Miriam Shear, an Orthodox woman, was beaten last month by several men for refusing to move to the back of a bus in Jerusalem. The bus was not officially sex-segregated, but because it traveled through ultra-Orthodox communities, women were expected to sit in the back, whereas men occupied the front seats. The bus driver is said to have ignored the fight in progress, which involved the woman being punched and kicked, including kicked in the face as she was attempting to adjust her head covering.
I was once a veiled, ultra-orthodox woman, (Christian “orthodox”, small “o,”). I should really publish photos of myself veiled sometime. Maybe I will, though I have really mixed feelings about it (and only a very few photos). Anyway, here is where all of the lofty religious language and ideology break down for me. In my old world, men (and some women) would never and still never agree that women in their communites are or should be second-class citizens. There is always beautiful, flowery talk and endless theological treatises written about differences in “roles” not necessarily equalling inequality, about how both men and women are equal in the sight of God, with differences in roles being just a matter of efficiency and order, as opposed to women’s natural inferiority or God-ordained subordinate status. The problem is that if and when women in these communities make any movement in a direction inconsistent with their assigned roles, men or women authorized by those men will be the enforcers, the discipliners, the gender role police. Even then there will be no allowance as to how this enforcement means women are not men’s “equals.” In my old world, the men (and some women) would just pontificate on about the importance, again, of “order” and “obedience” and “spiritual leadership,” all the while they are kicking some uppity woman in the figurative (or literal) teeth, just as this woman, Miriam Shear, got kicked in the teeth, for daring to defy the patriarchs.