty."

(this is not me agreeing with what I would consider misogynistic rules, just being shocked that someone reporting on the Hassidic community wouldn't bother looking into this)
Henry Green (Fresno)
Where in Jewish law is there anything about segregated swimming? Most JEws that I know do not do this. On the other hand, as per Mary O., there are other communities that observe similar traditions. Hasidism is as much a cultural and traditional set of practices as a religious belief system. Similar issues were raised with regard to Wahabism in today's paper.
SteveRR (CA)
As always, I am astounded by the Grey Lady's open-mindedness what it come to bizarro examples of clear and unconstitutional use of public goods for segregatory activities while maintaining her incoherent and remarkable close-mindedness if a middle-aged male want to play golf with other like minded middle-aged males.
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