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Sex Segregation on Israeli Public Buses:

Haaretz reports:

The High Court of Justice will hear a petition Monday against sex-segregated public buses known as mehadrin lines, which are meant to serve the ultra-Orthodox community.

Orthodox American-Israeli novelist Naomi Ragen and the Israel Religious Action Center, the advocacy arm of Israel's Reform movement, brought the petition a year ago in a bid to sharply reduce the operation of sex-segregated buses and prevent men and women from being forced to sit separately.

The state argues that the segregation — with men sitting in front and women in back — is voluntary and that the companies operating the mehadrin lines "are prohibited from forcing the voluntary arrangement on the rest of the passengers who are not interested in it...." ...

In practice, however, passengers have complained that they feel coerced — sometimes by physical violence — into sitting in the designated section of the bus.

Ragen decided to file suit after unintentionally boarding a mehadrin line, Egged's No. 40 bus, toward her home in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot in July 2004. "I found myself insulted, humiliated and physically threatened because I refused to be bullied into giving up my seat and moving to the back of the bus," Ragen wrote.

In addition, Miriam Shear, an Israeli-American woman on vacation from Canada, says she was slapped, kicked, punched and pushed by a group of ultra-Orthodox men in November 2006 when she refused to move to the back of Egged bus No. 2 on its way to the Western Wall....

I don't see anything the government can reasonably do about genuinely voluntary segregation, which is not enforced through the threat of violence. But if it is indeed not adequately dealing with the violence, that's pretty bad.

The more interesting question, though, is whether and when governments in liberal democracies should, if legislators so decide, be allowed to legally enforce sex segregation (something the Israeli government claims isn't happening).

I think the answer is "sometimes." I've argued, for instance, that girls-only sports teams should be allowed in government-run schools; I'm inclined to say that sex-segregated government-run schools should also be allowed, if there seems to be good data supporting their educational value at least to one sex (and especially both).

It's true that such "separate but equal" wouldn't and shouldn't be allowed for race classifications, but sex should not necessarily always be treated like race. For instance, I think it's legitimate for the government to accommodate people's desire to be shielded when undressed (or even when partly dressed) from the opposite sex, but not legitimate for the government to accommodate (even on its own property) people's desire to be shielded from other races. Such sex-based privacy rules are much less likely than race-based privacy rules to be motivated by group hatred or perception of group inferiority, and much less likely to be divisive along group lines.

At the same time, I'm inclined to say that such government-imposed sex segregation should generally only be allowed when there's a pretty serious benefit to doing so, beyond the religious, cultural, or personal preferences of some citizens (though I should acknowledge that privacy interests are not easy to disentangle from such preferences). So I'd say that governments ought not impose segregation on publicly-run bus lines or other public places (outside restrooms and the like). But I'd like to hear what others think.

I'd also guess that either voluntary or mandatory segregation would be more appealing to many if half the buses had the women at the back and half at the front, rather than always having the women in the back.

Finally, a few remarks I've seen online about this try to analogize this to the treatment of women in Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia. That seems like quite a stretch, even if the government were seen as being a participant in the bus segregation. First, the treatment of women by the government in those countries is very far from "separate but equal."

Second, while I do think sex segregation may tend to reinforce traditional sex norms, norms that have generally on balance substantially restricted women, the harmfulness of this tendency is related to how much women are indeed restricted in that particular country. It may well be wrong to have sex segregation even in a country that gives women many educational, professional, and public options (as Israel does), especially when the sex segregation takes place in a particular subculture in which women may still be held back. But it's much more harmful, I think, in a country that gives women many fewer options, and where the dominant culture and not just a relatively small subculture continues to repress women.

Gary Anderson (mail):
What the heck could the "rational" benefit of sitting separately by sex on the bus be?

To me, that's more like the race analogy ("motivated by group hatred or perception of group inferiority"), than the girls-only sports team, the public washroom question, or indeed the half-dressed privacy issue.

They're merely sitting on a bus. So why should the government "accommodate (even on its own property) people's desire to be shielded from other races sexes?

The idea of "women in front on this 50%" and "men in front on this 50%" of the buses doesn't really fix anything -- you are still accomodating those whose desire seems to be "motivated by group hatred or perception of group inferiority".

Even if they let women sit up front on 100% of these buses, that accomodation for presumably nefarious reasons remains. Plus, at least if I remember my high school days correctly, lots of people prefer the back of the bus (more bounce, plus that big long seat at the very rear).

If your asking for opinions, I think even on the orthodox buses, of course every individual should have the free will to choose where they want to sit if there's an open seat -- first come, first served.

I don't see how accomodating sex inferiority or hatred in this case is any different than accomodating racial inferiority or hatred. Particularly as most families are made up of different sexes and might want to sit together.
1.15.2008 7:05pm
Mr. Liberal:

Finally, a few remarks I've seen online about this try to analogize this to the treatment of women in Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia. That seems like quite a stretch, even if the government were seen as being a participant in the bus egregation. First, the treatment of women by the government in those countries is very far from "separate but equal."


First, I agree with everything you have said up this point. Except, ultimately, if the People, including a majority of women, really wanted segregated buses, I would let them have them. On the other hand, I do not have anything against reasonable checks on legislatures by a democratically accountable judiciary, like the United States Supreme Court.

I don't think the analogy is as much of a stretch as you do, especially as women are always placed in the back of the bus. It seems that they are subordinated.

Obviously, Islamic countries tend to subordinate women to a much greater degree. So, any comparison should acknowledge that very important difference, to the extent it is not obvious. Any comparison that suggested they were exactly equivalent would be flawed. But, I think the comparison is useful.


But it's much more harmful, I think, in a country that gives women many fewer options, and where the dominant culture and not just a relatively small subculture continues to repress women.


I am not sure if I disagree with you or not, depending on your meaning.

Are you saying that, hypothetically, if you had a culture that was more oppressive to women, the added burden of having to sit in the back of the bus would be worse?

If that is what you mean, I disagree. Obviously, it is worse for women in these other cultures. But that is not because they are made to sit in the back of the bus. That is because they experience many other indignities in addition to being made to sit in the back of the bus.

Indeed, this particular indignity, on top of everything else, might seem unimportant compared to much more serious restrictions. In a more advanced liberal society, like Israel, where women come to expect to be treated more equally, having to sit in the back of the bus may be more psychologically harmful than being made to sit in the back of the bus is in other cultural contexts, where that is the least of your problems.
1.15.2008 7:12pm
gbm:

"Finally, a few remarks I've seen online about this try to analogize this to the treatment of women in Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia. That seems like quite a stretch...


the analogies to saudi arabia are essentially silly when the entity being analogized to is "israel," but when it is "ultra orthodox society in israel," and bus segregation is only one example of the (mis)treatment of women, the analogy becomes somewhat more sensible, though still not at all perfect.
As for the ultra-orthodox being a "relatively small subculture," i'm not sure that accurately characterizes the neighborhoods/cities where these buses have become an issue. What this is really about is the fear that the ultra orthodox (so called) will be less and less relatively small, and that the rest of Israeli Society needs to assert itself now before curbing certain tendencies gets even harder...
1.15.2008 7:24pm
Ray Stahl (mail):
You have not been to Mexico City. The subway puts men in one car and women in another. People are packed like sardines so it is considered safer for women.
1.15.2008 7:33pm
Lawer-Wearing-Yarmulka (www):
If Egged doesn't offer the segregated buses, then odds are, then Hareidim will just boycott the bus service and start running their own lines. I've already seen requests for donations to help fund such lines.

It will be like the Montgomery Bus Boycott, only in reverse.
1.15.2008 7:33pm
Lawer-Wearing-Yarmulka (www):
You have not been to Mexico City. The subway puts men in one car and women in another. People are packed like sardines so it is considered safer for women.

They do that in Japan as well. Too many women were being groped. As far as I know, that's not a problem on Israeli buses.
1.15.2008 7:34pm
Waldo (mail):
I agree that the government should not impose sex segregation on publicly-run bus lines or other public places. I believe sex-based privacy rules are legitimate, not merely due to personal preference, but also because people should have the right to control sexual access to their persons, be it visual or otherwise. That would also justify sex-segregated subway cars in some Asian cities as a legitimate interest, where women are routinely groped by male passengers.

A more interesting question is whether Israel can provide religiously-segregated bus lines available only to the Orthodox. I believe Israeli law already permits a different family law to apply to the ultra-Orthodox.
1.15.2008 7:47pm
Gene (mail):

First, I agree with everything you have said up this point. Except, ultimately, if the People, including a majority of women, really wanted segregated buses,
I would let them have them.

How should that work in practice? Should the decision be local or statewide?
Suppose that a municipality wanted segregated transportation, and the voting constituency consists of orthodox Jews, Muslims or Christians. How would you ensure that a "majority of the people" really wants segregation? And should the benefits be equally shared by both sexes in order for the policy to be legitimate, leaving aside constitutional concerns.
What are the benefits of sex segregation in public education from a liberal perspective?I see none, since such a policy tends to force individuals to conform to group stereotypes rather than being judged on their own merits.
1.15.2008 7:58pm
Lior:
It should be noted that while Egged is nominally a private company, it has monopoly power on running public transportation in most of Israel. Allowing the ultra-orthodox to run private bus companies according to their own preferences would solve much of the problem. Overall, part of the need for the monopoly is that Egged is expected to use its popular routes to subsidize less-popular ones thus ensuring wider access to public transportation. Private operators naturally only compete (with cheaper prices) on the popular routes. This would not be an issue in Jerusalem, where population density is high but demand for segregated busses is not so high.
1.15.2008 8:12pm
Archon (mail):
Why doesn't the government just get out of the busing business and let private companies fill the deman. If indeed there is enough demand for segregated buses then I am sure some entrepenuer will seize upon it and provide the service.
1.15.2008 8:15pm
Lawer-Wearing-Yarmulka (www):
Why doesn't the government just get out of the busing business and let private companies fill the deman. If indeed there is enough demand for segregated buses then I am sure some entrepenuer will seize upon it and provide the service.

This is Israel we're talking about. The government still sets the price of bread. Free market utopia, it aint.
1.15.2008 8:27pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Let me suggest that this would not be about treatment of women or of male domination if the women were put up front and the men sat in back. But that apparently isn't the case, and as a consequence, the difference with the more orthodox Islamic countries is one of degree and not of a difference.
1.15.2008 8:31pm
A Berman (mail):
Geez, lighten up folks. First of all, it's Israel, not America. Countries are allowed to have different standards. And the fact is, sex-segregated buses serve a portion of the community. The complainent could have gotten off the bus or just used another one. What's the big deal, here?

Dare I say it---- Liberal Fascism at work?
1.15.2008 8:47pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
What the heck could the "rational" benefit of sitting separately by sex on the bus be?
Makes the riders more comfortable. Same as the reason for sex-segregated bathrooms.

