The rise of gated spaces like swimming pools can quietly perpetuate racial tension

The girls in the chaotic scene are all wearing bathing suits.


The setting, on Saturday evening in suburban Dallas, was a community swimming pool.

As Yoni Appelbaum points out over at The Atlantic, this context is particularly freighted: For decades, swimming pools in America have been sites of racial exclusion. Many of the fights to desegregate communities and public resources in the 1950s were waged over access to swimming pools. And the way they’re used to this day still reflects a sweeping trend — more subtle in its exclusion but no less pervasive — that arose from that era.

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As public resources were desegregated in American cities, communities increasingly found ways to privatise them. In McKinney on Saturday, the black teens were not using a public pool. They were swimming, rather, in the communal pool of a private community in the predominantly white part of town where civic resources like parks and pools are funded directly by homeowners. McKinney has three public pools, Appelbaum points out, but none of them are in this part of town.

We don’t know what precisely happened Saturday before and after the moments captured on video. But for these black teens, the issue may not have been so much — or solely — their behavior, as their presence at a pool where residents who called the police suspected they did not belong.

The incident exposes the unspoken logic of gated resources: They are meant to give residents control over who’s in the community that can use communal goods. Private community swimming pools do a good job at this (in this McKinney community, residents are allotted a few guest passes a piece). Really private pools — in the fenced back yards of individual homes — achieve this even more effectively. Here’s an instructive history lesson from Appelbaum:

In Marshall, Texas, for example, in 1957, a young man backed by the NAACP sued to force the integration of a brand-new swimming pool. When the judge made it clear the city would lose, citizens voted 1,758-89 to have the city sell all of its recreational facilities rather than integrate them. The pool was sold to a local Lions’ Club, which was able to operate it as a whites-only private facility.

“The incident exposes the unspoken logic of gated resources: They are meant to give residents control over who’s in the community that can use communal goods.”

The decisions of other communities were rarely so transparent, but the trend was unmistakable. Before 1950, Americans went swimming as often as they went to the movies, but they did so in public pools. There were relatively few club pools, and private pools were markers of extraordinary wealth. Over the next half-century, though, the number of private in-ground pools increased from roughly 2,500 to more than four million.

This exact same phenomenon has surfaced in many forms well beyond swimming pools. Americans have replaced — or, rather, withdrawn from — many of the public spaces and shared resources that were prominent in communities decades ago. And so private schools take the place of public ones, individually owned cars replace mass transit, secluded yards supplant public parks. Communal plazas of all kinds become “privately owned public spaces” where companies and property owners control who can access them.

In another example from McKinney on Saturday, a private security officer was among those who called police to intervene.

Excessive police use of force is in and of itself a problem, one increasingly recognized by politicians from both political parties. Here, though, as with so many of these stories lately, much more — the way we design communities and divide their resources with race and class quietly in mind — is implicated, too.

I’m a feminist. Here’s why I don’t support the ‘female Viagra.’

Many women’s health advocates are calling this a victory, saying this little pink pill finally will bring gender equity to the field of sexual medicine.


I disagree. I’m a pro-sex feminist, but I believe that advocating for women’s health means finding solutions for women’s sexual problems that are safe and effective. That hasn’t happened. Not yet.

Until now, the FDA has been standing with me, asking tough questions about drugs marketed to increase women’s sex drives. Several drug makers wanting to break into this potential blockbuster market have tried to prove that their products work and are safe. So far, they’ve failed: BioSante’s testosterone gel was no more effective than placebos. Procter & Gamble’s Intrinsa patch raised fears over a potential link to breast cancer. And Sprout Pharmaceuticals’ flibanserin, the libido drug in front of the FDA now, already has been rejected twice for ineffectiveness and side effects.

For some feminist groups and legislators, this due diligence is evidence of sexism in the FDA. They note that there are numerous approved treatments for male sexual dysfunction and low testosterone, but none for the most common form of sexual dysfunction in women. “The FDA must overcome the problem of institutionalized sexism,” wrote psychiatrist Anita H. Clayton in a Huffington Post piece, “unconscious and perhaps unintended, but damaging nonetheless.”

“I’m a pro-sex feminist, but I believe that advocating for women’s health means finding solutions for women’s sexual problems that are safe and effective.”

