Women and the Back of The Bus

I guess I like to debate.

With every single roomate I’ve had, I’ve grown closer with them through debating life, religion, philosophy, and other essentials–like which purse goes with which necklace.

Today’s debate revolved around the minute inconveniences in life, and whether or not they are “a big deal”. Some examples that were brought up:

-Religious schools which ask their female students not to “put up or take their hair down” during class, because those are sensual acts which might arouse the male teachers (there are no male students in the particular school in question)

-Women being asked/required to sit in the back of some religiously operated bus lines.

-Women being asked to walk on a separate sidewalk from men.

Each of these things, in and of themselves, isn’t really a major inconvenience to women’s lives. My roommate argued that she didn’t really care whether these policies were imposed against her, because it doesn’t really cause her any harm to comply with them.

Sure, the seats in the back may not be as nice as the seats in the front, sure, it’s not to hard to just step outside of the classroom if you want to adjust your hair, sure, the sidewalk on the other side of the street will still get you to where you need to go, but these are not the problems with these policies. Taken as a whole, the policies represent a blatant bias against women.

Now, some parts of halacha are biased against women, I’ll give you that. Women can’t file for jewish divorce, women can’t count as part of the requisite 10 men of a formal prayer group, women can’t lead some parts of the davening service…Depending on interpretation, the list can go on and on.

But these things in question have no basis in halacha. Nowhere are women prevented from walking down the same street with men, traveling in the same part of the car as men, or adjusting their hair in public (except in the view of those which require married women’s hair to be covered in public, which still, of course, only applies to MARRIED women!).

Accepting these requirements, and even encouraging other girls and women to follow them represents an acceptance of the discrimination against women that runs much deeper than halacha.

I know of many people that feel that halachic observance encourages a discriminatory mindset, and are therefore not orthodox (many are very observant egalitarian Jews). My response has been that no, there are plenty of jews that eschew discrimination against women, yet follow halacha because they believe in the greater good of following a set code of values (divinely given or not).

I believe these comments undermine my previous response. The fact that people, modern, worldly, people, can accept these forms of discriminations as “no big inconvenience” shows that they are completely removed from the idea of gender discrimination. Today it may be hair tying and bus seating, tomorrow it may be schools and workplaces (Oh, wait. That was 40 years ago and is still being settled). I believe that it is a commitment to anti-women halachic practices which encourages this behavior.

And this is what scares me the most, because I too engage in some of these anti-women halachic practices. I don’t count myself in the prayer group, I refuse to lead services, I dress modestly. Will I become one of the seperate seaters? Will I encourage women not to tie their hair infront of men? Will I become one of them?

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