The idea of "women in front on this 50%" and "men in front on this 50%" of the buses doesn't really fix anything -- you are still accomodating those whose desire seems to be "motivated by group hatred or perception of group inferiority".
Seems to whom? Who thinks that the Orthodox "hate" the opposite sex or think one side is "inferior"?
1.15.2008 8:48pm
Beran Panasper:
I'm inclined to say that sex-segregated schools should also be allowed, if there seems to be good data supporting their educational value at least to one sex (and especially both).

Or, how about just, "sex-segregated schools should also be allowed, if people want them"? I thought this was supposed to be a libertarian site...
1.15.2008 8:54pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
My angle on this is that it's further evidence that the Haredim, though claiming to be the authentic bearers of Jewish tradition, enforce customs and rules no less novel and radical than their Jewish rivals. Where in Jewish law does it say that sexes must be segregated in public, such as in buses? That an Orthodox rabbi is needed to perform weddings? That able-bodied men should study Torah all day instead of working? That men and boys should wear black hats and coats? That milk and dairy products must "cholov yisrael"? That meat must be "glatt kosher?" Unfortunately, most "secular" Israelis are too ignorant of Judaism to know how novel (and in some cases, like men not working, strongly contrary to Jewish tradition) these innovations are, and accept the claims of authenticity.
1.15.2008 9:08pm
PaulK (mail):
Someone who is actually an orthodox Jew correct me if I'm wrong on this, but wouldn't the rational basis for sex-segregated buses derive from Levitical and Talmudic laws rendering an individual unclean if he comes into contact with a woman who is menstruating? It's been a number of years since I've studied these rules, but I seem to recall that being the case. Of course, that justification doesn't explain why men would physically assault a woman sitting on the wrong part of a bus . . . does rather seem to defeat the point.
1.15.2008 9:36pm
ELBonline (mail):
If men want to voluntarily sit in one part of the bus, and women want to sit in another, more power to them. If somebody uses violence to enforce this, tho, then you have a criminal assault, so the cops should be after them. Perhaps the focus should be on making this happen.

As far as comparisons with Saudi Arabia being an ill fit, it appears from the article quoted that in fact women get on the bus at the same entrances as men, and have access to the full length of the bus. I can assure you from personal experience this is NOT the case in Saudi Arabia. Women are allowed on at the back entrance only, men at the front only, and there is a plywood shield cutting the bus in half. No peeking. The western ladies I was with were greatly annoyed by this, but they did say it seemed to smell better in the back of the bus...

elb
1.15.2008 9:59pm
Gary Anderson (mail):
whose desire seems to be "motivated by group hatred or perception of group inferiority".
Seems to whom? Who thinks that the Orthodox "hate" the opposite sex or think one side is "inferior"?


and

What the heck could the "rational" benefit of sitting separately by sex on the bus be?
Makes the riders more comfortable.


I was just using the language from the original post to say bus-riding seems more akin to the race-based segregation, than to any logical sex differentiation, like in girls-sports, public restrooms, or partly dressed situations.

The "comfortable" explanation seems to fit more in with how people express(ed) the preference for race-based segregation too, rather than rational differences in observable bus-riding behavior.

Let me suggest that this would not be about treatment of women or of male domination if the women were put up front and the men sat in back.

Please, let me disabuse you of this notion Bruce, by offering another analogy I hope is not offensive in mixed company: Say you always put/encouraged the woman on top in lovemaking situations. According to your reasoning = problem solved, eh? Except you might here, "Great, expecting me to do all the physical work again!" :-) It's really about respecting individual preferences, Bruce, and the bounce factor I referenced above...


Aside: Is it just me, or is DB becoming more and more likable with his recent posts/comments and ability to seemingly share more of the complexities of issues lately? Keep it up, fella!
1.15.2008 10:04pm
neurodoc:
EV: The more interesting question, though, is whether and when governments in liberal democracies should, if legislators so decide, be allowed to legally enforce sex segregation (something the Israeli government claims isn't happening). I think the answer is "sometimes."
Why should "liberal democracies" go about things any differently one from another? Could it be that one size does not fit all, even for "liberal democracies," and that is why they may differ from one another in not insignificant ways while still being respectful of what we see as fundamental human rights?

Some think it a great blemish on Canada's standing as a "liberal democracy" because individuals there can be criminally prosecuted there for Holocaust denial. They think that also undercuts Germany's claim to be a "liberal democracy," notwithstanding the obvious historical reasons for that country's legislators to enact such a ban. For the most part, I am happy to be a citizen of this country with its First Amendment guarantees, but I don't fancy that is best for this country is necessarily best for other countries, and I respect their choices so long as they are not violative of my notions of what makes a "liberal democracy."

We can do this comparison/contrast of here versus there for what its worth, and it may be of some worth, but more attention should be given to differences in "local conditions" than is being given. In Israel, for example, it is very much about the compromise that was made when the state was founded between secularists and the very religious, with great, enduring, and even growing, tension between them. Not to take that into account is to be as dangerously obtuse as our current Secretary of State, who as she goes about trying to broker a peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians draws upon her personal experience of malignant, sometimes deadly, racial prejudice in her native South (Birmingham, AL) and analogizes poor blameless Palestinians to abused African-Americans in this country.

I do wonder about the motives and goals of those behind this lawsuit. I suspect that the "Orthodox American-Israeli novelist" who the Religious Action Center chose to make their plaintiff, approaches the issue as an important feminist one and hopes to force Israel to be more like America in its legal regime with respect to the bus business and still other "civil rights" matters. And achieving communal harmony, if it could be achieved, is not a priority for her and her backers.

Those who object to our courts citing foreign law in support of their decisions might think twice about the implications of counting other countries as less "liberal democracies" than us if they differ in how they handle something like separation of men and women on buses that serve religious neighborhoods.
1.15.2008 10:13pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
I doubt if the Orthodox hate women or treat them worse than, say, American commie liberals. Orthodox men marry younger, are much more likely to remain married for life and are much more likely to eschew adultery than American commie liberal men.

Such men are more likely to avoid deep, emotional relationships with women, are much more likely to indulge in continual fornication, are more likely to avoid marriage, are much more likely to commit adultery and divorce their women.

The Orthodox do not separate the sexes because they hate each other. They do not eschew garments made of wool and cotton because they hate wool or cotton. They practice modesty because of religious law and tradition and they separate fibers in garments for the same reason.

Why do commie liberal American men cheat on their women? religious law and tradition?
1.15.2008 10:16pm
Lawer-Wearing-Yarmulka (www):
My angle on this is that it's further evidence that the Haredim, though claiming to be the authentic bearers of Jewish tradition, enforce customs and rules no less novel and radical than their Jewish rivals. Where in Jewish law does it say that sexes must be segregated in public, such as in buses?

It's a stringency. No one will say it's required.

That an Orthodox rabbi is needed to perform weddings?

A rabbi isn't required. No Orthodox Jew, Hareidi or otherwise will say that it's required.

That able-bodied men should study Torah all day instead of working? That men and boys should wear black hats and coats?

New phenomenon.

That milk and dairy products must "cholov yisrael"? That meat must be "glatt kosher?"

Not new phenomenon, and definitly not required, it's a stringency.

Unfortunately, most "secular" Israelis are too ignorant of Judaism to know how novel (and in some cases, like men not working, strongly contrary to Jewish tradition) these innovations are, and accept the claims of authenticity.

The ignorance of secular Israelis is definitly, sad, but even if they knew more, so what? Prominent secular Israelis are going to get into an arguments about halacha with Hareidim? Come on.
1.15.2008 10:21pm
neurodoc:
If men want to voluntarily sit in one part of the bus, and women want to sit in another, more power to them. If somebody uses violence to enforce this, tho, then you have a criminal assault, so the cops should be after them.
But at any time a single man or woman could cast a veto, sitting themselves down with the other gender. That isn't acceptable to the ultra-orthodox, who expect it to be either a bus with separate seating areas, on which they will ride, or a bus with mixed seating, on which they will not ride.
1.15.2008 10:21pm
Hoosier:
"an Israeli-American woman on vacation from Canada"

Huh?

I can't see why I should have an opinion on seating arrangements on Israeli buses.

This was never a problem when I was in Jerusalem, but I didn't venture into the Chareidi 'hoods. The fact that one was admonished by guidebooks not to wear a visible cross or crucifix was shocking to me. But I dealt with this by avoidance, which is my general approach to life's problems anyway.

Besides, I was there with my wife, and she felt unsafe entering any of those neighborhoods: When she was there in college for a summer, some female friends were roughed-up in Meah Shearim. Seems their arms were insufficiently covered. (The only violence I suffered was at the hands of some Palestinian youths, who threw rocks at me when I wouldn't give them money.)

Nasty stuff. But I can tell you which neighborhoods in Indianapolis I avoid as well. So nothing I'm going to get huffy about.
1.15.2008 10:22pm
Hoosier:
"Say you always put/encouraged the woman on top in lovemaking situations. "

I'm not sure I see the problem . . .
1.15.2008 10:27pm
gbm:
"the complainent could have gotten off the bus or just used another one. What's the big deal, here?" (A Berman)

No, actually, all of the buses in certain neighborhoods are de facto segregated. Egged may say some are officially so and others not, but the buses are not clearly marked, and the other passengers no less or more vigilant about eforcing the separation whether the bus is "official" or not. So no, "just use another bus" is not an option. Are you suggesting she could have "just gotten off the bus" and walked?


"Someone who is actually an orthodox Jew correct me if I'm wrong on this, but wouldn't the rational basis for sex-segregated buses derive from Levitical and Talmudic laws rendering an individual unclean if he comes into contact with a woman who is menstruating?" (PaulK)

Ummm... sort of. Not really. The total gender separation is based on creating "fences" to prevent any sort of illicit sex, sexual thoughts, or the like. It's true, some of that sexual stuff (between single people, eg) would be illicit because the woman was menstrually impure, but the separation is not directly about menstrual taboos. Jews these days don't avoid menstrual impurity (of strangers) any more than they avoid the impurity leviticus attaches to dead lizards.
1.15.2008 10:31pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Let me suggest that this would not be about treatment of women or of male domination if the women were put up front and the men sat in back.

Please, let me disabuse you of this notion Bruce, by offering another analogy I hope is not offensive in mixed company: Say you always put/encouraged the woman on top in lovemaking situations. According to your reasoning = problem solved, eh? Except you might here, "Great, expecting me to do all the physical work again!" :-) It's really about respecting individual preferences, Bruce, and the bounce factor I referenced above...
Ok, I was being a bit simplistic. But the men claiming the front and forcing the women to the back seems to reek of a male superiority attitude. And, yes, I am sure that some of the women do like it back there, but we were told during Jim Crow that many of the Blacks here preferred to ride in the back of the bus too. Luckily for all of us here, Rosa Parks didn't accept that.

