Bathing club at Forty Foot swims against tide by retaining ban on women

 

An exclusively male bathing club at Forty Foot bathing place in Sandycove, Dublin, has rejected a proposal to allow women to become members.

The Sandycove Bathers’ Association, formed in about 1880, voted 24 to 17 not to allow women to join.

The Forty Foot, mentioned in James Joyce’s Ulysses, was for years a male-only swimming area. But it has been available for swimming to both sexes for at least 25 years.

While the area is now open to all, there is a secluded section to one side where men tend to congregate. There are also two huts owned by the association – one for changing and one with clubhouse and kitchen facilities – neither available to women.

Many women contribute an annual fee to the association for maintenance, but this does not entitle them to membership.

On Thursday the association held a meeting on foot of a petition signed by more than 20 of its 170 members, to discuss a motion to change its rules to allow women members over 18.

One member, who did not wish to be named, said the atmosphere at the meeting was quite intimidating with “an underlying tone of misogyny”.

Jane Dillon Byrne, a local Labour Party councillor and swimmer at the Forty Foot, said the outcome was a “gigantic disappointment”. Sometimes in winter a “kind” member with a key to the changing hut might allow a woman leave her clothes there, she said, but if she used it to change and others found out there would be “a revolution”.

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