Surf clubs across Queensland made national and international media headlines over the weekend and are reportedly facing a backlash for “discriminatory” dress standards that see women able to wear singlets but not men.
The problem arises in venues that set different standards for men and women on the same item of clothing — namely singlets or sleeveless tops but also relates to hats and open footwear.
Clubs Queensland is taking the issue seriously and recently sent out a newsletter to member clubs drawing attention to the possibility of a club’s dress code inadvertently being discriminatory.
The Anti-Discrimination Commission has warned that it is against the law to set different rules for men and women and doing so may be a breach of the federal Sex Discrimination Act.
Coolum Beach Surf Club has already changed its dress code after complaints from customers. General manager Mal Wright said its previous rules, which only allowed women to wear singlets and not men, were clearly “sexist”.
“We’d have a couple come in they’d both be wearing singlets we’d say yes to her and no to him,” he said.
Mr Wright admitted the old policy made no sense and was losing them customers.
“If people have got a good attitude we want them to be customers at the club, we don’t want them to go away and be unhappy just because of the clothes they’re wearing,” Mr Wright said.
He said the changes had mostly been welcomed but there were still some members against it.
“At the end of the day we’re a beach club we’re situated right on Coolum Beach it’s a beautiful spot and people spend their time, whether it be locals or tourists, on Coolum Beach dressed in a singlet with a hat on we’d like to make it easier for people to come into the club and this is just one way of doing that,” he said.
Maroochydore Surf Life Saving Club recently relaxed its rules during the day, but after 5:00 pm still banned singlets for men while allowing them for women.
Noosa Surf Life Saving Club’s website declares “singlets OK” without offering gender distinction.
Alexandra Headland Surf Life Saving Club CEO Ashley Robinson said men were refused service if they wore singlets in their main upstairs bar and bistro, but rules were more relaxed at their downstairs bar and eatery.
“It’s the committee’s decision this has come up before on a couple of occasions and they voted to stay on what we’ve currently got,” he said.
“In general we don’t see it as a massive issue, but I will be interested to see now that Coolum has done what they’ve done whether our committee and our members change their mind.”
Main Picture: Coolum Surf Club