And, no, I don't force the women I'm with on top, or on the bottom, for that matter. It usually works the other way, with them deciding where they want to be.

But that is exactly what does not appear to be happening here. They may pretend to let women sit where they want, but in reality, women who try to sit up front are apparently some times verbally abused and even physically assaulted. That is more like telling women that they can have any position they want during sex, as long as it is on the bottom. (Pls. blame the sexual analogies on Gary Anderson, as he started them).
1.15.2008 10:33pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
To me sex segregation is just one of many similarities between old school Jews and Muslims.
1.15.2008 10:34pm
VFBVFB (mail):
--- Finally, a few remarks I've seen online about this try to analogize this to the treatment of women in Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia. That seems like quite a stretch, even if the government were seen as being a participant in the bus segregation. First, the treatment of women by the government in those countries is very far from "separate but equal." ---

I grew up ultra-Orthodox in the United States, and I have many ultra-Orthodox relatives in Israel. (Where they are referred to as Charedi.) Charedi women in Israel live under a theocracy not that different from what women in Iran live under. You would be correct to point out that the government of Iran places far more restrictions on women that the government of Israel does. But a Charedi woman in Israel who wants to violate religious norms faces many coercive measures from the religious community, which deprive her of a meaningful choice over how she want to live her life. A Charedi Rosa Parks, who chose not to abide by the mehadrin bus's gender segregated seating would face enormous social consequences. Her children would not be able to get into Charedi schools, the social stigma would prevent her children from having a shidduch, (arranged marriage), her husband would find it more difficult to get his stipend from the yeshiva he was studying in. The fact that it is not the government that is engaging in the coercion does not mean that there is any meaningful choice.

There is no law in Israel that prevents a woman from leaving the Charedi community. But it is also true that Iran does not legally prevent women from emigrating. However, if the only way that a person can exercise his or her free choice is by leaving the only world he or she ever knew, that is not a choice in any meaningful sense.
1.15.2008 10:37pm
Lawer-Wearing-Yarmulka (www):
VFBVFB - what exactly is your point? That a religious community is not going to accept someone that doesn't play by its rules?

Can we all agree that using community pressure to enforce religious norms is a lot different that using legal pressure?
1.15.2008 10:43pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Why do law firms have segregated restrooms? Other countries have unisex restrooms. Would anyone object if a female attorney used the men's room? How about if a male attorney used the ladies' room?

How come we have segregated restrooms in the faculty clubs of Ivy League universities? Would anyone object if a female professor of sociology used the mens room? How about if a male professor of psychology used the ladies' room?

Can people be arrested, charged, and convicted in the US for using the restroom of the opposite sex?

How is the restroom segregation in law firms and humanities departments different from the segregation on buses in Jerusalem?
1.15.2008 10:47pm
ReaderY:
How come my comfort = rational, your comfort = irrational?
1.15.2008 10:47pm
ReaderY:
Clarification: My comfort and things I'm used to = rational, your comfort and things I'm not used to = irrational.

How come?
1.15.2008 10:48pm
VFBVFB (mail):
--- Can we all agree that using community pressure to enforce religious norms is a lot different that using legal pressure? ---

No. If a certain behavior is wrong, why should it matter who is coercing it. If in the Charedi community they had a rule that Sephardim (Jews from Asia and North Africa) have to sit on the back of the bus, would you find it morally better than if the Israeli government passed such a law?
1.15.2008 10:52pm
dd (mail):
>That milk and dairy products must "cholov yisrael"? That meat must be "glatt kosher?"

>Not new phenomenon, and definitly not required, it's a stringency.

Not everyone agrees that it isnt required.
For hundreds of year Cholov Yisroel was required. Just because one rabbi albeit a great has allowed one to eat non CY doesnt mean that everyone else agrees that it isnt required.

ALthough I will agree with glatt and non glatt
1.15.2008 11:00pm
Oren:
And achieving communal harmony, if it could be achieved, is not a priority for her and her backers.
The infernal and unending references to "the community" are what pushed me away from Conservative Judaism. Thankfully, there are branches of Judaism that, while unpopular, value the individuals relationship with the almighty.

But at any time a single man or woman could cast a veto, sitting themselves down with the other gender. That isn't acceptable to the ultra-orthodox, who expect it to be either a bus with separate seating areas, on which they will ride, or a bus with mixed seating, on which they will not ride.
Then the needs of the haredim will have to cede to the needs of the individual.
1.15.2008 11:04pm
Lawer-Wearing-Yarmulka (www):
No. If a certain behavior is wrong, why should it matter who is coercing it. If in the Charedi community they had a rule that Sephardim (Jews from Asia and North Africa) have to sit on the back of the bus, would you find it morally better than if the Israeli government passed such a law?

Yes I'd find it morally better. That doesn't mean I won't condemn the rule (considering that there's no basis in halacha for it), but as long as it isn't being imposed by the State, it's better.
1.15.2008 11:05pm
Oren:
How come we have segregated restrooms in the faculty clubs of Ivy League universities? Would anyone object if a female professor of sociology used the mens room? How about if a male professor of psychology used the ladies' room?
My alma matter had co-ed bathrooms (and co-ed showers for that matter). No, the world did not end.
1.15.2008 11:06pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
That an Orthodox rabbi is needed to perform weddings?

A rabbi isn't required. No Orthodox Jew, Hareidi or otherwise will say that it's required.
Yet the Haredim insist that under Israeli law, only Orthodox rabbis can marry people. Every "secular" Israeli I know thinks this is in fact halacha, and generally accept it as the way things "have to be." They are pretty shocked and disbelieving when I tell them that no rabbi at all is required, much less a government-approved Orthodox rabbi.

Re "stringencies": If you add enough additional rules to the actual rules, at some point you change the religion as much as if you subtract rules.
1.15.2008 11:07pm
theobromophile (www):
How is the restroom segregation in law firms and humanities departments different from the segregation on buses in Jerusalem?


Restrooms are more intimate than buses. The male body and the female body function differently, and they even have different equipment in the restrooms to deal with that. Yes, you could have a restroom with both a urinal and a tampon-dispensing machine, but I think most women are happier not having to see men's privates and men are happier not seeing women's menstrual products.

Contrariwise, we see members of the opposite sex every day. I don't see the fundamental difference between standing in line behind a member of the opposite sex in the self-checkout line and sitting two seats over on the bus, but I do think it's different from seeing him at a urinal.
1.15.2008 11:11pm
theobromophile (www):
Silly question: why can't you just have men on one side of the bus (say, the left) and women on the other side? Wouldn't that accomplish the same goal?

I've heard that Japan may be starting sex-segregated subway lines, after a lot of women reported harassment and groping. Query whether there be any value in such separation, religion aside.
1.15.2008 11:16pm
VFBVFB (mail):
--- Silly question: why can't you just have men on one side of the bus (say, the left) and women on the other side? Wouldn't that accomplish the same goal? ---

The rule is not based on the fear of contact between men and women, but the fear that men who view women might have prohibited sexual fantasies. Thus, they would have separate seating even the bus is almost empty and there were no possibility of contact. For this reason, sitting side by side will not work. They need women to sit in the back, so they will not be in view of men.
1.15.2008 11:21pm
Lawer-Wearing-Yarmulka (www):
Re "stringencies": If you add enough additional rules to the actual rules, at some point you change the religion as much as if you subtract rules.

DB, we're not Karaites. Stringencies are a large part of Judaism, they existed long before we were all divided into the various subgroups (Hareidi, Ultra-Orthodox, Modern Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, etc...)

I agree with you though. There has been a recent movement heaping chumrah (stringency) after chumrah in the Israeli Hareidi world. For some reason, it's not as prevalent here in the U.S.
1.15.2008 11:27pm
Gary Anderson (mail):
But the men claiming the front and forcing the women to the back seems to reek of a male superiority attitude. And, yes, I am sure that some of the women do like it back there, but we were told during Jim Crow that many of the Blacks here preferred to ride in the back of the bus too. Luckily for all of us here, Rosa Parks didn't accept that.

Actually Bruce, it was way more complex a system than Whites in Front, Blacks in Back. Rosa paricularly that day didn't want to STAND. Read this wiki article to see how badly blacks were treated under the system -- often forced to get off and reboard, with the bus often pulling off after they had paid, and before they could re-enter through the rear doors. That happened to Rosa Parks apparently an earlier time with the same bus driver. Surely that influenced her resolve that particular day. "People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in."




Tell me: are Israeli women required to use the rear bus entrances too? And what happens if the male front section fills up -- who stands?, and are women ever "bumped" ?



And, no, I don't force the women I'm with on top, or on the bottom, for that matter. It usually works the other way, with them deciding where they want to be.

BINGO! My point exactly. Bus riders too should decide where they want to be. Front or back. The inferiority thing doesn't go away if you just give women the front seats.


"Say you always put/encouraged the woman on top in lovemaking situations. "

I'm not sure I see the problem . . .


No to ruin a good attempt at humor but... the person on top tends to have the more physical work. The point is: sometimes you want to ride in the front of the bus maybe, sometimes you want to ride in the back. Forcing the distinctions, and thinking it's somehow ok if you put women in the presumably "better" spot doesn't really cut it either...

Why do law firms have segregated restrooms?

I think in unisex bathrooms, men tend to pee on the floor or all around the seat and tank. I bet lawyers would also be inclined to do this if they knew they were sharing with women -- marking their territory and all that.
1.15.2008 11:28pm
Gary Anderson (mail):
How is the restroom segregation in law firms and humanities departments different from the segregation on buses in Jerusalem?

People urinate with different organs, sexually. So there is a connection to our sex-based differences. Same in the half-dressed situations EV started with. Or sex-based differences in sports.

But sitting on a bus -- how do women and men sit on a bus differently according to their sex or organs? They don't.

It's the comfort thing apparently, so more similar to the race-based difference that we reject in America as nonsensical and unnecessary to cater to personal preferences.
1.15.2008 11:34pm
Gary Anderson (mail):
The rule is not based on the fear of contact between men and women, but the fear that men who view women might have prohibited sexual fantasies. Thus, they would have separate seating even the bus is almost empty and there were no possibility of contact. For this reason, sitting side by side will not work. They need women to sit in the back, so they will not be in view of men.


