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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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86 Responses

  1. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin October 20, 2011 at 11:52 am |

    It’s a difficult line. I am fairly certain that Amish women, to cite another example, do not have the same rights as Amish men. And I know that they see no need for extensive education, since they will live their lives in isolation from the rest of the world.

    The same is true for Orthodox Jews.

  2. Meh
    Meh October 20, 2011 at 12:01 pm |

    Pretty sure federal common carrier regulations would apply here too? Not 100% certain but this seems ridiculous.

  3. Donna L
    Donna L October 20, 2011 at 12:02 pm |

    Comrade Kevin, that’s hardly true of all Orthodox Jews. Nor do even the Hasidic women I’ve met live their lives in isolation remotely comparable to the Amish.

    But I’m glad that the DOT is following up on this. It’s clearly illegal. What isn’t clear from the article is whether the reporters actually did move to the back of the bus, and what happened if they refused. In other words, how was this rule enforced?

  4. Meh
    Meh October 20, 2011 at 12:02 pm |

    Comrade Kevin:
    It’s a difficult line.I am fairly certain that Amish women, to cite another example, do not have the same rights as Amish men.And I know that they see no need for extensive education, since they will live their lives in isolation from the rest of the world.

    The same is true for Orthodox Jews.

    I think the problem Jill has isn’t with the beliefs/practices per se, but using a public contract with the city to enforce those beliefs.

  5. zuzu
    zuzu October 20, 2011 at 12:06 pm |

    Comrade Kevin: It’s a difficult line.

    There’s nothing difficult at all about it. If you’re a private company offering public accommodations, you don’t get to discriminate. Period. No matter who your customers are.

    Let the community provide its own truly private bus service if it wants to discriminate. The second you take a city contract and/or offer your services to the general public, you’re subject to federal anti-discrimination laws.

  6. CHE
    CHE October 20, 2011 at 12:17 pm |

    Just a pet peeve: when one describes Orthodox Jews as having “full beards, sidecurls and long black coats” one is ignoring Orthodox Jewish women who do not have those characteristics. I realize this is gothamist’s not feministe’s description, but something to keep in mind.

  7. Ladeeda
    Ladeeda October 20, 2011 at 12:24 pm |

    The Gothamist comments essentially translate into: “People should have enough respect for our religion and customs to look the other way when confronted with our misogyny.” It’s special pleading.

  8. Amarantha
    Amarantha October 20, 2011 at 12:29 pm |

    If Orthodox Jews want to enforce the creepy gender segregation, they need to fork over their own money and create a private bus. Otherwise, no!

  9. igglanova
    igglanova October 20, 2011 at 12:32 pm |

    “If God makes a rule, you don’t ask ‘Why make the rule?”

    lol yes you do. Pretty sure God never said jack about buses, though. Idiots.

  10. Sara Anderson
    Sara Anderson October 20, 2011 at 12:39 pm |

    I’m going to have to file this away with the current notions about intersectionality and feminism that have been floating through the blogosphere as of late. If this happened to Rosa Parks herself last week, (longevity and geography flexible here) she’d be at the back of the bus because of her gender and probably not race. I’m not sure if that’s correct, though. Going to have to mull this over.

  11. Matt
    Matt October 20, 2011 at 12:45 pm |

    Well, thank god that religious communities are on a downward trend. Then there won’t be any excuse for these shenanigans.

  12. Anon21
    Anon21 October 20, 2011 at 12:52 pm |

    Meh: I think the problem Jill has isn’t with the beliefs/practices per se, but using a public contract with the city to enforce those beliefs.

    My sense (from previous threads) is that it is the beliefs and practices that Jill has problems with, but it’s especially problematic when a quasi-public entity is turning those beliefs into discriminatory policies.

    Anyway, I agree that this bus can’t require or even ask women to move to the back of the bus. However, I’m not sure legal action is likely to produce lasting change; from the NYT article, we learn that the boss doesn’t operate on the Sabbath, and that this gender separation thing is mostly voluntary for riders of the bus. The city can and should force the bus to take down the signs directing women to the back of the bus, but given that the ridership is apparently overwhelmingly part of a particular Hasidic sect, voluntary resegregation is probably going to be the end result of the intervention. One concrete change that the city should force on the bus is that riders shouldn’t be allowed (with the operator’s implicit sanction) to harass people who sit in the “wrong” part of the bus. As a common carrier, the operator has an obligation to maintain an environment free of gender-based intimidation.

  13. Rachel
    Rachel October 20, 2011 at 12:57 pm |

    I get a weekly reform Jewish magazine called J, and there was also an article about signs in Yiddish that had been put up on the street asking women and girls to step off the curb in the presence of men. OMG HAVEN’T WE BEEN THROUGH THIS?

    It’s important to note that not all orthodox communities are like this, and that women have made great strides in some orthodox temples. But this Chassid community is really scary to me.

  14. Katya
    Katya October 20, 2011 at 12:57 pm |

    Comrade Kevin:
    It’s a difficult line.I am fairly certain that Amish women, to cite another example, do not have the same rights as Amish men.And I know that they see no need for extensive education, since they will live their lives in isolation from the rest of the world.

    The same is true for Orthodox Jews.

    Nope. The line is bright and shiny and clear. It’s not a private bus or a Jewish bus because its open to the public. You operate a public service, you can’t discriminate. Like it says right in the contract with the city.

  15. fannie
    fannie October 20, 2011 at 1:03 pm |

    “It’s a difficult line.”

    It’s actually not if religious people are forcing non-practitioners of their religion to comply with sexism on a public-contracted bus.