This kind of language could be dangerous, pushing drugs onto the market that are risky to women’s physical health. Unfortunately, last week’s vote recommending approval of flibanserin suggests the rhetoric is winning. Even the Score, a campaign that has fueled the charge that sexism is behind the FDA’s decisions on women’s libido drugs, brought dozens of people to the FDA committee hearing to testify in favor of flibanserin. (Even the Score is backed by Sprout Pharmaceuticals.) One woman said she had seen 30 doctors trying to treat her low libido. Another said she was missing her son’s 1st birthday to attend the hearing, in hopes of accessing a drug that offered “even a modest improvement” in her sex drive. But while the women’s descriptions of the drug made it sound great, the data tell a different story.

In clinical trials testing its effectiveness, flibanserin has either failed or barely passed. Only about 10-12 percent of women in trials benefited from taking the drug. And even those showing “a modest improvement” in libido were exposed to the drug’s serious side effects, including sudden drops in blood pressure and loss of consciousness. One woman even suffered a concussion when she fainted during a trial.

Trials studying flibanserin’s effect while taken with other drugs were especially troubling. Paired with fluconazole, a medication used to treat vaginal yeast infections, flibanserin caused such severe problems that the study had to be stopped early. And the trial studying flibanserin’s interaction with alcohol was so small (25 people, including just two women),we can’t draw any conclusions from the results. Unlike Viagra, flibanserin is a daily pill, so understanding its interaction with alcohol is vital.

“In clinical trials testing its effectiveness, flibanserin has either failed or barely passed. Only about 10-12 percent of women in trials benefited from taking the drug.”

History should convince us all to be cautious about new drug treatments marketed for women’s health. There are numerous cases of over-medication, over-diagnosis and over-treatment. Women get hurt when companies create and exaggerate conditions to promote use of their drugs. In the 1990s, pharmaceutical companies began marketing drugs for a condition called osteopenia, which they defined as “lower than normal” bone density. In reality, it was a ploy to justify prescribing bisphosphonate drugs — used to treat the very real condition of osteoporosis — to millions of healthy women. A small number who took these drugs for osteopenia reported sudden breaks in their upper leg bone, suggesting a treatment that was supposed to prevent fractures could cause them.

In another case, pharmaceutical companies persuaded doctors to prescribe hormones to millions of healthy women to treat what they called “postmenopausal estrogen deficiency.” But when researchers tested these hormone “replacement” therapies in 2002, the evidence didn’t support the companies’ claims that the treatments would protect women from heart disease and cognitive decline. Instead, the treatment increased their risk of stroke and breast cancer, hurting the women it was supposed to help.

Similarly, the condition called female sexual dysfunction has been promoted by pharmaceutical companies to justify prescribing drugs to healthy women. It’s not a real condition with a scientifically valid diagnosis. But female sexual dysfunction has been defined as a condition affecting 43 percent of women. That’s 68 million potential customers in the U.S. alone for the first drugmaker to get its “female Viagra” past regulators.

“Women get hurt when companies create and exaggerate conditions to promote use of their drugs.”

Certainly, low libido is a real and truly distressing condition for some women. But we don’t know what causes it and how often it occurs. We don’t know if it manifests differently in lesbians and straight women, or in premenopausal and postmenopausal women. These are things we need to address before rushing a libido drug onto the open market for wide consumption. Flibanersin has only been studied on premenopausal women with no medical cause for low desire. It’s unlikely that once on pharmacy shelves, it would be used only in those situations. And yet, we know this drug, while barely effective, poses real dangers to women’s health.

It’s true that men have many more options to address their sexual problems than women do, and that needs to change. But flibanserin is different from Viagra, and women are different from men. Viagra addresses a physical problem by easing blood flow in men who desire sex but have difficulty functioning. Flibanserin, on the other hand, addresses arousal in women who lack sexual desire by targeting neurotransmitters in the brain, our most complex organ. Further, women do have access to medications to treat their physical problems during sex, such as pain during intercourse. Rhetoric that paints the disparities in sexual health medications for men and women as a result of pure sexism ignores these realities.

Every woman — no matter her age, health status or relationship status — is entitled to positive sexual experiences. Beyond that, every woman deserves to have positive sexual experiences without risking her physical health. Advocating for a libido drug that accomplishes that is not sexist. In fact, it’s feminist.

Should we teach our children to share? Or let nature take its course?

Rachael Sharman, University of the Sunshine Coast

It’s a surprisingly popular idea – and a real shift away from the behaviourism models that suggest children need modelling or direct teaching of correct behaviour and rewards or punishments to shape their development.