But that doesn't really make sense either, because you can still have a fantasy about someone when they are not directly in view. Unless all women are kept out of their eyesight everywhere at all times? I don't get it.
1.15.2008 11:39pm
Respondent:
Professor Bernstein,

The answer to much of your your critique can be found here. Let me address those points that I have not addressed previously:

Of course there is no specific tradition to segregate the sexes on buses. But it is most definitely recorded in the Talmud that the Second Temple had seperate sections for men and women, in order to prevent excessive mingling of the sexes, that, when occuring in an enclosed structure, is felt to have a danger of leading to extramarital sexual contact, and, eventually extramarital sex, which typically is either a violation of the Torah's prohibition of adultery or sex with a woman of menstrual impurity (which applies to any woman who has ever menstruated and not purified herself afterwards by immersion in water that the Torah states causes purity- basically naturally found bodies of still water or natural springs (Leviticus 11:36)...

The Torah never explicitly speaks to what if any sexual contact is prohibited between two people who can't have sex with each other, but does make a general statement that it is prohibited to pursue thoughts of sin (Numbers 15:39). The Rabbis of the Talmud declared that staring at married women for sexual pleasure can fall under this prohibition. Many people in the number of different Orthodox communities in Israel feel that the likelihood of temptation is just too great when sitting on an enclosed bus for a considerable period of time surrounded by many women. (Many, incidentally, don't- I know a Rabbi who expressed his opinion that it is far better to be seated in a mixed enviroment in a bus because the women outside the bus in major cities are typically not dressed very modestly; better to look at the women inside the bus than at the women on the outside!)

As to the normative question posed by Professor Volokh, I think a bus company should be allowed to cater to the religious and cultural sensitivities of a large percentage of its clientelle, at least when those sensitivites don't reflect a mandate to enact policies that can fairly be said to send a message of inherent inequality. The reason the women are in the back is very simple- there is little concern of women staring at men, but men seated in the back of the bus will have plenty of women to look at, if only their backs! The reason for this difference is the widely accepted belief that men are far more susceptible to visual stimulation than women are (explaining why there is much more of a market for magazines featuring naked women than those featuring naked men). Given that the segregated sex lines largely overlap mixed-sex bus lines, I don't think that it's too much to ask that women who have a particular objection to sitting in the back of a bus or sitting seperately from men wait until the mixed sex seating bus arrives.

(Incidentally, the particular sensitivity Americans have to sitting one group of people in the back of the bus has led certain Hasidic communities in America to adopt a very different solution- a voluntary arrangement in which men sit on the left, women on the right, with some cloth curtains hanging down the middle to block the two sexes from viewing each other. As can be imagined, that arrangement poses quite a number of problems, with people on opposite sides of the curtain bumping into each other a good example. Since Israel has no history of banishing a racially disfavored group to the back of the bus, the easier to administer solution of seating men in the front and women in the back was adopted there).

I've explained why many Hareidi Jews dress the way they do, why a number of those able to work study Torah instead, and why Glatt Kosher has become a norm for American and some Israeli Jews earlier.

The Talmud unambigously bans milk that was milked by a non-Jew without a Jew present, out of concern that the milk marketed as kosher may contain milk form a non-kosher animal. This rule is probably the earliest form of a kosher supervision rule, and probably was only applied to milk because it is practically the only raw substance out there whose kosher status cannot be known through simple visual inspection. Meat must be slaughtered by a Jew in order to be kosher, and one can usually tell whether fish, eggs, or locusts! are kosher by just looking at them. And almost all fruits and vegetables are kosher as well (at least after the requisite tithing requirements are fulfilled).

Unlike the ban non-Jewish baked bread, and the ban on non-Jewish oil (later rescinded), the ban on consumption of milk produced by a non-Jew was completely accepted among all kosher-observant Jews and posed no problems until about 125 years ago, when a growing number of Jews started moving to areas far away from any Jewish farms. Many Rabbis then permitted drinking non-Jewish produced milk on the theory that the existence of a govenmentally enforced mandate that generally sold milk must be 100% cow milk is the functional equivalent of a Jew being able to testify that the milk contains nothing non-kosher in it. This opinion is accepted by the majority of kosher-observant Jews today (at least the non-Israeli ones, as the question is mostly irrelvenat for Israeli Jews whose milk comes ftom Jewish farms). Some Rabbis, however, feel that a government requirement (typically rarely enforced through spot checks) that the milk be pure cannot really be viewed as the functional equivalent of supervision by a Jew, and a number of Jewish communities have always held this viewpoint. Naturally, as the number of Jews who yearn towards greater religious observance has increased, there are more Jews around who want to drink milk that is acceptable even according to the stricter understanding, so more products on the market now advertise as "cholov yisroell", meaning that they follow the talmudic mandate that milk produced by a non-Jew have a Jew in attendance literally, as ws done for more than a millenium.

Of course there is no requirment in Jewish law that a Rabbi of any sort attend or preside over a wedding. The reason why many Orthodox Jews do not recognize a marriage performed by a non-Orthodox Rabbi has nothing to do with the Rabbi per se. Marriage is very much a legal act, and Jewish law mandates that all legal acts be carried out in the presence of two witnesses. But Exodus 23:1 disqualifies the "wicked" as being witnesses, and those who generally aren't religiously observant, especially those who don't observe Shabbat, a crime the the Torah declares punishable by death, are held to qualify as "wicked". Because of the presumption that the witnesses who observed the ceremony at a non-Orthodox wedding were not religiously observant and thus disqualified, most Orthodox jews do not recognize marriages performed by non-Orthodox Rabbis. Nonetheless, soem accept those marriages as valid on a common-law marriage theory, but no-one has been especially fast to adopt this viewpoint, because of the collateral consequence that should the wife have sex with a man other than her husband before recieving a religious divorce, her child would be declared illegitimate an unable to marry into the general Jewish community under Deutoronomy 23:3. As many non-observant women have don't get a religious divorce prior to having sex with another man, it makes sense to say that their marriage is just as invalid as their divorce.

Ultimately, I think that Hareidim claim their authenticity not due "to the social and cultural practices practiced by their community, rather to their insistence on a strict following of traditonal Jewish law, with no compromises made thereof." As I wrote you last year, I have never seen such a claim made about the norms and customs followed in their communities.

Eugene,
Sorry if you feel I hijacked the thread- I just wanted to respond to what I think are a few misnomers about some Hareidi practices, practices I've studied about as a Jewish student. My answer to your question is found inmy third substantive paragraph.
1.15.2008 11:53pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Beran Panasper: Updated the post to make my point clearer on this.
1.16.2008 12:05am
Respondent:
"But that doesn't really make sense either, because you can still have a fantasy about someone when they are not directly in view. Unless all women are kept out of their eyesight everywhere at all times? I don't get it."

Actually, the most insular of Hareidi communities do try to keep all women who are not relatives out of men's eyesight as much as possible. But those that don't still to try to keep their men out of situations where the temptation to stare at women may be too high, so they seperate the sexes at almost all funtions in which men and women will be together for an extended perios of time.

Professor Bernstein,
As to your comment about new rules, I don't think it can be called changing the Jewish religion when the new rules are all either designed to protect the ones in the Torah, consist of guidelines on how to follow ones already in the Torah, or are simply recommondations or "stringincies" that aren't considered requirements.
1.16.2008 12:07am
TGGP (mail) (www):
I've heard about a case where an IDF soldier attempting to protect a woman on a bus was still attacked.

The obvious solution to the problem of laws mandating girls-only sports team is to abolish government funding of the educational/athletic organizations of which they are a part.
1.16.2008 12:17am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I am with Scalia in Smith. I don't believe generally in religious exemptions. In some narrow circumstances, I might be convinced to accept one.

But as far as I am concerned, the ultra-Orthodox belief that God commands the separation of the sexes is obviously a nonstarter; there is no secular justification for separating the sexes on buses, and ultra-Orthodox Jews have to learn how to live in a modern society when they are availing themselves of the privileges paid for by the public.

If they want to segregate their houses or their temples, that's their business-- though they should be condemned as sexists for doing so even in that context. But get on the bus and I'm sorry, you've exited your sexist enclave. If you can't bear the experience, get out and walk. (And don't expect us to clear the sidewalk of women for you.)

Given the type of world we live in, I have to note that nothing in this comment is intended to be or should be construed to be anti-Semitic. Indeed, notably, most Jews rightly reject this sexist practice.
1.16.2008 1:42am
Frater Plotter:
TGGP: From what I can tell, the problem there was that the soldier did not shoot the first assailant through the head.
1.16.2008 3:05am
EH (mail):
The complainent could have gotten off the bus or just used another one. What's the big deal, here?

Dare I say it---- Liberal Fascism at work?


I'll take the bait: some people think it's perfectly consistent not to tolerate intolerance.
1.16.2008 4:55am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Professor Bernstein,
As to your comment about new rules, I don't think it can be called changing the Jewish religion when the new rules are all either designed to protect the ones in the Torah, consist of guidelines on how to follow ones already in the Torah, or are simply recommondations or "stringincies" that aren't considered requirements.
I disagree, especially since the Torah itself, in D'varim, warns against adding to it (which I think means more than just literally adding to the text, though I know it hasn't been interpreted that way). I'm not saying, however, that the rules (or stringencies if you insist) are inherently illegitimate, but I am saying that, say, Maimonidies, would likely no more recognize the Haredi lifestyle than he would the lifestyle of someone who defines himself as "Conservadox," maybe less so. The point is simply that Haredi rules reflect particular developments in a segment of Ashkenazic Jewry, especially influenced by idiosyncratic Hungarian customs, that aren't objectively "authentic" just because they are more stringent and insular. And what would Rabbi Hillel say about attacking people on a bus because they don't adhere to a "stringency?"
1.16.2008 7:45am
Tracy W (mail):
Respondent - what does the Talmud say or imply about "slapping, kicking, punching and pushing" those who don't keep to the stringencies of the Talmud's religious practices?

My apologies in advance if "stringency" is not the right word for the practice of avoiding women being in the sight of men in enclosed structures, I am not sure if you would call it a "stringency" or a "recommendation" or a "prohibition". If I picked the wrong word, can you please do me the kindness of substituting the right one?
1.16.2008 9:09am
Archon (mail):
When I was a kid sitting in the back of the bus was where all the cool kids hung out. When did this rule change?
1.16.2008 9:22am
Waldensian (mail):

In addition, Miriam Shear, an Israeli-American woman on vacation from Canada, says she was slapped, kicked, punched and pushed by a group of ultra-Orthodox men in November 2006 when she refused to move to the back of Egged bus No. 2 on its way to the Western Wall....

Well, at least it's hard to claim that religion is acting as an opiate in this instance. More like PCP, perhaps?


wouldn't the rational basis for sex-segregated buses derive from Levitical and Talmudic laws rendering an individual unclean if he comes into contact with a woman who is menstruating?