    Anyway, regarding the Gothamist commenters who make the “it’s their religion” argument, it’s interesting that some carve out special religious exemptions regarding sexism. During Jim Crow, religious justifications were also put forth in support of segregation (and also, to be fair, in support of integration).

    I’m with Catherine MacKinnon on the issue of cultural relativist justifications for sexism:

    “Defenses of local defenses, as they are called, are often simply a defense of male power in its local guise. Male power virtually alwatys appears in local guises; one might hazard that there are nothing but local guises for male power. The fact that they are local does not improve them.”

    I would add, the fact that a certain practice is religious is not a defense against that practice being defined as sexist.

  16. Donna L
    Donna L October 20, 2011 at 1:08 pm |

    Rachel:
    I get a weekly reform Jewish magazine called J, and there was also an article about signs in Yiddish that had been put up on the street asking women and girls to step off the curb in the presence of men. OMG HAVEN’T WE BEEN THROUGH THIS?

    From what I’ve read, they’ve been made to take down those signs. Which I’m happy to hear.

  17. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve October 20, 2011 at 1:23 pm |

    Putting aside the governmental role in this, I don’t see why the religious rules apply to non-jews. Even in Taliban Afghanistan it wasn’t required that non-Muslims wear beards. And how can a bus be Jewish? The whole ‘this is a Jewish bus’ reminded me of the whole ‘corporations are people’ thing.

  18. kb
    kb October 20, 2011 at 1:24 pm |

    Anon21: One concrete change that the city should force on the bus is that riders shouldn’t be allowed (with the operator’s implicit sanction) to harass people who sit in the “wrong” part of the bus. As a common carrier, the operator has an obligation to maintain an environment free of gender-based intimidation.

    exactly. Everyone has already said-the line is the public part of the contract. If women that are part of the religion want to sit in the back, that’s fine. Everyone is allowed to follow whatever dictates their religion has, for whatever reasons you want. They aren’t allowed to force people not of a religion to follow the dictates of that religion(many christians could stand to learn this too)
    Also-your religion isn’t above criticism. I can’t force you to change, but it’s not religious oppression to point out issues.

  19. Rare Vos
    Rare Vos October 20, 2011 at 1:31 pm |

    “If God makes a rule, you don’t ask ‘Why make the rule?”

    Did The Great and Imaginary Pumpkin make a rule that said “bitches in back of the bus only”? Seems a little anachronistic for the bronze age mythology that comprises this religion.

  20. Donna L
    Donna L October 20, 2011 at 2:03 pm |

    “If God makes a rule, you don’t ask ‘Why make the rule?”

    Obviously, the man is no Talmudic scholar. Asking questions like that is exactly the kind of thing that Jews have been doing for the last 2,000 years.

  21. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. October 20, 2011 at 2:05 pm |

    “If God makes a rule, you don’t ask ‘Why make the rule?”

    If God makes inquisitive people, you don’t tell them “Stop asking questions.” Heretic!

  22. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub October 20, 2011 at 2:30 pm |

    Kristen J.: If God makes inquisitive people, you don’t tell them “Stop asking questions.”Heretic!

    WIN.

  23. Tina
    Tina October 20, 2011 at 2:37 pm |

    Fat Steve:
    Putting aside the governmental role in this, I don’t see why the religious rules apply to non-jews. Even in Taliban Afghanistan it wasn’t required that non-Muslims wear beards. And how can a bus be Jewish? The whole ‘this is a Jewish bus’ reminded me of the whole ‘corporations are people’ thing.

    I *think* it’s about the “rule” that the men aren’t allowed to touch women (they aren’t related to?). So it’s more about keeping the women away from the men lest they touch each other, even unintentionally, I suppose. The men aren’t allowed to touch non-hasidic jew women either, so that’s why they are asking them to move. To that, I say get off the bus and walk if a woman gets on the bus and sits in the front. Or buy your own bus. It’s up to you to follow your religion, not other people.

  24. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil October 20, 2011 at 2:48 pm |

    I don’t see why the religious rules apply to non-jews.

    As Tina said, it’s about not touching women (regardless of the woman’s own religion.) Someone who follows such restrictions is called shomer negiah.

  25. attackfish
    attackfish October 20, 2011 at 2:50 pm |

    Donna L: “If God makes a rule, you don’t ask ‘Why make the rule?”

    Obviously, the man is no Talmudic scholar. Asking questions like that is exactly the kind of thing that Jews have been doing for the last 2,000 years.

    WIN

  26. Schmorgluck
    Schmorgluck October 20, 2011 at 2:50 pm |

    Ladeeda:
    The Gothamist comments essentially translate into: “People should have enough respect for our religion and customs to look the other way when confronted with our misogyny.” It’s special pleading.

    Except the majority of Gothamist comments are in agreement that this is appalling. Look at the answers to whoever tries to justify it.

  27. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers October 20, 2011 at 3:06 pm |

    Tina: I *think* it’s about the “rule” that the men aren’t allowed to touch women (they aren’t related to?). So it’s more about keeping the women away from the men lest they touch each other, even unintentionally, I suppose. The men aren’t allowed to touch non-hasidic jew women either, so that’s why they are asking them to move. To that, I say get off the bus and walk if a woman gets on the bus and sits in the front. Or buy your own bus. It’s up to you to follow your religion, not other people.

    If it’s men that are not allowed to touch women, then why aren’t the men required to segregate themselves?

