Women’s rights at stake in fight over men in female spa area

By Laura Garza
July 26, 2021

LOS ANGELES — A widely viewed video of a woman complaining about a man being in the women’s section of a spa in Los Angeles has deepened a debate here. The question is whether women have rights to privacy in spaces designated for them, such as women’s locker rooms, hot tubs, etc.

The customers in the spa were nude, and included children, and the man, who said he was a transgender woman, also was nude, with his penis exposed. The spa personnel told the women who complained that they have to abide by whatever a customer says they are, because a recent California law forbids discrimination against transgender people.

A protest called by women against the stance of the spa’s owners July 3 was met by a countermobilization of dozens of antifa supporters. They planted a sign in front of the spa saying “Trans women are women,” and moved to surround and push around anyone they deemed to be “transphobe.”

Gaye Chapman, who went to meet up with some women she’d met on social media, told the Militant, “I think women and girls have the right to shower and dress outside the presence of male people, regardless of how they identify.” Chapman is a city electrical inspector and runs a lesbian-themed podcast. Not knowing who had called the protest, she didn’t bring a sign and walked around at first watching. She saw a few people being harassed by the antifa people, including someone taking a video.

Amie Ichikawa, one of the women who met up with Chapman, was targeted by antifa thugs because she was wearing a T-shirt featuring the dictionary definition of a woman — “Woman: a female adult human.”

Chapman said she was quickly surrounded by around 20 people shouting, “We don’t talk to Terfs,” an acronym for trans-exclusionary radical feminists. It is used to denigrate women’s rights supporters they disagree with. “They hit me with a piece of cardboard,” she said, “and tried to prevent me filming.

“They were shouting ‘get out transphobe,’ and they pulled my glasses off and knocked my phone out of my hand, pushed me, threw water at me. It was nasty,” Chapman said. She reported on Twitter that she has since been threatened with being “doxed,” that is, having her personal information, including her home address, widely publicized to encourage further harassment.

Ichikawa said she came to meet up with some women’s rights activists and wasn’t expecting the level of vitriol directed against them. She’s the founder of WomanIIWoman, which aids women getting out of prison find jobs and housing.

She explained the new state law is having an effect on women behind bars, as growing numbers of men have requested transfers to women’s prisons based on changed self-identity. Women have written to her fearing they won’t be able to avoid being housed with a male in cells designated for eight women, with communal toilets and showers.

In the wake of the protests, the “woke” Los Angeles Times ran an editorial backing the spa owners’ actions. “Even though the sight of male-appearing genitalia discomfited at least one female customer,” the editors opined, “no one has an absolute right to feel comfortable all the time.”

“What’s at stake is women’s rights, not transphobia,” Dennis Richter, Socialist Workers Party candidate for governor in California’s upcoming special election, told the press. “Women have fought to close the pay gap, including the right to access a range of nontraditional jobs, from coal mining to the railroad. They have joined labor battles, defended abortion clinics, and fought rightist assaults aimed at shutting them down. These are the kinds of fights we need today.

“But the state law, adopted under the guise of opposing transgender discrimination, demands that women and girls surrender their right to privacy. It denies the facts of biology and has nothing to do with advancing rights.

“I oppose discrimination in housing and jobs based on sexual preference or how one identifies. Earlier struggles for women’s rights helped advance the fight for the rights of gays and lesbians,” Richter said. “But efforts today to dissolve sex into gender, and the idea that your sex can be ‘chosen,’ deal blows to women. They open the door to new attacks on women’s rights and set back the fight against discrimination against gays.”