If we take a bigger-picture view of parenting, the end goal (hopefully) is to produce a child who can function effectively in society as an adult. And herein has arisen one of the latest questions from these new-age “aparents”: should you teach your child to share? Or, should you go one step further and deliberately teach them not to share?

To share or not to share – that is the question

Before you think this is just another fleeting parenting fad, according to the author of this blog, the “you don’t have to share” approach is being implemented as policy at her child’s preschool.

The main argument put forth is that, in our culture, adults aren’t required to share (their iPhones or sunglasses for example), so why teach such an attitude in our children? On the surface it seems like a fair point – it makes little sense to teach a child to follow a value system that will not be required in their adult years.

A secondary argument is that the law of the jungle (playground) will just as effectively teach children the rules of society without requiring direct parental interference. In other words, let them work it out themselves.

“The main argument put forth is that, in our culture, adults aren’t required to share (their iPhones or sunglasses for example), so why teach such an attitude in our children?”

I have some sympathy for this point. I’ve previously documented my concerns about “helicopter” or “bulldozer” parenting and how over-interference from parents may do more harm than good.

However, counter-arguments to both these points are fairly easy to arrive at. While there are certain items we are not expected to share as adults, they tend to be specific and/or situational.

I have, in fact, shared both my phone and my sunglasses when someone had a greater need for them than me (when an urgent call needed to be made and when the driver of the vehicle I was travelling in forgot their sunglasses).

Also many of our social traditions, for example “bringing a plate”, are predicated on the idea of sharing. It’s really not okay for me to arrive at a barbecue empty-handed and proceed to gobble up the food everybody else had provided. So rather than a total no-share policy, which certainly relieves both parents and teachers of getting involved in a lot of fights, perhaps we need to teach children what kind of sharing is socially expected, and when.

Be prepared to accept the ‘jungle’ consequences

As to leaving it to the playground, there has been some very good research looking at what happens when children fail to share. Some interesting sex differences have been noted.

For example, the television program Catalyst documented an experiment with preschool boys and girls who were given one valued toy to share between them. The boys tend to be very direct, either asking for or snatching the toy. And I think we all know that, left to run, this could very quickly turn into a slap, hit or punch.

“Many of our social traditions, for example “bringing a plate”, are predicated on the idea of sharing. It’s really not okay for me to arrive at a barbecue empty-handed and proceed to gobble up the food everybody else had provided.”

Girls tend to be more passive-aggressive and instead “bully by exclusion”, ignoring the girl with the toy and playing their own game. Eventually the girl with the toy gives it up in order to be included in the group.

Sharing appears to be a human trait rooted in evolution, probably to ensure the best possible chance of survival of a whole group. And research has shown that children who display “prosocial” traits such as sharing demonstrate better outcomes in terms of academic achievement and popularity.

So leaving children to discover the natural consequences of their behaviour is probably a reasonable argument. So long as those same parents who advocate this approach don’t complain if little Johnny comes home with a split lip, or if no-one invites little Sally to their birthday party.

Allowing the law of the jungle to dish up life-lessons is fine, so long as you’re happy to accept the justice that it delivers.

Whether we end up with a society of sharers or non-sharers may well depend on how we have shaped our children’s expectations. I’ll leave to readers to ponder which kind of society they would prefer to live in…

Rachael Sharman does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

Bulldogs’ Mbye undecided on NRL future

In-demand playmaker Moses Mbye insists he’s in no rush to sort out his future after firming his reputation as one of the NRL’s best young halves in Canterbury’s impressive win over St George Illawarra.


Mbye led the way in Monday’s 29-16 win over the Dragons, kicking a sideline conversion to even up the scores late in the game before booting the field goal which sealed the victory.

The 21-year-old, who was thrust into a starting role by coach Des Hasler ahead of representative five-eighth Josh Reynolds, led the side with the confidence and poise of an NRL star.

And, in a mighty show of faith from Hasler, when Reynolds finally did come onto the field in the final quarter it was incumbent Blues No.7 Trent Hodkinson who he replaced, not Mbye.

Mbye is off contract at the end of next year, and is certain to be one of the game’s hottest properties if he’s not sewn up by the Bulldogs before then.

He’s already been linked to the Gold Coast, who are cashed up and desperate for a half following Daly Cherry-Evans’ last-minute backflip to stay at Manly.