Your definition of "rational" differs from mine pretty substantially.
1.16.2008 9:30am
Respondent:
Dilan Esper,

Why shouldn't a public bus company accomodate the desires of a large sement of its clientele to have buses available on which to ride where they don't feel uncomfortable. Objectively speaking, there is no more secular need for seperate sex bathrooms than for sexually segregated buses. What makes people feel uncomfortable obviously differs from culture to culture and there is no valid reason to be less accomodating of a religiously influenced discomfort than a discomfort coming from other reasons. Most Americans feel more uncomfortable performing excretory functions near a member of the opposite sex, but it is just as potentially "normal" to feel more uncomfortable being a potential object of unwanted lustful glances or sitting in an enclosed enviroment and struggling to avoid such glancing. We shouldn't look only at our own cultural preferences and tastes when deciding whther a bus company should accomodate those of others on bus routes that largely serve members of other cultures.

Prof. Bernstein,

Perhaps it is relevant that Maimonides cautions Jewish authorties to ensure that fesitivities during the holidays don't involve excessive mixing of the sexes. Of course he doesn't talk about bus rides, but the basic concept is not new to Judaism at all.

What Haredi rules are influenced by idiosyncratic Hungarian customs? Again, I don't believe that Haredi claims to "authenticity" have anything to do with the community's social and cultural norms; the claim has to do with its insistence on following strict traditional Jewish law without compromises.

I have no doubt that the haredi community Rabbis would be just as condeming of the tragic battery that occured as Rabbi Hillel. Of course any religious denomination's claims to be the religion's authentic version can't be judged based on actions of a few bad members that any of the religion's clergy would condemn.
1.16.2008 9:43am
neurodoc:
The infernal and unending references to "the community" are what pushed me away from Conservative Judaism. Thankfully, there are branches of Judaism that, while unpopular, value the individuals relationship with the almighty.
What branch of Judaism does not emphasize "community"? (Libertarianism is not a branch of Judaism any more than is Socialism.)

And I still see conflation here between religious and secular law, as well as between US and Israeli secular (the only kind in the US) law. Very different matters. (EV started it when he attempted to generalize about what is required of "liberal democracies," ignoring the huge differences between the Jewish state and these United States. Some might even assert that the special place that religion occupies in Israel means that it is perforce something other than a "liberal democracy.")

Respondent, thank you for your informative comments. I wish that I didn't find the answers so offputting, but unfortunately I do.
1.16.2008 10:01am
Justin (mail):
" It may well be wrong to have sex segregation even in a country that gives women many educational, professional, and public options (as Israel does), especially when the sex segregation takes place in a particular subculture in which women may still be held back."

There is a TON to criticize various middle eastern nations for in the way they treat women. Still, that women are discriminated against in the middle east in educational opportunities is mostly a myth. Women make up 60% of university entrants in Iran. They have political leadership positions across middle easter nations, etc. etc.
1.16.2008 10:15am
A.C.:
When I was in Turkey, a Muslim woman noted that the only reason women pray in the back of mosques is to keep men from looking at their behinds when they lean over. This is fairly persuasive, given the position Muslims adopt when they pray. I wouldn't do that with a bunch of guys behind me either.

But on a bus, we're talking about the upper back and the back of the head. I suppose necks can be considered sexy, but that's about it and easily dealt with through dress or hairstyle. If you are only concerned about the body parts visible above a bus seat, the interesting stuff is almost all on the front. What keeps ultra-orthodox teenagers from turning around to get a look? It would seem more effective to put the women up front, so their faces and breasts are aimed away from the men.

It all seems incredibly silly anyway. The groping examples make sense, but nobody has suggested that this is a problem here. It does strike me as a problem when SEEING a certain kind of people in their ordinary clothes is considered unsuitable.
1.16.2008 10:30am
Nephtuli (mail) (www):
wouldn't the rational basis for sex-segregated buses derive from Levitical and Talmudic laws rendering an individual unclean if he comes into contact with a woman who is menstruating?

This is no longer a Halachic concern. The issues relating to coming into contact with a member of the opposite sex are about lustful thoughts and not ritual purity.
1.16.2008 11:04am
Happyshooter:
See, American slavery was totally voluntary, and the slaves themselves chose to obey their owners. They could have stopped at any time. Others involved in the system, called overseers, would have whipped, tortured, and murdered them, but that had nothing to do with the owners.
1.16.2008 11:12am
Oren:
neurodoc, both the Reconstructionist and Renewal branches can be seen as fitting the bill although I tend to associate with the former. From the Wiki (sorry, can't find a better quote)
The movement [Reconstructionism] emphasizes positive views towards modernism, and considers religious custom to be subservient to personal autonomy.
1.16.2008 11:13am
Tony Tutins (mail):
I've decided that Orthodox Judaism is inconsistent with libertarianism because men's failure to control their lust obligates women, not men, to change their behavior. How is this different from requiring productive citizens to pay taxes for the support of those who choose not to support themselves?
1.16.2008 11:18am
Lawyer-Wearing-Yarmulka (www):
I've decided that Orthodox Judaism is inconsistent with libertarianism because men's failure to control their lust obligates women, not men, to change their behavior. How is this different from requiring productive citizens to pay taxes for the support of those who choose not to support themselves?

Who has ever said that any religion is consistent with libertarianism?
1.16.2008 11:33am
Aultimer:

This is no longer a Halachic concern. The issues relating to coming into contact with a member of the opposite sex are about lustful thoughts and not ritual purity.

What a relief! Civil rights of nearly half the population (non-extremist women) only have to give way because of burka-think, not just some silly old menstruation complex.

Seriously, can't these guys just learn self-control?
1.16.2008 11:33am
Respondent:
Can't we all agree that some things when done in public are so inherently provocative that calls for "self-control" should fall on deaf ears? Most Americans would not (at least openly:) be in favor of allowing full nudity in every public setting. The question is simply one of degree, and this is where cultural differences come into play. There is no objective reason why the line has do be drawn in one particular place.

Even modestly dressed attactive females are likely to be a temptation to stare at lustfully, and the same grounds that causes society to frown on public nudity cause some members of other societies to ask that men and women not be made to stay together in an enclosed enviroment for an extended period of time.
1.16.2008 11:47am
Eph:
Tony,

Traditional Judaism is (somewhat) inconsistent with libertarianism because the former does not accept individual autonomy as the most important value. Though Judaism might endorse limiting state power vis a vis the individual, it would only be so that the individual has the maximum freedom to pursue his obligations vis a vis God.

With regard to your point about obligating women to change their behavior in order to help men, part of the Jewish view is that all Jews (and arguably all of humanity) are connected, with a common interest in each others wellbeing. If another Jew is suffering or struggling - that is my problem as well. If I can help him or her fulfill his obligations and be a better person, live a happier life, etc. I have should try to do so.

Jewish law does not require that degree of separation (adjacent seating may be a different matter) - but common human decency makes it a nice thing to do.

To Aultimer,

You repeat an oft heard canard in blaming men for not having adequate self-control. Do you recognize ANY circumstances where women's behavior or dress might affect a man, even one with great self-control.

Though Judaism requires men to "learn" and practice tremendous self-control, it also recognizes (as I assume any psychologist or even amateur student of human nature would) that total mental control of all sexual thoughts is extraordinarily difficult, and that certain circumstances can make a high standard of control of thoughts almost impossible. Referencing what I said above, if women can act in ways that make this easier for men, why not do them the favor?

Of course, the above discussion does not justify the actions of certain people to maintain the separation when a woman sits in the men's section. Violence and verbal abuse are violations of laws(Jewish and civil), and far more serious transgressions then are positive the benefits of separate seating.
1.16.2008 11:59am
AnneS:
Because no one else has pointed this out, in response to REspondent and Eph's points, there is an objective moral and practical difference in the degrees to which society or the state asks women to control or restrict their behavior to make it easier for men to avoid lust. Going beyond merely asking us to cover up our cleavage and our knees greatly limits our ability to participate meaningfully in society. Can't be in an enclosed place with unrelated men if they can see you? Forget working in any kind of business or office environment, or fully participating in government. Have to cover every inch of skin and hair except maybe your face? You've just been rendered virtually invisible, not to mention made uncomfortable and had your mobility restricted. Asking women to disappear or stay out of sight in public is objectively bad for women and society, and doesn't really seem to help men that much - it just renders the occassional stolen glance or forbidden flash of forearm all the more tantalizing when it (inevitably) occurs.
1.16.2008 12:12pm
neurodoc:
Respondent, I think you will find few here who are not willing to see the haredi left to their own ways. The question is how far others are willing to go in accomodating the haredi when the haredi live among them. As you undoubtedly know, there is great tension in Israel between the ultra-Orthodox and the rest of the populace. The latter are very angry with the former, understandably I think, for not just failing to pull their own weight by positive contributions to the common good, but for the burden they place on the society since as a group they are willfully other than self-sufficient economically.

And sure there are intermediate positions between very permissive societies, e.g., permit nudist colonies, and very theocratically authoritarian ones, e.g., force women to wear burkas. "Cultural differences come into play," as you say. But do you really think you're going to get many to accept haredi notions of what is and isn't proper? Personally, I am glad to see the preservation of tradition generally, but in the way that the "modern" Orthodox preserve, not the way those frozen in time like flies in amber go about it.
1.16.2008 12:14pm
Shinobi (mail):
I would argue that attitudes encouraging gender based segregation in public areas such as busses, or banks for the purpose of protecting men from possibly being attracted to a woman are both misogynistic and misandristic. They assume that people cannot control themselves, and that they must be protected from tempatation. I say, that if you cannot withstand the temptation of a fully clothed woman in a public place then you probably don't deserve whatever rapture your religion has in store for you.

I also think that the examples of segregated buses in Mexico and Japan represent even WORSE examples of this. They are treating the symptom of a social problem, the idea that women's bodies exsist for men's consumption. They are not dealing with the actual source, the men who are disgusting pigs who feel the have the right to touch women around them inappropriately. Sure the women are temporarily "protected" but that doesn't mean that they wont be groped by similar men in some other circumstance because their culture is permissive towards it.

Frankly, as a woman this is a very personal issue for me. It is one of the few issues that really pisses me off. I am fully prepared to assert my right to exist in a public space while being female. I am not obligated to hide myself in order to make the spiritual lives of men run smoothly.
1.16.2008 12:48pm
Waldensian (mail):

if you cannot withstand the temptation of a fully clothed woman in a public place then you probably don't deserve whatever rapture your religion has in store for you.

Well said. I am totally going to steal this line.

I am not obligated to hide myself in order to make the spiritual lives of men run smoothly.

Another gem. And let's face it, covering up women in Saudi Arabia hasn't done much to smooth out those guys' lives....
1.16.2008 12:59pm
A.C.:
It probably made their lives stranger and more twisted, in fact.
1.16.2008 1:02pm
neurodoc:
Oren, might I ask if there anything other than
"(t)he infernal and unending references to 'the community'" that "pushed (you) away from Conservative Judaism," and whether you have found Reconstuctionist Judaism thoroughly satisfactory because it "value(s) the individuals relationship with the almighty." I have known Jews to express all sorts of dissatisfactions related in one way or another to their religion, most often about congregational matters, but I have never heard someone say they felt there was any devaluation of "the individual's relationship with the Almighty."

