Justifying exclusion: the politics of public space and the dispute over access to McIvers ladies' baths, Sydney
McIvers Baths is an ocean pool in the Sydney beach of Coogee which is open to women and children only. In December 1992, a male resident of Coogee lodged a formal legal complaint of 'discrimination on the grounds of sex' with the Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales. Over the next three years, a coalition of activists and institutions campaigned successfully to oppose this complaint and maintain the exclusion of men from McIvers. In this article, the author considers some of the implications of this dispute for contemporary debates over the meaning of urban public space. Drawing on recent re-theorisations of urban public space and the political public sphere, the author suggests that the problematisation of exclusion in critical urban analysis should not necessarily take the form of opposition to exclusion per se. Rather, exclusions should be interrogated with respect to processes through which they are politically justified, thus enabling critical theorists to distinguish between different kinds of exclusion. The article offers some reflections on the dispute over McIvers as a way of thinking through some of the conditions in which certain forms of exclusion might be compatible with a democratic 'right to the city'.
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