    *I* should not have to do something special because of a rule *you* are following. The person with the obligation to do something special should be the person actually following the rule that obligates it.

    That way, non-Hasidic women and men can do what they want, Hasidic women can sit in the front of the bus, and Hasidic men can choose to segregate themselves back to the back of the bus because it is their own choice to strictly avoid accidentally touching women.

    Besides, if that’s the reason it’s a mind-numbingly stupid rule, because it’s much easier to accidentally touch someone as you’re brushing past them carrying large bags as you head toward the back. If the men want to not touch women, then making the women walk past them to the back of the bus is a stupid way to accomplish this end.

    (Ditto the rule about stepping off the curb. If it is *your* rule that *you* don’t touch *me*, then *you* step off the curb to avoid me. You don’t put it on me to help you keep *your* rules, that you chose to follow, by changing *my* behavior. That’s not how it works.)

  28. igglanova
    igglanova October 20, 2011 at 3:16 pm |

    CHE:
    Just a pet peeve:when one describes Orthodox Jews as having “full beards, sidecurls and long black coats” one is ignoring Orthodox Jewish women who do not have those characteristics.I realize this is gothamist’s not feministe’s description, but something to keep in mind.

    ^ Good point.

  29. fannie
    fannie October 20, 2011 at 3:17 pm |

    “I *think* it’s about the “rule” that the men aren’t allowed to touch women (they aren’t related to?). So it’s more about keeping the women away from the men lest they touch each other, even unintentionally, I suppose. The men aren’t allowed to touch non-hasidic jew women either, so that’s why they are asking them to move.”

    What Alara said.

    And, also, I think it really is about more than the “not touching” issue, since they women are specifically asked to move to the back of the bus. Other ways exist to separate men and women (eg- different buses, men moving to the back of the bus). The women sitting in back (last) while the men sit in front (first) implies a hierarchy.

  30. Donna L
    Donna L October 20, 2011 at 3:18 pm |

    If the objective is to avoid the possibility of men and women even accidentally touching each other if they’re unrelated — both are equally proscribed, since, as we all know, any such accidental touch either way could easily result in people having sex on the bus — and if no misogyny is involved, why don’t the men just sit in the back? Wouldn’t that make things less complicated?

    I am secretly amused by the fact that once upon a time, it was OK for my male Orthodox Jewish colleagues to shake my hand, but not for their wives to do so if I met them. Now, those same men can no longer shake my hand, but their wives can. And do.

  31. Laura C
    Laura C October 20, 2011 at 3:22 pm |

    Does this story make anyone else want to go ride in the front of that bus? Not that I’m likely to haul my ass to Brooklyn to make that point, but it’s tempting.

  32. igglanova
    igglanova October 20, 2011 at 3:25 pm |

    Laura C:
    Does this story make anyone else want to go ride in the front of that bus? Not that I’m likely to haul my ass to Brooklyn to make that point, but it’s tempting.

    Oh, I’m exactly the kind of person who would do that. It’s a shame I live outside the country :P

  33. Ladeeda
    Ladeeda October 20, 2011 at 3:31 pm |

    I was referring to the Gothamist comments that Jill referenced in her article, not the majority of Gothamist comments in general. Sorry if that was unclear.

    Schmorgluck: Except the majority of Gothamist comments are in agreement that this is appalling. Look at the answers to whoever tries to justify it.

  34. Tina
    Tina October 20, 2011 at 3:59 pm |

    fannie:
    And, also, I think it really is about more than the “not touching” issue, since they women are specifically asked to move to the back of the bus. Other ways exist to separate men and women (eg- different buses, men moving to the back of the bus). The women sitting in back (last) while the men sit in front (first) implies a hierarchy.

    Oh, I agree. I would go so far as to say that the not touching rule is misogynistic in and of itself even without all the subsequent rules about going to back of the bus, etc.

    Donna L:
    If the objective is to avoid the possibility of men and women even accidentally touching each other if they’re unrelated — both are equally proscribed, since, as we all know, any such accidental touch either way could easily result in people having sex on the bus — and if no misogyny is involved, why don’t the men just sit in the back?Wouldn’t that make things less complicated?

    Totally. It still leaves them with the problem of a non-observing woman who decides to sit in the back of the bus, though. That’s why the onus to comply with the rule falls on the person who is following the religion rather than the one who has nothing to do with it.

  35. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve October 20, 2011 at 4:05 pm |

    Alara Rogers: If it’s men that are not allowed to touch women, then why aren’t the men required to segregate themselves?

    *I* should not have to do something special because of a rule *you* are following. The person with the obligation to do something special should be the person actually following the rule that obligates it.

    That way, non-Hasidic women and men can do what they want, Hasidic women can sit in the front of the bus, and Hasidic men can choose to segregate themselves back to the back of the bus because it is their own choice to strictly avoid accidentally touching women.

    Besides, if that’s the reason it’s a mind-numbingly stupid rule, because it’s much easier to accidentally touch someone as you’re brushing past them carrying large bags as you head toward the back. If the men want to not touch women, then making the women walk past them to the back of the bus is a stupid way to accomplish this end.

    (Ditto the rule about stepping off the curb. If it is *your* rule that *you* don’t touch *me*, then *you* step off the curb to avoid me. You don’t put it on me to help you keep *your* rules, that you chose to follow, by changing *my* behavior. That’s not how it works.)

    Or, if this is a private bus company, why not create bus seats where people sitting alongside each other don’t have to touch?

  36. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve October 20, 2011 at 4:12 pm |

    FashionablyEvil: As Tina said, it’s about not touching women (regardless of the woman’s own religion.)Someone who follows such restrictions is called shomer negiah.

