Re: hurting others, Subj: limited-access events in common space
From: Paul (
Date: Wed, 24 Feb 2010 17:00:18 -0800 (PST)
On Tue, 2010-02-23 at 23:15 -0500, Muriel Kranowski wrote:
> At 04:33 PM 2/23/2010, Joanie Connors wrote:
> ><snip>There is something inherently offputting about having an
> >exclusive group meet in a facility that was created and paid for by an
> >inclusive community. Small group research finds that exclusion
> >commonly provokes negative feelings and conflict. Community leaders
> >might want to avoid subjecting their members to such an effect.
>   I find myself disagreeing with Joanie's idea on several counts.
>    First, it's only offputting if you think it is, not "inherently."  One 
> person's concept of an inclusive community may be someone else's idea of 
> stifling group-think if it requires all CH social events to be open to 
> everyone. Different people may truly have different takes on these 
> competing values.

I wonder if it's worth drawing out different definitions of

I have spent some time living in 'Social Centers' in the UK. (For those
of you not familiar with the European Social Center scene imagine
something like a Common House without they attached housing. For various
reasons these often have a small amount of attached shared

 One of these had a weekly women only space. That meant the whole
building, even the private accommodation as we shared some facilities in
common. So me and the other resident (both men) would leave for the
duration. Other people would sometimes claim to have a problem with this
on our behalf, but neither of us did. I had chosen to live there in
order to supports its values of making a space available to people to
gather who otherwise did not have one.  If a group of people wanted to
do this who was I to stop them? I had plenty of others thing to do.

I never felt excluded by this, it was open to anybody who wanted to
attend, after all, as long as the met the qualification of being a
woman, it was just that I failed to qualify.

This can equally apply to other less controversial situations. 

A book group wants to meet in your community, it's open to everyone but
you have to have read the book before you attend. It seems a reasonable
qualification necessary to make it work so I don't see the problem.  

What about a writing group that has decided it needs to have a closed
membership to work? It's not stopping anyone starting another writing

This can also be extended to other more informal social situations. A
college reunion in town and wants to host an diner for their old dorm

All of these situations have a clear qualification that includes some
people but excludes other. However they are also transparent and
transparency matters. This is not to suggest that they take precedence
over other community activities, but that impact on the community is not
necessarily determined by the nature of an event but more by its timing
and its activities (and I think we can all see a situation where we
might, say,  chose to fore go a community meal to host a neighborhood
association meeting). 

It is not enough for something to be open to all to not be exclusive.
What about events that are open to all but for which participation rests
on some implicit notion of shared values or beliefs (say spiritual

I spent a little time in a residential community that had early morning
meditation sessions. Despite the fact the we were as part of out job (at
another community doing residential care), rather than choosing to be
there to do this, there were definite social judgements passed on those
who chose not to attend that effected our ability to participate in
aspects of the community that we did chose to participate in -- which
would seem much more like exclusivity.

I would not want to stop such activities but I do think we need to be
careful of our implicit attitudes and consider implicit vs explicit

I have spent a long time living in Housing Co-ops in the UK. These often
take the form of government-subsidized low cost social housing. While it
is not their explicit mission these often come with  an implicit
community and support communal living situations. They are legally
obliged to have membership open to all within their remit (this permits
women only, BME, single homeless etc co-ops alongside general ones).
Where I lived there was a definite perception that in some groups
implicit, unspoken, personal models of what life should look like, and
who would fit in with this, combined with policies that left housing
allocation up to the choice of members of an individual house, excluded
some people who had housing need and might otherwise have been
productive members. Other groups, by contrast allocated housing strictly
according to a points system that determined housing need (even if this
meant you didn't always get to chose who you lived with). Both these has
different advantages and disadvantages but the also had differing
degrees of exclusivity. 

Somebody mentioned a children's party that didn't involve all the
community's children. While this may seem impolitic, what if this had
arisen out a situation where a group of parents had decided to avoid
conflict in the classroom by stipulating that birthday parties that
involve children from that class must involve all and only them on a
reciprocal basis (not a bad suggestion if my dim memories of social
hierarchy in the classroom are correct). Easy to accommodate in a
individual home but would we really want to exclude a child from any
participation in this, even outside the community, if the common house
was the only space to host this?

And so what if it was just the case that the child was just given the
chance to invite who they wanted and chose a few friends from outside,
and a few from within? In any social group there will always be some who
we like and get on with more than others, even when we try to minimize
the differences. Calling ourselves a community doesn't exempt us from
this. Co-housing works, surely, because it recognises this as a reality
and allows a way around it. If a community values inclusive
participation then it's the community's obligation, as a whole to make
sure it happens. We can't expect somebody else to keep us happy by
sticking the responsibility on a individual member (even if it is their
kids birthday -- it's hard enough to organise one kids party).
Conversely if a individual feels strongly about this, it is their
responsibility to take the initiative. If we don't have the time and
energy to organise a second party, for instance, so be it, but we can't
substitute for the lack of these by complaining about the things people
do have the time and energy for, even if these don't involve us.  

Private and community lives need to find a way to co-exist. It simply
doesn't work to sacrifice your personal life for the public one. It
seems to me that the great strength of co-housing, compared to other
models, it that is draws the line between private & public, individual
and communal, interior and exterior, inward and outward looking in
different places and finds a better balance. Where each line is exactly,
will vary with each individual community, and a health community will,
perhaps, be one where those lines fluctuate to accommodate different
needs at different times. It is good to keep our eye on this.
Inclusiveness is, I think, better served by (equality) of openness to
different things, diverse and always partial, than by seeking to impose
a single model, however drawn, that seeks to exclude anything that does
not exactly fit it. 

Paul M.  

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