January 8, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 2

News

Community support keeps Seattle’s women-only swims afloat amid Tukwila’s legal troubles

By Aaron Burkhalter , Staff Reporter

Rainier Beach Community Center lifeguards, from left, Dana, Noni, and Brianna keep watch over 110 swimmers during the pool’s single-gender swims.

Photo by Chloe Collyer

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Despite a challenge to single-gender swims in Tukwila, Seattle’s women-only pool programs are popular and will remain unchanged, according to the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Four of Seattle’s 10 public pools offer women-only swim periods. During these hours, the pool hires female lifeguards and covers the windows. Single-gender swims are popular among women who cannot swim in a coed setting for personal or religious reasons.

The city has not received any complaints about the program, which started in 2013.

“So far it looks like our women-only programs are popular and accepted by the community and going strong,” said Joelle Hammerstad, spokesperson for Seattle Parks and Recreation.

Meadowbrook hosts about 20 women a week, Medgar Evers hosts 29, Southwest hosts 17 and Rainier Beach, the most popular, hosts 110 women each week.

Tukwila residents challenged a similar program at the Tukwila Pool in the fall. Tukwila started women-only and men-only swims in 2013 to serve a growing population of women who prefer to swim without men.

Tukwila resident Jamila Farole and her sister paid $156 each weekend starting in the summer of 2010 to rent the pool privately for women. It became so popular that the pool built one women-only swim and one men-only into the Sunday schedule.

Tukwila residents Robert and Christine Neuffer filed a complaint with the Washington Human Rights Commission (HRC) after Christine tried to enter the pool with her 10-year-old son during the men’s swim in 2013, and pool staff did not let her in.

HRC denied the complaint because the Tukwila pool provides a period for men and another for women, said policy analyst Laura Lindstrom.

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