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Drawn Off Topic: Hockey Hall of Famer Angela James on women-only parking spots (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)
Drawn Off Topic: Hockey Hall of Famer Angela James on women-only parking spots (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)

DRAWN OFF TOPIC

Hockey Hall of Famer Angela James on ‘women only’ parking spots Add to ...

In 2010, Angela James became one of the first two women to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. She was a member of the Team Canadas that won IIHF Women’s World Championships in 1990, 1992, 1994 and 1997. Her biography, Angela James: The First Superstar of Women’s Hockey, was published by Three O’Clock Press.

Fredericton City Council is considering “women only” parking spaces. Is this a sexist development?

Absolutely. Then you have to go all the way through – parking spots just for men, parking spots just for people of colour. You can go on and on. I think it’s just a way of segregating. We’ve already got our parking spots for mothers with children and the disabled. … But for women only? I’m just not getting it. It’s kind of insulting.

The rationale given is safety: dedicated spots for women closer to well-lit entrances or exits so they wouldn’t have to park in distant, darker and potentially more dangerous spots.

Hmm. I think there’s safety for men as well. If it’s for safety, then I think there’s a different way of wording it. Safety for everyone. Not just women.

Taking things a step further, why not have parking lots exclusively for women? No men allowed, on safety grounds.

In high Muslim communities, women are segregated from men in quite a few things. I work in an industry of sport where we have women-only hour. This is to encourage women to participate, because there are a lot of women who can’t be seen by men when they have their hijab off. And so we do make an exception for them. For the purpose of safety, segregated parking lots, I think that’s a little bit overboard.

So equal means equal – equal rights, equal risks?

Absolutely, yeah.

Equal rights are one thing, but a parking spot is not a constitutional right in this country. Not yet anyway. So shouldn’t safety considerations – a convenient, well-lit spot close to the door for women – trump that non-right?

You know what? It should be safety for all. If you feel it’s not safe for you, then I guess you have a right to take that spot. But to say that’s only for women, where does that leave the rest of the population?

Regardless of gender, everyone always wants the convenient spot. It’s human nature.

Absolutely. So why should women just get those spots?

An able-bodied young woman could take that spot away from an elderly man, who’s then consigned to the darker reaches of the lot. Is that fair, solely based on gender?

There are so many different scenarios that can play out. You’re insinuating that men are always abusing women. … Well, in today’s world, there are gangs and there are robberies taking place by men and by women. There’s lots of people in harm’s way, and I don’t think it’s strictly women.

The physically disabled close to the exits, I think, is valid. … But to say, for safety reasons, women only? I think maybe they need to have security cameras or increase security, maybe have public safety escorts. Have the same parking spots, but not just for women.

Is safety being addressed the wrong way? Why not have more staffed lots, better lighting, security patrols and cameras? Is putting up some “women only” signs just down to money and appearances?

When you’re downtown and in a parking garage, I don’t think there’s any safe spot. When you’re on the second level, closest to the door, who’s saying that’s the safest spot?

Wouldn’t a “women only” parking area be a magnet for predators?

Absolutely. That’s a great thought. Knowing very well that they’re considered meek and mild because they’ve chosen to be in those spots.

And what if we’re a group of women parking? Presumably, four women are less at risk than a lone man.

I used to work at York University and that area’s not exactly the safest. I had female staff and I always, always made them double up, no matter what. People just have to be smart and not put themselves in dangerous situations.

Do you ever feel frightened or at risk in parking areas?

I don’t think so. I was just down at the Hockey Hall of Fame and had to go down three levels, but at no time did I feel frightened going into that situation.

Would your feeling of security be enhanced if you knew you had a brightly lit space right by the exit?

Well, I did! I ended up getting a good spot that day.

Well, what if you hadn’t? What if a group of able-bodied men – fellow Hockey Hall of Famers, say – got there earlier and got those spots and your car was parked in some dark corner?

I’d say that’s not fair – but that’s not my entitlement.

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