Wellington's Dominion Post has slammed the Dowse Art Museum for showing a film that only women are allowed to see. In an editorial titled “No place for women-only exhibit” the paper says the Human Rights Commission is investigating complaints that the ban amounts to gender discrimination, including one from local resident Paul Young. Whether his complaint is sustained is not that straightforward as he will first need to establish that he has suffered “more than trivial” detriment as a result of the difference in treatment, leaving the Commission to determine whether the discrimination was justified.
It's likely to be an academic exercise because by the time it is resolved the exhibition will be over. But the editorial says, as a ratepayer-funded organisation, the Dowse should not be using the public purse to stage exhibits from which some ratepayers are excluded and that Sophia Al-Maria should present her film Cinderazahd: For Your Eyes Only at a private gallery.
In an earlier news report on the Museum's decision to make the film off-limits to men, Islamic Women's Council of New Zealand spokesperson Rehanna Ali said: “We hope it promotes some interesting discussion, rather than reactive controversy. I think that as a country we are quite mature now in the recognition of the diversity of the community we have here.” Her comment highlights the role of the museum as a forum – a place where opposing ideas can be explored in ways that lead to better outcomes than the reactive controversy the Dominion Post appears to be set on fueling.
Image: Dowse Art Museum director Cam McCracken who says, in line with the artist's wishes, men will not be able to view Sophia Al-Maria's film Cinderazahad: For Your Eyes Only, which features female family members and friends getting ready for a cousin's wedding, without wearing hijabs.