The old adage: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” could very well apply to the women’s swim situation at Metropolitan Pool. For a period of 25–30 years Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays had women-only swim time two hours each morning (9am–11am), which didn’t seem to bother anyone. Then last year a complaint was made that this practice was exclusionary and should not be allowed in a public space. The end result, which went into effect on October 1st and continues currently, was that only Wednesday mornings from 9am–11am are designated for women only with two hours on Sunday afternoon (2:45pm–4:45pm) set aside for a women and girls’ swim.
A women’s group formed to work toward returning the swim hours that were lost. Over the past months they have been collecting data to see if the particular hours in question were going to better use. According to their tallies the pool has less than 1/10th the swimmers it has when these hours are dedicated to the women-only swim.
This recorded data was brought to Mayor de Blasio’s attention at Borough Park’s townhall meeting in mid-May by Esther Weiss, a member of the women’s group. “We need an appointment with our honorable mayor. It’s really important. We are documenting the attendance in the pool.”
Mayor de Blasio answered, “We should look at what’s happening day by day and give that due consideration. You’ve raised information I did not know, and I will go back and talk to people about what that means.”
Commenting on this development, Assembly Member Joseph Lentol said, “I have heard from countless constituents that the hours that were taken away from the women’s swim at the Metropolitan Pool are not utilized by others. We must ensure that people are not being adversely affected and I applaud the Mayor for further examining these statistics. The restoration of hours that were taken away will bring comfort and joy to many people throughout Brooklyn.”
The exclusionary argument that decreased the hours made the extra claim that women who swam during the women’s swim were exclusively Hasidic. However body-shyness sees no color, religion, or age, and the women’s swim is open to all women.
The women could find a strong ally in Wonder Women as recent women-only screenings of the movie bearing her name have outraged some who claim this is sexist. Cinemas participating in these screenings are even scheduling an all-female staff at these showings. Despite the protests, more women-only screenings have been added due to their popularity exemplified by how quickly they sell out. One showing at the Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn sold out in less than an hour. It is valid to question where this outrage comes from. No one is preventing men from seeing the movie at another time. No one is preventing men from swimming at other times. If there is a demand for a men-only showing of Wonder Woman, it would be simple to arrange. If there is a need for a men’s swim, why hasn’t one surfaced yet?
The group advocating for the return/increase of the women swim hours also claim that the past eight months have cost them monetarily and in wellness. Many of these women purchased a yearly membership at the Metropolitan Pool then to have their opportunities to use the facility decrease after this purchase. As they don’t exercise as often as they used too, this has impacted their health.
The women are asking for the return of three 2-hour morning swims during the weekdays. They also request an additional 2 to 4 hours of women’s swim on weekday evenings, so working women could benefit.
Now that the matter is under the Mayor’s consideration, there is more hope for a resolution. This group won’t tread water for too long; for them it’s a matter of reclaiming a healthier lifestyle, and the sooner that is returned the better women of the community will be.
The Metropolitan Recreation Center is located on 261 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211 | Phone: (718) 599-5707 | Every day, the pool schedule and any special announcements can be accessed by calling the center at (718) 599-5707 and then pressing the number 5