But Mbye says he’s not spoken to other clubs and is in no rush to sort out his future.

“I’ve still got another year,” he said.

“I haven’t really thought about it to be honest, there’s a lot of talk about it but I honestly haven’t thought about it or spoken to anyone about it. That’s why my manager takes a percentage of my money.”

The affable Queenslander’s future could be decided by Hodkinson’s movements.

The Blues half is off-contract at season’s end and the Bulldogs face a near-impossible task to keep all three of Hodkinson, Reynolds and Mbye.

They will also be wary of letting him Mbye go after allowing Johnathan Thurston to leave for North Queensland after the champion playmaker started his career as a bench player for the Bulldogs in similar fashion.

Hasler said Mbye would not start for the Bulldogs every week this season and he would take a horses-for-courses approach with his halves rotation.

The coach said he had elected to play Reynolds off the bench because of his versatility after centre Tim Lafai went into the game under an injury cloud.

Mbye said he was willing to bide his team and expected to be benched throughout the rest of the year.

NSW Blues and Bulldogs back Brett Morris said the bright talent was undoubtedly a rep star of the future.

Government piles pressure on Human Rights chief

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

A simmering row between the federal government and Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs has boiled over, with the government once more demanding her resignation.


Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has urged Ms Triggs to consider resigning, saying she has debased her position by pursuing a political agenda.

It follows comments by Professor Triggs last week criticising the the government’s policy of turning back asylum-seeker boats and its plan to strip the citizenship of Australians the government thinks might be terrorists.

The outspoken Human Rights chief is showing no signs of backing down, and federal Labor is accusing the government of bullying her.

Amanda Cavill has the details.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

Gillian Triggs and the government have been at loggerheads since last year after her review into children in immigration found the Government’s policies were causing significant mental and physical illness and breached Australia’s international obligations.

Professor Triggs was under pressure to explain the timing of the release of the commission’s inquiry which was conducted during the former Labor government’s last term in office, and the Coalition’s first term.

The government said the Commission report’s release was timed to damage the Abbott government, despite the number of children in detention dropping from 2,000 to 200 under its rule.

Now Professor Triggs has linked Indonesia’s refusal to negotiate on the death penalty to the government’s “turn the boats back” policy.

“Have we thought about what the consequences are of pushing people back to our neighbours, Indonesia? Is it any wonder that Indonesia will not engage with us on other issues that we care about, like the death penalty?”

Professor Triggs last week also accused the government of passsing laws which pose a growing threat to democracy.

She cites the planned expansion of discretionary ministerial powers that may be exercised with limited or no judicial scrutiny, such as stripping citizenship from foreign fighters or their supporters.

“The overreach of executive power is clear in the yet to be defined proposal that those accused of being jihadists fighting against Australian interests will be stripped of their citizenship if they’re potentially dual citizens. This proposal strikes at the heart of Australia as a largely migrant country – not only may this idea violate Australia’s international obligation not to render a person stateless, but also the detention may be at the discretion of a minister without recourse to judicial processes.”

Immigration Minister Dutton told reporters last week Professor Triggs is a complete disgrace for what he claims is her linking of boat turn backs to the executions of the Bali Nine pair in Indonesia.

He continued the attack on Sunday with Andrew Bolt’s on the Ten Network.

BOLT: “You’d like to see her gone wouldn’t you?”

DUTTON: “Well when you reduce the position to basically that of a political advocate I think it is very difficult to continue on. And these are issues for Professor Triggs to contemplate. But I think very strongly that we are doing the right thing when it comes to stopping these boats.”

Labor MP Chris Bowen says the Human Rights Commission chief is being responsible in criticising politicians for possibly over-reaching their powers, but that doesn’t mean politicians have to agree with her.

Mr Bowen says Professor Triggs’ views should be respected.

“The Human Rights Commissioner plays an important role in Australian politics, in the Australian body politic. We respect the office of the Human Rights Commissioner as well as the individual and the Government should too. When we were in office, the successive Human Rights Commissioners did and said things we didn’t agree with but that their right, it’s more than their right, it’s their responsibility. Professor Triggs, the Human Rights Commissioner is exercising her responsibilities and her views should be respected.”

The Human Right Commission is a statutory body.

The Commission President is appointed for a period of five years and cannot be dismissed by the government of the day, unless he or she is declared bankrupt or commits a serious crime.