    Aha, so this one is also out of Leviticus, the same book of the Bible used to justify anti-gay prejudice. I need to have a read of this book.

  37. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery October 20, 2011 at 4:21 pm |

    Fat Steve: Aha, so this one is also out of Leviticus, the same book of the Bible used to justify anti-gay prejudice. I need to have a read of this book.

    Here’s the relevant chapter for this behavior. Long story short, the LORD has a lot of opinions about uncovering people’s nakedness.

  38. Donna L
    Donna L October 20, 2011 at 4:38 pm |

    Fat Steve: Aha, so this one is also out of Leviticus, the same book of the Bible used to justify anti-gay prejudice. I need to have a read of this book.

    But don’t forget: Lesbians are OK with God. Not a single word in the Torah or the Tanakh.

  39. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl October 20, 2011 at 4:46 pm |

    Is there like a 30 second rule in public about touching women? Like when you drop a tater tot on the floor? Because I’m thinking that any woman who uses the handrails, overhead rails, or seat backs to steady herself might just be leaving some lingering woman-essence on the plastic. It’s a chilling thought.

  40. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve October 20, 2011 at 5:08 pm |

    It’s such a shame because women just LOVE being touched by strange men on public transport.

  41. llama
    llama October 20, 2011 at 5:43 pm |

    zuzu:
    There’s nothing difficult at all about it. If you’re a private company offering public accommodations, you don’t get to discriminate. Period. No matter who your customers are.

    Exactly.

  42. llama
    llama October 20, 2011 at 5:51 pm |

    Alara Rogers:

    Besides, if that’s the reason it’s a mind-numbingly stupid rule, because it’s much easier to accidentally touch someone as you’re brushing past them carrying large bags as you head toward the back. If the men want to not touch women, then making the women walk past them to the back of the bus is a stupid way to accomplish this end.

    I was thinking about how you could possibly segregate a bus to avoid the touching. Whoever goes at the front or back you get the same problem and left right segregation doesn’t work either. Clearly god doesn’t want the people following this rule to catch buses.

  43. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve October 20, 2011 at 6:07 pm |

    Tom Foolery: Here’s the relevant chapter for this behavior. Long story short, the LORD has a lot of opinions about uncovering people’s nakedness.

    I see the bit about nakedness, but which one is the one about not touching women?

  44. Donna L
    Donna L October 20, 2011 at 6:28 pm |

    Fat Steve: I see the bit about nakedness, but which one is the one about not touching women?

    Fat Steve, read the Wikipedia article that FashionablyEvil linked. Leviticus may be the ultimate source of the prohibition — which applies equally to men and women, not just men — but unless you happen to be, say, an 11th century Roman Catholic who thinks Judaism is supposed to be unchanged from what it was in 800 BCE, it should hardly be a surprise to you that the explication and parameters of even the most Orthodox Jewish religious practice aren’t entirely stated in the Torah. You know, the Mishnah and the Talmud and all that. As I said before, 2000 years of questioning and trying to figure out the meaning and implications of 613 Biblical commandments (both positive and negative) that aren’t exactly clear on their face.

  45. Donna L
    Donna L October 20, 2011 at 6:31 pm |

    Unless, I suppose, you’re a Karaite. Then, no Rabbinic Judaism for you.

  46. Amarantha
    Amarantha October 20, 2011 at 8:01 pm |

    So I think the issue with this group isn’t just touching, it’s that men can “see” women’s shapes and get “distracted” and drawn into lust or something ridiculous if the women are allowed to sit in the front. There are a lot of sects of Orthodox Jews who are shomrei ngiah, but the reasoning is something like “make it special blah blah blah” but really it’s that a woman who is not your wife could be oh my God on her period and you wouldn’t know it and then if you accidentally touched them you would be ritually unclean. Horror of horrors.

  47. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve October 20, 2011 at 8:18 pm |

    Donna L: Fat Steve, read the Wikipedia article that FashionablyEvil linked.Leviticus may be the ultimate source of the prohibition — which applies equally to men and women, not just men — but unless you happen to be, say, an 11th century Roman Catholic who thinks Judaism is supposed to be unchanged from what it was in 800 BCE, it should hardly be a surprise to you that the explication and parameters of even the most Orthodox Jewish religious practice aren’t entirely stated in the Torah. You know, the Mishnah and the Talmud and all that.As I said before, 2000 years of questioning and trying to figure out the meaning and implications of 613 Biblical commandments (both positive and negative) that aren’t exactly clear on their face.

    Whew…thank God, I’m an atheist.

  48. FourColouredStripes
    FourColouredStripes October 20, 2011 at 8:24 pm |

    In light of the bus being a public service I agree that a bus is probably not the best place to be trying to enforce segregation rules.

    In terms of the segregation itself, what really bothers me is the front and back, a very clearly hierarchical distinction, rather than left and right.

    A few years ago I went to a Christian and Muslim meet and greet type debate, hosted by Muslims. Men and women were required to enter the hall by separate doors. These were right next to each other and it bothered me none to enter through the women’s door, in fact with Muslim women greeting each female as she walked through I thought it was quite lovely.

    I then proceeded to walk to the front of the hall with my Mother and male partner, only to be told that women were expected to sit up the back. At this point I noticed the chairs were clearly arranged in two sections and the overwhelming majority of men sat up the front and the overwhelming majority of women sat up the back. Without microphones, speakers, projectors etc it became very clear that the men were expected to sit where they could hear and listen while the women chatted away, unencumbered by such intellectual debate.