And a further question if I may...do you see yourself as a Libertarian, and traditional Judaism in some conflict with Libertarianism (as eph explained to Tony above)?

For myself, the "community" ("tribal" if you care to put it that way) nature of Judaism is one of its greatest strengths and appealing aspects. So it surprises me to hear someone who counts him/herself an adherent say that it is the "community" part that turns them off. And to bring this back to the subject of the current thread, which certainly isn't personal religious beliefs, it shapes my views of a dispute like the bus one. (I'd like to see the religiously observant accommodated to the greatest extent practical. I see the haredi in Israel, though, constantly seeking accommodations that are well beyond practical, sometimes without any regard for the collective interests of their countrymen. Since many of them are decidedly hostile to the state itself, it is hard for me to be too sympathetic to them when they push the edge of the envelop.)
1.16.2008 1:07pm
Tracy W (mail):
Though Judaism requires men to "learn" and practice tremendous self-control, it also recognizes (as I assume any psychologist or even amateur student of human nature would) that total mental control of all sexual thoughts is extraordinarily difficult, and that certain circumstances can make a high standard of control of thoughts almost impossible. Referencing what I said above, if women can act in ways that make this easier for men, why not do them the favor?


"Total mental control of all sexual thoughts" is an extremely demanding standard. I personally don't believe that any man (or woman) can achieve such a standard, regardless of what people of the opposite sex do. Therefore I don't see why I should restrict my own life in order to help men meet some impossible standard. I agree with AnneS about the coverups making the odd glimpse of flesh just more tantalising.

How about men stop beating themselves up for the odd lustful thought? Take it as an ideal to aim for, but not a biggie if you fail?
1.16.2008 1:36pm
MDJD2B (mail):

I've decided that Orthodox Judaism is inconsistent with libertarianism because men's failure to control their lust obligates women, not men, to change their behavior.

Judaism is incompatible with libertarianism.

First, it holds that one is Jewish by virtue of being born so. Second, it holds that being Jewish-- i.e., being born Jewish-- subjects one to certain obligations. Third (if you are other than Reconstructionist or possibly Reform) these obligations severely limit personal choice in many spheres of living.

I believe that any religion whose tenets hold its adherents responsible to a higher power is incompatible with libertarianism. If God commands that you behave a certain way, you lose liberty. Even if God determinses that you have a purpose, you lose liberty, as there are worldly or otherworldly consequenses if you do not conform with Divine will.
1.16.2008 1:55pm
Respondent:
"Can't be in an enclosed place with unrelated men if they can see you? Forget working in any kind of business or office environment, or fully participating in government. Have to cover every inch of skin and hair except maybe your face? You've just been rendered virtually invisible, not to mention made uncomfortable and had your mobility restricted. Asking women to disappear or stay out of sight in public is objectively bad for women and society."

My goodness. I've certainly not been arguing for any sort of exclusion of women from society. Maintaining some segregated bus lines in a few areas where a large percentage of the public wants it is a far cry from defending a policy asking women never to stay in an enclosed space with men.

As to AnneS's point about the oversensitization that occurs from an occasional glance of skin normally covered in one's society, she's right on. But that doesn't answer the question, because we could advocate everyone going around fully naked in order to desensitize the entire human body. It seems most cultures that have any care at all about exposing men to unwanted lust solve the problem with the following standard: What are the appropriate minimum standards of public dress given the already existing degrees to which most people will cover up in that society?


Many American locales, for instance, expect both men and women to where some kind of a shirt covering their torsos in addition to at least a pair of shorts when walking around in public. Just keeping on the pair of shorts is considered to provocative, and an inappropriate calling of attention to the chest or stomach areas. Yet no doubt the society's shirt requirement can sometimes be somewhat uncomfortable. Seems to me that as long as mobility and dexterity isn't severely restricted (and it isn't so long as a person's face and hands are permitted to be uncovered) htere's nothing wrong with a society expecting people to dress in public in a way that doesn't stand out and attract unwanted lustful thoughts.
1.16.2008 2:35pm
Aultimer:

Do you recognize ANY circumstances where women's behavior or dress might affect a man, even one with great self-control.

[T]otal mental control of all sexual thoughts is extraordinarily difficult, and []certain circumstances can make a high standard of control of thoughts almost impossible.

If women can act in ways that make this easier for men, why not do them the favor?


Because the entire concept presumes inferiority of women, demeans men who are able to control themselves and makes actual equality impossible.

or perhaps you prefer Volokhian analogy -

Do you recognize ANY circumstances where Jews' behavior or dress might affect an anti-semite, even one with great self-control.

Total mental control of all xenophobic thoughts is extraordinarily difficult, and []certain circumstances can make a high standard of control of thoughts almost impossible.

If Jews can act in ways that make this easier for anti-semites, why not do them the favor?
1.16.2008 2:49pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Objectively speaking, there is no more secular need for seperate sex bathrooms than for sexually segregated buses. What makes people feel uncomfortable obviously differs from culture to culture and there is no valid reason to be less accomodating of a religiously influenced discomfort than a discomfort coming from other reasons.

As far as I know, sex segregated restrooms imply nothing about gender relations, whether women should participate equally in public life, whether women are "unclean" or must have their activities restricted, whether women are equal to men, whether the traditional patriarchy should be maintained, etc.

Any sex segregation that flows from religious beliefs, however, does raise those issues.
1.16.2008 3:03pm
Rabbi popping in:
In this issue, there is premise and the practice. First, to point out a fallacy: PaulK mentioned impurity and not touching a menstruating woman. That refers to ritual impurity, which can be purified only when the Temple stands. Every single person in modern times is considered impure, so there is no problem in touching a menstruating woman, unless she is your wife which again has nothing to do with ritual impurity, it has to do with marital relations being forbidden then.

The premise in Jewish thought is that only husband and wife have reason to interact with each, to get to know each other, to discuss with each other. All interacton between men and women who are unmarried is superfluous (but not forbidden).

The practice has been since the time of the Temple (possibly 2900 years or so) for there to be a divider during services between the men and the women, as there was in the Temple. That minimal requirement for a divider, called a mechitzah, is agreed on between all Orthodox Jewish groups.

Most groups take it further than that to some degree. Most require separate dancing. Most require dividers present when dancing in separate groups. Many require separate seating for community social meals. Many require separate seating for lectures. A minority require further separation in other areas, for example Satmar Chasidim at home seat the women in the kitchen and the men in the dining room. This is a very small minority.

The request for separation on buses is a combination of a small minority being very vocal on an issue that that only they believe should be compulsory, together with the fact that most Orthodox Jews would not want to sit in contact with other women or men, but would be perfectly happy to remain standing or change their seat if someone sits next to them. A fellow Orthodox Jew would be sensitive to this and not sit next to them in the first place, but the majority of Israelis are secular.

The major issue is that there are already de facto such busses, and twice that I know of women have been beaten for sitting in the wrong section and refusing to move. Although they were prosecuted for the beating, perhaps the universal feeling is that if we clearly mark which busses are mixed and which not you can choose not to get on a separated bus. I think it's silly to think that that will solve the problem, but much of politics in Israel seems silly to me.
1.16.2008 3:23pm
Yankev (mail):

I don't see how accomodating sex inferiority or hatred in this case is any different than accomodating racial inferiority or hatred. Particularly as most families are made up of different sexes and might want to sit together.

So my wife, who is uncomfortable sitting next to men (other than her husband, son, father or brother) on a bus or airplane, and will not shake hands with an unrelated man (including our son-in-law) hates men and feels they are inferior to her? Or hates herself for being a woman and feels herself inferior to men? I assure you that neither is the case.
1.16.2008 3:35pm
A.C.:
Respondent commented that "as long as mobility and dexterity isn't severely restricted (and it isn't so long as a person's face and hands are permitted to be uncovered) htere's nothing wrong with a society expecting people to dress in public in a way that doesn't stand out and attract unwanted lustful thoughts." The principle is right if the examples of excessive restriction are broadened to include a much wider range of things that are actually done in practice. All of these can be severely limiting:

1. Long, heavy skirts (try running in 'em)
2. Cloaks that the wearer needs to hold onto at times
3. Wearing a lot more (or for that matter less) clothing than the weather calls for
4. Wearing clothing that restricts movement of the shoulders or head
5. Wearing anything that interferes with ordinary physical activities, such as picking up a child, riding a bicycle, or climbing into a small car
6. Having a social standard that ordinary people can't afford, so that a lot of women can't leave home at all (this happened in Afghanistan)

Now, I happen to believe that the most restrictive female clothing after full Islamic veils and Victorian corsets is the combination of tightly fitted jacket, miniskirt, and high heels. (Makeup and hairstyles that can't withstand the weather frequently add to the problem.) Modesty isn't the only reason women end up saddled with ridiculous, impractical clothing. It's one of the top three, though, along with showing off sexually and displaying social status. When men start making restrictive demands on women for any of these reasons, and then turn slap-happy if a woman doesn't comply, there's a serious problem.
1.16.2008 3:43pm
Yankev (mail):
DavidBernstein:

That an Orthodox rabbi is needed to perform weddings?
In addition to Respondent's excellent point about witnesses, there is a second reason, also having to do with the legal nature of marriage and the serious religious consequences of an improper marriage or divorce. The Talmud in Kiddushin advises that if someone is not expert in the laws of marriage and divorce, down to minute details of the law, you should have nothing to do with him (i.e., in the area of marriage or divorce). For that reason, even among Orthodox rabbis, not just anyone is deemed competent to preside over a marriage, even fewer to be on a rabbinic court to grant a divorce (which consists of three rabbinic judges), and fewer still to preside over such a court. Theoretically any scholar expert in these laws can do so, whether or not he has received the semicha (rabbinic ordination). In practice, semicha is usually required.
1.16.2008 3:44pm
Eph:
MDJD2B - You seem to define "libertarianism" as endorsing nearly unfettered liberty of goals, freedom from God and man. Is that your definition?

To other readers - does "libertarianism" apply only to government's relationship with citizens or is it a broader philosophy?

The original post primarily dealt with government imposed segregation. Many posters are taking issue with the private separation of the religious community. But should that community be free to have separate seating, separate schools, and the like if they want to?

As for the point of government segregation, the Israeli government is more involved in business than in the US, their monopoly grant to the Egged bus company as one example. Egged instituted such busses to serve customer demand.

A tangential observation in response to Professor Bernstein's comments about marriage:
You wrote that:

Yet the Haredim insist that under Israeli law, only Orthodox rabbis can marry people.

