Should business be able to discriminate against customers based on their sex, color, sexual orientation, etc? As a society we've kinda decided that no, they should not be able to do that, and hence we've forbidden it. I've discussed property rights for many years with a friend, and have come to the conclusion that sometimes, in narrow circumstances, we have to determine what kind of society we want to live in, and we've determined that we do not want to live in one wherein business can discriminate like that. That doesn't mean that "majority rules" always gets to dictate private property rights, but sometimes, in public issues, it does.
I cannot find a reference right now, but I seem to recall that some time in the last few years, a certain gym chain here in the Sacramento area had complaints about having "women only" equipment rooms. Why should guys, who pay full price, be excluded from certain workout rooms and equipment? My memory tells me that they were required, or decided, to get rid of such rooms. Again, fuzzy memory here, but I think that ended "ladies night" at the bars, too. (see update #2, below)
And I'm OK with this. If we've decided we want to live in a society in which people are not discriminated against based on their sex, then we need to live up to that ideal wherever possible. We can't say that equality is vitally important in our public lives but then keep carving out exceptions.
I get daily emails from one of those "deal a day" web sites, and given what I wrote above, you might imagine that I was more than a little offended to get this deal today:
What? This is for women only? I'm not cool with that at all.
Hey look! Their website says "fitness for everyone", but clearly that means "everyone except those with external plumbing".
So I figure, let's not send an email--everyone does that. Let's send an actual paper letter outlining the issue. But guess what! The only contact information I can find on this company's site is a phone number in Denver (303 area code):
I'm willing to shell out 44 cents for a stamp, but not the egregious long distance fees I would have to pay on my very inexpensive cell phone plan. Besides, I don't want to call; I'm much better at expressing myself in writing than I am verbally.
So I get an offer for a deal I can't participate in, from a company in Denver I can only call. I'm not going to plant my flag on this hill and fight to the death over this, but I'm disappointed at the double standard--that might not even be legal in this area. Darn my memory!
Update: One man's losing fight against ladies' night. That the US Supreme Court declines to hear his case does not necessarily mean that they find ladies' nights constitutional, just that they have bigger issues with which to deal.
Update #2, 3/2/11: I'd forgotten about this post.