    It bothered me immensely, not that women sat in a different section, but that they sat up the back. To me this had very different overtones to sitting on the left or right, which would have been a little closer to different but equal.

    I’m not sure if segregation can occur without discrimination, but if it could I would suggest it would start with equal access and positioning to the front of the bus, the sound of the speakers, the safety of the footpath.

  49. Nahida
    Nahida October 20, 2011 at 10:13 pm |

    This is not a difficult line. wtf.

    Also, God never said anything about buses. (In ANY religion, I am fairly certain.) Patriarchal men pulling shit out of their asses again. Surprise, surprise.

    BUT HEY! If we’re all gonna have imaginary conversations with God, I have a few rules I would like to establish!

  50. Nahida
    Nahida October 20, 2011 at 10:15 pm |

    Kristen J.: If God makes inquisitive people, you don’t tell them “Stop asking questions.” Heretic!

    I will quote Kristen J forever.

  51. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley October 20, 2011 at 10:32 pm |

    Comrade Kevin:
    It’s a difficult line.I am fairly certain that Amish women, to cite another example, do not have the same rights as Amish men.And I know that they see no need for extensive education, since they will live their lives in isolation from the rest of the world.

    The same is true for Orthodox Jews.

    Fuck that shit, it’s not even close to a difficult line. This is a privately funded but public bus. I’m sick of this idea that we might just have to let people treat women as lesser then just because someone’s religion says they are.

  52. DonnaL
    DonnaL October 20, 2011 at 10:38 pm |

    Fat Steve: Whew…thank God, I’m an atheist.

    So am I, most of the time. But I read a great deal about Jewish history in general, and do a lot of research on the last 350 years of my own family history in particular, so knowing at least something about Judaism itself (and its history) can be quite helpful. My formal Jewish religious education could easily fit into a thimble.

  53. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley October 20, 2011 at 10:40 pm |

    Laura C:
    Does this story make anyone else want to go ride in the front of that bus? Not that I’m likely to haul my ass to Brooklyn to make that point, but it’s tempting.

    Had the exact same though. I immediately wished I was in Brooklyn cause I’d seek that bus out, and I’d do it day after day after day too.

  54. chava
    chava October 21, 2011 at 5:43 am |

    Shomer negiah (the no touching thing, google it if you want the full explanation) has ZERO to do with being required to sit in the back of the bus.

    Some rabbis just take all the nasty, misogynistic bits of the tradition they can find, and cook it up into shit soup. I think there is some prohibition, somewhere in the mishnah, that a woman should walk behind a man to avoid his lustful gaze. That may be what they’re going off of here. Gah.

    The mixing with public space/services is what I find truly disconcerting. Some of the Jewish communties in New York (kiryas joel) and Israel (bet shemesh) have been allowed to go way too fucking far with this nonsense.

  55. chava
    chava October 21, 2011 at 5:46 am |

    OK, totally factually untrue, for one. Ever heard or met a modern Orthodox Jew? Or really, anyone who isn’t a charedi Satmar?

    Two, as has been pointed out, it isn’t a difficult line. Public service or public space? No imposing your religion on me. Of course, the line between “imposing” and not can be difficult–witness France, with doesn’t allow headscarves or crosses in publicly funded areas. That seems to be on the other side of the line to me.

    Comrade Kevin:
    It’s a difficult line.I am fairly certain that Amish women, to cite another example, do not have the same rights as Amish men.And I know that they see no need for extensive education, since they will live their lives in isolation from the rest of the world.

    The same is true for Orthodox Jews.

  56. chingona
    chingona October 21, 2011 at 6:25 am |

    If the women sat in the front of the bus, the men would end up looking at them. That’s why they’re in the back.

  57. chingona
    chingona October 21, 2011 at 6:31 am |

    chava: Some of the Jewish communties in New York (kiryas joel) and Israel (bet shemesh) have been allowed to go way too fucking far with this nonsense.

    Kiryas Joel actually reminds me quite a bit of some of the FLDS towns in Arizona and other Western states. You peel off just the followers of one particular leader, you buy up a bunch of land, you incorporate your own town, you maintain the veneer of run-of-the-mill local government in a homogenous small town, but what you actually have is a little theocratic city-state in the middle of the U.S. Part of me says fine, if that’s how they want it, as long as it doesn’t effect me, but there was a really disturbing story earlier this year about a family (not in Kiryas Joel – think it was somewhere in New Jersey) that was firebombed because they started attending a different shul. So no, even inside their enclaves, it’s not really okay.

  58. llama
    llama October 21, 2011 at 6:45 am |

    Lara Emily Foley: Had the exact same though. I immediately wished I was in Brooklyn cause I’d seek that bus out, and I’d do it day after day after day too.

    I am in Brooklyn next week. But I just don’t think a man sitting in the back would have the same effect and might indeed cause trouble for the women in the back. Pity.

  59. Gretchen
    Gretchen October 21, 2011 at 9:02 am |

    Alara Rogers: If it’s men that are not allowed to touch women, then why aren’t the men required to segregate themselves?

    *I* should not have to do something special because of a rule *you* are following. The person with the obligation to do something special should be the person actually following the rule that obligates it.

    (Ditto the rule about stepping off the curb. If it is *your* rule that *you* don’t touch *me*, then *you* step off the curb to avoid me. You don’t put it on me to help you keep *your* rules, that you chose to follow, by changing *my* behavior. That’s not how it works.)

    This. A hundred times this!!