My understanding is that there is no secular marriage in Israel...for anyone. I believe this stems from Turkish law, but it dates to the origin of the State, when the Charedim had almost no influence. Muslims who wish to wed require the approval of their authorized (by the State) religious authority and so too Christians. It is impossible for a Jewish man to marry a Muslim woman in Israel - neither the Jewish nor the Muslim authorities would sign off on it.


Tracy - you are right, "total control" is an impossible standard, and does not represent the Jewish view (nor my own). I should have replaced "total" with "high" or similar language.

Aultimer,

I may have been unclear, or perhaps you misunderstood. I was attempting to show how, within the Jewish world-view (which of course most respondents here do not accept), practices like separate seating (as opposed to the unacceptable use of extrajudicial violence to enforce such practices) do not stem from a desire to demean women.

"Inferiority of women" - The same concept applies to men and men's behavior. However, with regard to sexuality men tend to react more strongly to women's appearance than the other way around, as evidenced by the greater effectiveness of advertisements featuring attractive women in selling to men than the reverse.

"Demeans men who are in control of themselves" - Loosely translated, one axiom of Jewish thought is that "No one is trusted with regard to sexual immorality" - this includes the most esteemed Rabbis of the generation, to whom the same laws apply. You are correct that these practices are protections for a fraction of the (male) population, at cost to women and possibly "demeaning" to those men who do have excellent mental discipline. My point here is that traditional Jewish sources value protection from harmful influences above implied human weakness.

"makes actual equality impossible" - Judaism posits significant differences between men and women which impact on the Jewish view of the ideal society. What that view is varies based on which aspect of the tradition one emphasizes, but "actual equality" as I assume you mean it is not a Jewish value and probably contrary to the Jewish view on human nature.

Again, what I am trying to do is outline the different assumptions and philosophical approach that underlies traditional Judaism. I don't ask you to accept them, just to see how they differ from your own. I assume you see it as virtuous to avoid offering a recovered alcoholic a drink - the reasoning is roughly parallel.

As for your analogy:

It is imperfect, in that in my case the benefit of "improved self-control" (or reduced temptation to transgress, reduced tendency to view women as pieces of meat, etc.) from the women's behavior primarily accrues to the man and only in a secondary sense to the woman. Because Jews are trying to help each other she sits separately, her merit or credit is in assisting someone else. In your case, the primary benefit from reduced anti-Semitic/xenophobic thoughts are the Jews who are less likely to suffer discrimination or persecution. In a secular view, I do not see the problem with xenophobic thoughts which remain at the level of thoughts.

Therefore, the threshold is probably somewhat higher for when a Jew should change his behavior to avoid inciting an anti-Semite. A cost benefit analysis should be made...as is the case here. After all, in our situation we are discussing separate seating on a bus, not being locked in a room all day never being seen by men. In the most charedi neighborhoods of Jerusalem crowds are entirely mixed gender. So, whereas the benefit to some men is worth separate seating on a bus, it is not worth separate streets for foot traffic. I would apply the same standard to your question.

Feel free to email me to continue this discussion - eunell@gmail.com.

Also, "Respondent" - I'd really like to speak with you. Could you also email me?
1.16.2008 3:54pm
Yankev (mail):

When men start making restrictive demands on women for any of these reasons, and then turn slap-happy if a woman doesn't comply, there's a serious problem.
Women make these demands on each other just as much as men make them. And yes, when men turn slap happy against women (or get violent with other men, for that matter), there is a serious problem.
1.16.2008 4:06pm
Yankev (mail):
Eph

Loosely translated, one axiom of Jewish thought is that "No one is trusted with regard to sexual immorality" - this includes the most esteemed Rabbis of the generation, to whom the same laws apply.
Another,equally relevant, is "The higher spiritual level a person has attained, the stronger his ability to be tempted." Whic explains, of course, why it is not demeaning to posit that even a man who has achieved a high degree of control over his thoughts and urges can be susceptible to visual stimuli.
1.16.2008 4:13pm
theobromophile (www):

Whic explains, of course, why it is not demeaning to posit that even a man who has achieved a high degree of control over his thoughts and urges can be susceptible to visual stimuli.

Well, if you are an alcoholic, you can deal with it in one of two ways: learn to control your desire for it; or demand that everyone around you accomodate your needs, such that you never see alcohol in any form. Someone who takes the latter route is practising avoidance, rather than addressing the underlying problem.

We think that this would be silly enough with alcohol, and understand that people shouldn't force the entire world, who are able to function quite well with alcohol, to accomodate their desires. One would hope that, once you replace alcohol with an actual person who has an interest in participating in society, we would really see how ridiculous this is.

A.C. (I think) brought up an excellent point. If you can't be on a bus with a woman - heaven forbid, across the aisle! - how on earth can you interact with her in an office? That is all day, every day, and you start to get to know her!

Finally, maybe the guys in my life are far too honest with their thoughts, but it doesn't take enclosed spaces or extended periods of time to get them lusting after a woman....
1.16.2008 4:40pm
Aultimer:

I assume you see it as virtuous to avoid offering a recovered alcoholic a drink - the reasoning is roughly parallel.

Not parallel. Criminalizing the offering of a drink to anyone, since they might be an alcoholic, is actually closer.

As for the other example, the similarity is much closer than you suppose. The incidence of current-day Israeli women mistreated for "inciting" men by appearance and behavior is statistically very close to the incidence of current-day American Jews being mistreated for inciting anti-semites by their appearance and behavior - almost 0, but with notable examples.
1.16.2008 4:58pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Yes, you could have a restroom with both a urinal and a tampon-dispensing machine, but I think most women are happier not having to see men's privates and men are happier not seeing women's menstrual products."

I suppose we could say most men on the bus are happier not having to be near women, too. Is happiness the standard? Whose happiness? hapiness of Americans, or happiness of those foreigners?

"People urinate with different organs, sexually. So there is a connection to our sex-based differences. Same in the half-dressed situations EV started with. Or sex-based differences in sports."

The standard commode seems to do quite well for both. What's the connection you reference? Is it possible those things we grow up with and are comfortable with are to be accepted, while those things more foreign to us are to be examined in a much harsher manner?
1.16.2008 7:03pm
theobromophile (www):

Is it possible those things we grow up with and are comfortable with are to be accepted, while those things more foreign to us are to be examined in a much harsher manner?

Well, the proper distinction is not "foreign" or "Western;" it is "sex organs applicable" and "sex organs n/a." After all, my internal organs don't affect the way I sit on a bus, but they do affect the way I use a restroom and the purposes for which I would use it.

We would find it inappropriate for a man to reveal himself in public, but he would do so, by design, in a restroom while using a urinal. Sex-segregated restrooms allow us to maintain in a public bathroom that which is maintained in the public sphere. The bus distinction is absurd - it actually carves out an exception for itself from what commonly happens in the public sphere, in Israel. One can rationally be very comfortable working with people of both genders but have no desire to use the restroom with them; however, one cannot rationally work in a mixed-sex environment and then throw a fit when asked to sit across the aisle from a woman on a bus. Apparently, sitting in an office = okay, sitting next to on a bus = not okay.

I imagine that many men would feel quite comfortable having a female boss and co-workers, but would be deeply uncomfortable seeing them rinse out reusable menstrual products in the restroom. Seems like a rational distinction to me.

Finally, a thought about modesty: it applies to both men and women, and it applies in the ways that make us men and women. The way I sit on a bus seat has absolutely no relation to my female parts, but the way that I go to the bathroom does. We cover up that which distinguishes us from the other sex, and we preserve a sense of modesty in not subjecting the other sex to that which makes us either female or male. Thus, we cover up our external sex organs, but not our hands and feet.
1.16.2008 7:23pm
Waldensian (mail):

Every single person in modern times is considered impure,

Whew. Glad we got that cleared up.

I can't believe otherwise intelligent people make statements like this.

I will fight to the death for your right to believe this bunk, but bunk it is.
1.16.2008 7:25pm
ReaderY:
Why should we except characterization of these people's others' sexual preferences and sources of gender identity as "nefarious" etc. etc. etc.

Here we have people for whom gender identity and homosexual practices are a source of personal meaning. Why should people be permitted to call their motivations nefarous? How can animosity towards such people and their gender identity practices ever be a rational basis for prohibitions? Why should the fact that their source of transcendental meaning and personal identity happens to be located in a bus rather than a bedroom make any difference? Transcendence can happen anywhere, and any practice can be a source of meaning in life The trancendental isn't limited to only those place Supreme Court Justices prefer to frequent. Why shouldn't other people get a say about their own sources of identity?
1.16.2008 7:34pm
ReaderY:
theobromophile

Thus, we cover up our external sex organs, but not our hands and feet.


But in society women cover their knees and elbows and married women cover their hair. What gives you the right to impose your own view of what is and is not sexual on others? On these matters -- given the variety of modesty practices in the world -- claiming ones' own culture's particular practices are the only possible rational ones seems at the least kind of implausible, at most downright hubris.

I'd much rather live under the rule of a legislature where people can debate these practices and persuade each other to change them if they can, and which candidly admits that its laws are in no small part based in custom, tradition, and societal comfort and preferences, then under the rule of a judge, and particularly from a judge who suffers from the delusion that his or her own practices and ways of thinking are the only possible rational or enlightened ones. That way lies tyrrany.
1.16.2008 7:40pm
Oren:
Do you recognize ANY circumstances where women's behavior or dress might affect a man, even one with great self-control.
Certainly everyone's behavior affects those around her but it quite a stretch of logic to therefore make the individual responsible for the responses of other human beings.
1.16.2008 8:37pm
Yankev (mail):

Certainly everyone's behavior affects those around her but it quite a stretch of logic to therefore make the individual responsible for the responses of other human beings.

Legally responsible or morally responsible? Judaism posits that there is a difference between the two. And that I may have moral responsibilities to others that cannot necessarily be legally enforced, even in a religious court. E.g. if I deliberately goad you into losing your temper, I may be morally responsible for your intemperate words or for spiritual injury that you do to yourself. But a Jewish religious court would not find me criminally liable nor civilly liable to you in damages.
1.16.2008 9:05pm
theobromophile (www):
No one is alleging that these women are dressing immodestly. My statement was to the one about bathrooms, which, by any definition, are immodest.

I'm not sure what I'm "imposing" on others... seems like the only imposition here is men who can't control themselves, upon women who are forced to alienate themselves from society instead.

There is, morally, a difference between action and inaction, and deliberate and incidental results. It is an incidental result of a woman's being that a man may be turned on by her, even if she is dressed modestly. There is no way she can be morally responsible for that. It is incumbent upon the man to figure out how to control himself, without making people live worse lives than he does for his comfort. Men can't control themselves, so women lose rights - that is moral?!?
1.16.2008 9:41pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Nevertheless, the fact remains that you get two witnesses, and give a ring to a woman, and you are married, no rabbi required. For that matter, I seem to recall that Judaism recognizes a form of common-law marriage, though I don't remember the details.

