Last week, an Instagram video went viral and sparked a conversation about women’s access to safe, single sex spaces. Filmed at Wi Spa in Los Angeles, California, a woman took out her phone and recorded her confronting Wi Spa staff about the presence of a naked, male-bodied individual in the women’s changing room where young girls were allegedly present.
Since that day, internet sleuths have uncovered a similar incident taking place at that spa as early as 2018, and another woman has come forward to share her own story of what happened to her and her daughter at Wi Spa in January of 2020.
Agreeing to give 4W an exclusive interview, Linda (not her real name) provided verification to us that she had been at the spa on January 7th of 2020 with her daughter. We have agreed to protect her identity as she has expressed concerns about her and her daughter’s safety.
Linda explained that she’d received a recommendation for Wi Spa from L.A. Parent magazine, and had wanted to take her daughter, then 6 years old, for a spa day. She said the facilities included a co-ed area where nudity was not allowed, and a sex-segregated area which included showers, hot tubs, massage rooms, and other amenities that were intended to be used either nude or in a robe as per the Korean traditional customs of a jimjilbang.
Linda says that her daughter expressed an interest in going for a swim, so she took her to the hot tub in the women’s area. At the time, she said they were in the tub with two other women when a group of three individuals approached – one of which was a male.
The male, completely nude, sat on the edge of the tub with his legs spread where her daughter was playing. Linda described him as having a “five-o-clock shadow beard” and “long, scraggly hair.” She also states that he had a “confrontational air” that unnerved the women in the hot tub.
“As soon [we] realized someone who looked very, very male had come in, penis and scrotum completely exposed, with the intention of getting into the hot tub with us… we all started silently eyeing each other and motioning to each other communicating ‘what the hell?!’” Linda says she immediately went to block her daughter’s view from the man, and quickly ushered her out with the help of the other women in the hot tub.
“I stepped out of the hot tub [and] I saw all the women in the shower/hot tub area quietly signaling and whispering to each other that there was a ‘person with a penis’ in the hot tub. I saw the older Korean ladies particularly horrified, they peeked out behind the shower stalls to see and tried covering themselves with towels.”
Linda explains that the other women in the locker room area told her that staff had attempted to ask the man to cover up, but he had refused to do so as he was a “pre-op transwoman.” After getting her daughter dressed, Linda states she went to the front desk to confront staff about what she had seen, desperately seeking an explanation. She was told it was California law.
“The person I spoke to understood my feelings and apologized. [They] gave me two free passes, which I still have. As I was leaving, I heard the other person at the counter checking another woman in and I heard them letting her know that there was a 'pre-op' trans person in the woman's section. So at least, they were letting women who came in after me know.”
Linda says her upset over the incident led her to a local LAPD precinct, where she attempted to file a complaint about what had happened. But rather than being of any assistance, the LAPD attempted to put the blame on her as a mother.
“This [officer] came out of the back room to talk to me and after listening to my story said ‘why would you bring your daughter to a spa like that in the first place? Why did you put her in that situation?’ And that was just horrible. I felt like I had just been punched in the stomach and I started crying again trying to explain that it’s a Korean Spa and it’s normal in that culture.”
Linda says she left the police station dejected, “I just felt shame and I just figured there was absolutely nothing I could do. Like I had no legal rights. So, I just tried to forget about it. Shortly after, the pandemic and lockdown hit and I really didn't think about it again until that viral video came out this past week.”
Linda’s husband was the one to come across the now-viral video via a commentator he followed on Twitter, and immediately she was reminded of her own experience at the spa.
“When my husband forwarded me the video I was like ‘Oh my god! That's Wi Spa! That happened to me!’ and immediately all those feelings came back, and I was so emotional and upset the entire week. I was depressed all week, I felt shame, I felt upset.” Linda notes that she had feared being labeled a “transphobe” had she come out and said anything publicly back when she experienced her incident, but it was the bravery of the woman in the Instagram video that gave her some hope and encouragement that perhaps women were beginning to speak up.
“I think the fear of being labeled a ‘bigot’ or a ‘racist’ or a ‘transphobe’ or whatever is what compels good people to stay quiet when they see something that's wrong. And it is such an insidious tactic because it is [very] effective.”
Linda attended the July 3rd protest at Wi Spa in support of women’s single-sex spaces where she filmed a short video detailing her own experience. Since posting it on July 5th, it has racked up over 17,000 views. While the video has overwhelmingly more likes than dislikes, Linda did say that some commenters have accused her of lying or making her story up, a theme of denial she also witnessed at the protest.
“I saw the antifa people completely ignoring and silencing and editing out ANY mention of people on the other side trying to explain that they don’t hate trans people but are concerned about naked male genitals around small children... They just want to believe that it’s not true and that everyone who disagrees is just a transphobe. It’s unbelievable.”
In wake of the protest, mainstream news outlets continued to push the belief that anyone at the spa protesting the presence of male-bodied people in intimate women’s spaces was either a right-wing conspiracy theorist or transphobic. The Washington Post neglected to include any mentions of the women harassed and abused by mobs of trans activists, something which Linda says greatly disturbed her. She says she noticed that people at the protest who were directly stating they were not transphobic had their voices cut out in videos later spread on the internet to discredit them, and she notes several incidents including the physical harassment of a Hispanic family there.
“They are not good people. They think they are good people. And the biggest atrocities are always committed by people who think they are doing something righteous.”
Asked what she felt could be a solution to situations like the incidents at Wi Spa, Linda says she is unsure, but questions how some activists believe a no-challenge self-identification policy wouldn’t be exploited by men who want access to vulnerable females.
“It’s not okay for our society to just force all women to 'normalize' exposed penises when they are in vulnerable situations like nude in a locker room … There’s too long a history of sexual assault for us to just suddenly 'get with the times' and be okay with it. Most women will feel a visceral reaction ... I don't think it’s okay to put women and little girls at risk and gaslight them like this if they dare to say they feel uncomfortable.”
On July 5th, Linda created a Twitter account to post the link to her YouTube video as well as describe what had happened to her and her daughter. Though she had only tweeted twice, her account has now been suspended with no explanation email provided by Twitter as to why.
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