    Navigating around Jerusalem is always interesting. Some of the highly observant orthodox won’t look at women either, which is tricky in small busy streets as their eyes turn either to the ground or the sky, leaving all of the no touching manoeuvring to you. I have in many incidences been bumped into by an observant man because he spent more energy averting his eyes than trying not to collide with me.

    I don’t even get on the buses that serve the Hasidic communities around Jerusalem as it just turns into too much hassle in trying to balance being respectful and not having a completely unpleasant journey. There are less seats in the back of the bus and I have seen many women bullied into giving up their seats in the front to men, meaning that they then have to stand for the remainder of their journey regardless of age, number of bags they have with them etc.

  60. Paraxeni
    Paraxeni October 21, 2011 at 9:04 am |

    Chingona – yeah the arson was in the New Square/Skver community. The family house was firebombed, and the man’s children were thrown out of their schools, because he was walking to a local nursing home to pray with sick people on Shabbat.

    Also the street signs in W’burg, telling women to step into the street, were taken down by city employees after complaints.

  61. Rick
    Rick October 21, 2011 at 10:27 am |

    MEN should sit at the back of the bus.

    The whole religious separation of the sexes is silly, but we’ve known that for 2000 years.

  62. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve October 21, 2011 at 11:05 am |

    DonnaL: So am I, most of the time.But I read a great deal about Jewish history in general, and do a lot of research on the last 350 years of my own family history in particular, so knowing at least something about Judaism itself (and its history) can be quite helpful.My formal Jewish religious education could easily fit into a thimble.

    Yeah, I could say the same about Hitler and the Nazis. Obviously I was never member of any sort of Anti-Semitic group (though in another thread I was called self-hating,) but having lost a whole generation of my family in the Holocaust has inspired me to learn far more about the Third Reich than most Jews. I have also debated Holocaust deniers on the radio and when we take followup calls it always makes me upset how the average Joe (or average Jew, if you like) doesn’t have the information to combat their lies, so I made sure I always did.

  63. DoublyLinkedLists
    DoublyLinkedLists October 21, 2011 at 11:30 am |

    Comrade Kevin: It’s a difficult line. I am fairly certain that Amish women, to cite another example, do not have the same rights as Amish men. And I know that they see no need for extensive education, since they will live their lives in isolation from the rest of the world.

    The same is true for Orthodox Jews.

    This is wrong wrong wrong wrong. Orthodox Jewish women are very often extremely well educated because education is REQUIRED to understand all of the highly complex laws and rituals that make up Orthodox Judaism. Is there rampant sexism and prejudice in the Orthodox Jewish community? Very much so! But I don’t think that uneducated women is a very large problem.

    Then again, I went to Maimonides.

  64. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve October 21, 2011 at 11:48 am |

    Comrade Kevin:
    It’s a difficult line.I am fairly certain that Amish women, to cite another example, do not have the same rights as Amish men.And I know that they see no need for extensive education, since they will live their lives in isolation from the rest of the world.

    The same is true for Orthodox Jews.

    That is not true. I can say with certainty Orthodox Jews value education for women, even Chabad and Lubavitch (sic?) temples have Bat Mitzvahs (which require religious education) (not sure if this is a recent tradition,) and every female member of my Mom’s family who is Orthodox (her dad was the ‘black sheep’) from her generation on has some sort of college degree. Additionally, at my first job out of college when I was copywriter for an accounting firm, all of us ‘new hires’ were in the same area so I sat with the first and second year accountants/auditors. At least 3 out of the 10 or so women amongst the newbie accountants were Orthodox (didn’t discuss religion but wigs came up a lot due to a cancer situation on my end which I’d rather not go into at the moment, so they all must have been fairly Orthodox to shave their heads.) Having said that, 2 of the 3 left once they got married (I left soon after, for a job where I could use my writing more creatively), so don’t know about the 3rd.

  65. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve October 21, 2011 at 11:56 am |

    I still go back to my original point about the ridiculousness of this, because many women have valid reasons not to want men touching them on public transport that make a lot more sense than relying on a centuries old interpretation of a multi-milennium old book, but when has a ‘pro-boundary’ private bus with rules against men getting uncomfortably close to women been suggested?

  66. Rare Vos
    Rare Vos October 21, 2011 at 12:13 pm |

    Does this story make anyone else want to go ride in the front of that bus? Not that I’m likely to haul my ass to Brooklyn to make that point, but it’s tempting.

    Yep. With my legs spread wide enough to take up two seats. Fuck them and their idiotic excuses for bigotry.

  67. chingona
    chingona October 21, 2011 at 12:16 pm |

    Fat Steve: they all must have been fairly Orthodox to shave their heads.

    A lot of Orthodox women who wear wigs don’t shave their heads. I’m pretty sure it’s only some Hassidic sects who shave their heads.

    Just on the education piece: In communities where the expectation is that men are going to spend a lot of time learning, the women have to be educated so they can support their families financially on the one income.