BTW, when I was a young yeshiva boy, we were told that customs re dairy after meat ranged from 1 to 6 hours. From what I can tell, the more lenient custom has virtually disappeared among the Orthodox, and not because it was less "authentic."
1.16.2008 10:09pm
dd (mail):
>BTW, when I was a young yeshiva boy, we were told that customs re dairy after meat ranged from 1 to 6 hours. From what I can tell, the more lenient custom has virtually disappeared among the Orthodox, and not because it was less "authentic."

the authenticity of the more linient customs have been challenged and many hold they are wrong and it is possible that is the reason for its disappearance
1.16.2008 10:23pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"We would find it inappropriate for a man to reveal himself in public, but he would do so, by design, in a restroom while using a urinal."

"I imagine that many men would feel quite comfortable having a female boss and co-workers, but would be deeply uncomfortable seeing them rinse out reusable menstrual products in the restroom."

"Finally, a thought about modesty: it applies to both men and women, and it applies in the ways that make us men and women."


So, we should consider appropriateness, comfort, and modesty when determining if it's OK to segregate based on gender? That's exactly what the Saudis say. Are they wrong about appropriateness, comfort, and modesty?
1.16.2008 11:02pm
Tracy W (mail):
It seems most cultures that have any care at all about exposing men to unwanted lust solve the problem with the following standard: What are the appropriate minimum standards of public dress given the already existing degrees to which most people will cover up in that society?


Does this solve the problem though? Dressing modestly has the advantage that it allows us women to indicate an interest in sex by manipulating our clothing. Victorian literature's bad girls used to get amazing things done by manipulating the glimpse of an ankle. Modest vs immodest dress does cause problems when accidents mean we suddenly are wearing too little, or when someone misunderstands the appropriate levels of modesty for a particular culture, but there are a lot of gains from being able to dress immodestly, which you can't do unless there is the concept of dressing modestly.

On the flip side, I have read various anthropological accounts of cultures where everyone, male and female, just wears a few beads, feathers and pieces of string, and in those the men still appear to be able to get on with their lives. Possibly the women there achieve the same effects by removing a bead necklace that Scarlett O'Hara achieved by offering the possibility of a glimpse of toe.

If seeing a women sitting in front of you on the bus is unusual then it will be provocative. If it happens every day quite normally, it will be rather less provocative.

It is imperfect, in that in my case the benefit of "improved self-control" (or reduced temptation to transgress, reduced tendency to view women as pieces of meat, etc.) from the women's behavior primarily accrues to the man and only in a secondary sense to the woman. Because Jews are trying to help each other she sits separately, her merit or credit is in assisting someone else.


This assumes that the women's behaviour helps men with self-control. However, in the case of Israeli women, the habit of sitting separately on buses has caused men such problems with self-control that some of them have resorted to attacking women who do sit in front of them. Meanwhile, in countries where it is common for men and women to intermingle on public buses we don't see that happening (people do get attacked on buses, but for money, or because the attacker feels they are being "dissed", not simply because a women sat in the front of the bus). It strikes me that your methods are causing more self-control problems for Isreali men, not less.
1.17.2008 4:39am
Hoosier:
Tracy: >>Victorian literature's bad girls used to get amazing things done by manipulating the glimpse of an ankle.

This is a family blog. Could you please tone it down.
1.17.2008 7:05am
AnneS (www):
You're right, Elliot, it's all a matter of degree determined by cultural preference. There's no objective line to be drawn between separating the genders while they engage in a highly private bodily function and forcing women to sit separately on a public bus or wear a burka. Sure, the former has almost no collateral negative effect and the latter tend to reenforce women's subordinate status and limit their full participation in society, but it's all relative.

Of course, scalding is also a matter of degree. Some people prefer baths so hot that others would find it unbearable. That doesn't change the fact that at a certain temperature, a person taking a bath will OBJECTIVELY be scalded.
1.17.2008 7:39am
Tracy W (mail):
Hoosier >> giggle.
1.17.2008 9:45am
Oren:
E.g. if I deliberately goad you into losing your temper, I may be morally responsible for your intemperate words or for spiritual injury that you do to yourself.
That is a terrible precedent to set for this blog Yankev and certainly makes the vast majority of the conspirators guilty of a lot of my acts.
1.17.2008 11:01am
Elliot123 (mail):
"Of course, scalding is also a matter of degree. Some people prefer baths so hot that others would find it unbearable. That doesn't change the fact that at a certain temperature, a person taking a bath will OBJECTIVELY be scalded."

I agree it's wise to test the waters before taking the plunge. So, if you are implying there is an objective point at which such segregarion becomes harmful, how do we determine that point? In the US we force women into separate restrooms. In Israel, they force women into separate sections of the bus. Is either objectively harmful?

We can measure the degree of the scalding burns by examining changes to the skin. How do we measure the degree of harm from particular instances of gender segregation?

Each culture that has some form of gender segregation tends to defend it the same way. Each uses cultural values and customs to justify its gender segregation. A Saudi could easily use some of the very same language used here to defend his notion that women should wear an abaya in public. And each culture rejects the customs of the other that are used to justify the segregation.

Each culture also likes to use law to enforce the gender segregation. In the US one can be arrested for venturing into the wrong restroom. In Saudi, one can be arrested for not wearing an abaya in public.
1.17.2008 11:40am
AnneS:
First, I don't think it's accurate to say that one can be arrested for going into the wrong restroom - I doubt it's actually a LAW in most (or any) places in the U.S. (otherwise, I really have to rethink my policy on using "one-hole" men's rooms when the women's line is too long) - anymore than it would be accurate to say that in Israel a woman could be arrested for sitting in the front of a bus. Second, I don't think any of the cultures you mentioned reject the custom of setting aside separate restrooms for men and women.

More substantatively, I think it's disingenuous not to recognize that there are objective difference in purpose and effect between a custom that separates males from females while they use the toilet and one that segregates or completely covers women in public places. The former custom inconveniences almost no one and is designed to make men and women feel more comfortable partially disrobing and taking care of highly personal bodily functions that involve their genitalia. In contrast, customs that segregate and cover women have the purpose of "protecting" women by "protecting" men from the overpowering sexual temptation fully clothed women inspire. They not only seriously inconvenience women (and at least some men), but hinder their ability to participate fully in public economic and social activities. Finally, they reinforce the subordination of women by, among other things, rendering them less visible in society and legitimizing the "woman-as-evil-temptress" meme that justifies much of the repression doled out on women.

If you want a formula for measuring the degree of harm posed by certain forms of sex segregation, I suggest looking to three factors - (1) primary justifications, (2) actual effects on people's lives, and (3) level of coercion involved.
1.17.2008 12:16pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Suppose a tourist, ignorant of such niceties, happened to be on the bus and started punching out the assailants?
He could say he thought the women were being assaulted, as they were.
How would an Israeli court see that?
1.17.2008 1:07pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"First, I don't think it's accurate to say that one can be arrested for going into the wrong restroom - I doubt it's actually a LAW in most (or any) places in the U.S."

I agree there ae many things for which one can be arrested but which are not specified in the law. But, as a test, just send a guy into the ladies room, call a cop, and see if he is arrested. What do you think will happen? That seems a high level of coercion.

"They not only seriously inconvenience women (and at least some men), but hinder their ability to participate fully in public economic and social activities."

That's interesting. At large functions I often see long lines outside ladies rooms and no line outside the men's room. This obviously has to do with both biology and the number of commodes available in the ladies room. At the same time, the commodes in the men's room are vacant. So, here's a public resource being kept from inconvenienced women. That would seem to effect a person's life about as much as a bus seat.

"In contrast, customs that segregate and cover women have the purpose of "protecting" women by "protecting" men from the overpowering sexual temptation fully clothed women inspire."

And protection? Are justifications based on protection inferior to those based on comfort or convenience? How about the protection justification offered for women's only subway cars in Japan?

I suggest the actual justification in all these societies is that, "I am comfortable with it, can't come up with any rational standards, so my way is best, and those other people are wrong."

As I said earlier, just ask these types of questions in various cultures, and you will get the same answers, just in support of different customs.
1.17.2008 1:39pm
theobromophile (www):
Elliot,

Context, please. My comments were aimed at the objective, substantive differences between restrooms and city buses. Your interpretation thereof is wonderfully skewed.
1.17.2008 3:03pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Context, please. My comments were aimed at the objective, substantive differences between restrooms and city buses. Your interpretation thereof is wonderfully skewed."

You did indeed tell us about that. Then you told us about appropriatenes, comfort, and modesty. You even told us about men's level of comfort watching women "rinse out reusable menstrual products in the restroom." I was unaware of that; I have to commend their commitment to recycling.

But, remember, it's only the other guy's deeply held cultural attitudes that merit our scrutiny. Since we all agree our attitudes are correct, they must be the proper standard. What ever happened to the joy of diversity?
1.17.2008 4:11pm
Tracy W (mail):
So, if you are implying there is an objective point at which such segregarion becomes harmful, how do we determine that point? In the US we force women into separate restrooms. In Israel, they force women into separate sections of the bus. Is either objectively harmful?


Well, the separate sections of the bus "rule" is causing objective harm in that some men are beating up women who violate it. The bruises and pain suffered by the poor women are objectively harmful.

Furthermore, while the woman who violates the norm suffers physical harm, I would say that the norm is clearly warping the minds of a significant number of ultra-Orthodox men, and therefore harming them. Remember, the norm in Israel about certain buses being segregated is not the law of the land, instead the state argues that the segregation is voluntary. So these ultra-Orthodox men have been so warped by the norm that they are breaking the laws of the land they live in, and I presume their own religious traditions' rules against assaulting others. And we are not talking about a odd nutcase - the newstories report groups of men attacking women. Contra to AnneS, I fear the harm done by this norm to the ultra-Orthodox men's minds may be even worse in the long-run than the physical harm done to the poor women. It is not healthy to be beating people up.

Note, what concerns me here is that there are groups of men doing this. I agree that every religious group can attract the odd person with mental problems who takes up attacking people who they believe violate their norms, however when *groups* of people start asssaults it's time to start wondering about the health of the religious teachings.

In the case of gender-separated bathrooms, I have heard various stories of women who have used men's bathrooms in desperation or in a foreign country when they made a mistake about symbols. I have not heard of a women being assaulted by a group of men simply for being in the men's toilets. It's possible that this does happen, and we would need to look to the relative frequencies of assaults of women entering men's toilets vs women sitting in the front of buses that some ultra-Orthodox people think should be segregated.
1.18.2008 4:27am