  68. CrazyQuilter
    CrazyQuilter October 21, 2011 at 1:05 pm |

    i really have to say that i’m tired of people using their set of beliefs, handed to them by their 2000-years-dead ancestors, who in turn claimed to have gotten them from their imaginary skyfairydaddy, as excuses for rudeness and bigotry in the present day.

    you know, you’d think that a culture of people who have had massive heaps of shit flung on them from all sides for, oh, centuries, would know better than to dump it off on someone else. something about empathy, knowing how it feels to be the one down, being a better person/group of people than your former abusers…

    but here they are, doing things like this. also, the “the curbs are verboten for your kind” thing? doesn’t that REMIND THEM of anything?
    wasn’t that one of the things the Nazis started, as a sign of the Jewish people’s supposed inferiority and unworthiness to share the sidewalk with “decent, clean, normal” people?

    how are they justifying their treatment of women, even to themselves? the hypocrisy is so thick i can’t even think…

  69. chingona
    chingona October 21, 2011 at 2:33 pm |

    CrazyQuilter: you know, you’d think that a culture of people who have had massive heaps of shit flung on them from all sides for, oh, centuries, would know better than to dump it off on someone else. something about empathy, knowing how it feels to be the one down, being a better person/group of people than your former abusers…

    Don’t do this. It’s crap. Abuse doesn’t generally make anyone a better person. This can be criticized on its face without making some “Didn’t these people learn from the Holocaust?” argument.

    I really don’t want to get into a huge fight about, but I don’t want to let this kind of argument stand uncontested.

    (Though, if you really want to know, some ultra-Orthodox rabbis believe the Holocaust was punishment for not following God’s laws. So yeah, they do “know better.” They know better than to deviate one iota from what they think they’re commanded to do.)

  70. chava
    chava October 21, 2011 at 4:05 pm |

    I know some women cut it quite short, because they have problems with it falling out or just getting very hot under the (expensive!!) wig.

    But the full shave is AFAIK fairly rare, yeah. I’ve seen more and more tieshels lately (scarves) and hats/snoods among Modern Orthodox and even certain black hat groups.

    RE: education. It isn’t a perfect history–women weren’t supposed to learn Hebrew, bat mitzvahs are a recent thing rarely celebrated in Ortho communities, etc etc. The Lubavich only have bat mitzvahs for members of their sect who aren’t *that* Ortho but give money anyway, at least in my experience.

    BUT–like chignona mentioned, these days, a lot of Ortho women in America work high paying jobs full or part- time outside the home to support their husbands and children. Even the gap in religious education is pretty minimal these days, unless you’re way out there on the fringes.

    chingona: A lot of Orthodox women who wear wigs don’t shave their heads. I’m pretty sure it’s only some Hassidic sects who shave their heads.

    Just on the education piece: In communities where the expectation is that men are going to spend a lot of time learning, the women have to be educated so they can support their families financially on the one income.

  71. Eneya
    Eneya October 21, 2011 at 5:24 pm |

    Yeah, of course… the Bible. You all, remember that line in the Bible about buses and women being on the back and the rule of the God about ‘thou shall not ride in the front”, right?
    Also I find it so insulting implying that NOT using the brain that presumably the entity you believe in provided you with is somehow honoring that entity.

  72. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines October 21, 2011 at 6:52 pm |

    chingona: Don’t do this. It’s crap. Abuse doesn’t generally make anyone a better person. This can be criticized on its face without making some “Didn’t these people learn from the Holocaust?” argument.

    I really don’t want to get into a huge fight about, but I don’t want to let this kind of argument stand uncontested.

    (Though, if you really want to know, some ultra-Orthodox rabbis believe the Holocaust was punishment for not following God’s laws. So yeah, they do “know better.” They know better than to deviate one iota from what they think they’re commanded to do.)

    Seconding Chingona here (and pondering why this got past the mods).

    CrazyQuilter Your argument is basically the same old BS that minority groups have to be oh so good and grateful not to be oppressed because otherwise they’ll get oppressed again and it will serve them right. Nasty, nasty, nasty.

    Alara – as always you make such good points. As an observantly religious type, I’m the one practicing the religion, so it’s up to me to avoid the things I’m not into, not other people.

  73. EG
    EG October 21, 2011 at 6:59 pm |

    Safiya Outlines:

    CrazyQuilter Your argument is basically the same old BS that minority groups have to be oh so good and grateful not to be oppressed because otherwise they’ll get oppressed again and it will serve them right. Nasty, nasty, nasty.

    That’s not how I’ve ever experienced that argument. I’ve always heard it as not understanding why there isn’t some more empathy going on between oppressed groups. It’s also an argument I abandoned when I was in grade school, because obviously the answer to “What the fuck? Have you no memories? Have you empathy?” is clearly “People suck.”

  74. EG
    EG October 21, 2011 at 7:03 pm |

    Or, in other words, the same argument as God seems to be making:

    “But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt”

    Be nice to people instead of treating them like crap, because remember how much it sucked for you when you were treated like crap? I am the Lord your God.

    It seems to me to be one of the few things that god actually said to encourage empathy.

  75. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines October 21, 2011 at 7:09 pm |

    EG _ But then the argument is why should marginalised groups have to have the burden of being super empathetic on top of what ever else it is they have to deal with.

    Also, someone saying “You should be super nice because Hitler murdered your people”, isn’t asking for empathy, they’re asking for servility in the form of supposed gratitude and waving the holocaust in someone’s face to get it. The holocaust was an abomination not a “teachable moment” for the Jewish people.

    Stating such a view is disgusting behaviour and considering all the sensible arguments already put forward, I’m disappointed (but unsurprised) that someone felt the need to pull it.

  76. EG
    EG October 21, 2011 at 7:20 pm |

    I guess I just don’t put “basic empathy” in the same category as “super nice.”

  77. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve October 21, 2011 at 7:38 pm |

    Safiya Outlines:
    EG _ But then the argument is why should marginalised groups have to have the burden of being super empathetic on top of what ever else it is they have to deal with.

    Also, someone saying “You should be super nice because Hitler murdered your people”, isn’t asking for empathy, they’re asking for servility in the form of supposed gratitude and waving the holocaust in someone’s face to get it. The holocaust was an abomination not a “teachable moment” for the Jewish people.

    Stating such a view is disgusting behaviour and considering all the sensible arguments already put forward, I’m disappointed (but unsurprised) that someone felt the need to pull it.

    Although you are right that it shouldn’t be thrown back in people’s faces, I don’t know that you can’t learn from it (though maybe that’s not what you meant by a ‘teachable experience.’)
    I have to say that being from a family who lost a lot of people during the Holocaust has helped shape my worldview, especially when I see the treatment of Muslims in the USA, so much of it reminds me of the way ‘the Jews’ were turned into the other in Nazi Germany. And yes, it does feel like even more of a let down when this bigotry is perpetrated by people who come from the same background as I do. That is why I loathe the term ‘Judeo-Christian’ it’s like saying “c’mon Jews, we’ll let you join our club if you treat Muslims the way we’ve traditionally treated you.”

  78. attackfish
    attackfish October 21, 2011 at 9:50 pm |

    Fat Steve: Although you are right that it shouldn’t be thrown back in people’s faces, I don’t know that you can’t learn from it (though maybe that’s not what you meant by a ‘teachable experience.’)
    I have to say that being from a family who lost a lot of people during the Holocaust has helped shape my worldview, especially when I see the treatment of Muslims in the USA, so much of it reminds me of the way ‘the Jews’ were turned into the other in Nazi Germany. And yes, it does feel like even more of a let down when this bigotry is perpetrated by people who come from the same background as I do. That is why I loathe the term ‘Judeo-Christian’ it’s like saying “c’mon Jews, we’ll let you join our club if you treat Muslims the way we’ve traditionally treated you.”

    Quoted for Truth!

    I’ve also noticed that the Christians who pull out the Judeo-Christian thing tend to then say a whole bunch of things that Jews and Christians “have in common” that are really either basic humanity, or no part of Judaism whatsoever. They really think Judaism is Christianity – Jesus.

  79. EG
    EG October 21, 2011 at 9:55 pm |

    I’m just here thirding Steve’s articulation of the point.

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  81. Gillian Love
    Gillian Love October 22, 2011 at 4:23 am |

    Kristen J.: If God makes inquisitive people, you don’t tell them “Stop asking questions.” Heretic!

    Sorry, Kristen J, but it doesn’t quite work that way. By that reasoning, saying the Fall of humankind from Eden was a bad thing would be heresy, since God allowed it to happen, so it must be a good thing, right?

    The great John Milton got rid of this problem by saying that God wanted humankind to stay in Eden, but allowed them the possibility of eating the forbidden fruit, because without choice humans would be automatons, obeying Him out of no volition of their own. They were “Sufficient to have stood though free to fall.”

    Sooooo just because God made us inquisitive doesn’t mean He actually wants us to be.

    Then again, I’m an atheist. Segregation should have no part in any religion. And everyone should read John Milton.

  82. chava
    chava October 22, 2011 at 4:50 pm |

    Meh. I mean, yes, but it isn’t the business of anyone *outside* that background to dictate how you should go about learning from your/your family’s experience.

    I just…meh. I really dislike the “horrible things happened to you/your group! How can you ever hold X hypocritical position! Well, guess what. People are people, and abusing them doesn’t necessarily make them better or more enlightened and compassionante towards others. It *certainly* doesn’t make them obliged to be so.

    Fat Steve: Although you are right that it shouldn’t be thrown back in people’s faces, I don’t know that you can’t learn from it (though maybe that’s not what you meant by a ‘teachable experience.’)
    I have to say that being from a family who lost a lot of people during the Holocaust has helped shape my worldview, especially when I see the treatment of Muslims in the USA, so much of it reminds me of the way ‘the Jews’ were turned into the other in Nazi Germany. And yes, it does feel like even more of a let down when this bigotry is perpetrated by people who come from the same background as I do. That is why I loathe the term ‘Judeo-Christian’ it’s like saying “c’mon Jews, we’ll let you join our club if you treat Muslims the way we’ve traditionally treated you.”

  83. CrazyQuilter
    CrazyQuilter October 22, 2011 at 9:55 pm |

    Chingona:
    i am sorry for setting jewish people up as a monolith.

    Safiya:
    i did not mean to imply that they should be compelled to be glad of any fair treatment they receive, and i also did not want to pick a fight.

    it’s just that this seems to be something these men are doing as a group, based on their religion. i’m not asking them to be superhuman in their terms of niceness; i am just wondering why they are, themselves, using their religion to be so intolerant towards others. and this could only be group behavior; one lone orthodox man who does not like to sit beside strange women is not really in any position to foist his intolerance on a LOT of women, much less make them sit someplace away from him.

    i don’t think the women are thrusting their breasts into these men’s faces. i’m pretty sure they aren’t grinding up against the men’s legs as they go to sit beside them. so why are these men demanding the women move so that only THEY can sit freely?

    and no one is oppressing them now, but they are certainly doing a nice job of being rude and sexist towards women, even in their own communities. they have turned their religion into something they are using to be rude towards others.

  84. catfood
    catfood October 23, 2011 at 5:08 pm |

    Now I’m wondering what the hell the right-wingers mean when they go on about Sharia Law taking over in this country. Are they okay with this?

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  86. llama
    llama October 27, 2011 at 10:37 am |

    Fat Steve: which require religious education

    Don’t you mean religious training? There is a big difference between education and training.

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