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Pre-2008 Posts

Orthodox Jewish Woman Beaten by Men for Refusing to Go to Back of Bus

Veiled” by Jean McComas

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. 

I read about this first in Women’s E-News .  The Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance listserv has been discussing this incident for weeks, as I understand.  Here is the article in Ha’aretz.




18 thoughts on “Orthodox Jewish Woman Beaten by Men for Refusing to Go to Back of Bus

  1. “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. ”

    Which is, of course, a complete and total lie. The flowery talk about “seperate, but equal” is clearly just a way to placate women. It’s a pat on the head, while they stab you in the back.

    Posted by Veravenom | December 22, 2006, 5:20 pm
  2. Aimee Huiben Chew, whose work I appreciate, just e-mailed some of us a copy of an article from the Boston Globe entitled something like, “The Year Women Got Beat Up.” The article reminded me of my own ongoing “male terrorism” posts. The author lists all of these atrocities against women and then wonders why they don’t seem to be registering *as* atrocities. There was something like a 31 percent rise in acts of domestic violence, men against women, last year in Massachusetts, the figures were widely reported, but there was almost no public response. There have been some remarkable atrocities against women in Boston which have also garnered little public response.

    I just keep thinking about this incident I’ve blogged about. A woman got on a bus and sat down near the front. This was entirely legal. There were no laws forbidding this. She was *beaten* then by, not one, not two, but three men. She was kicked in the face. For sitting down in the front of a bus. This has been in the news since early December. And yet it passes as though it’s nothing. There are comparatively few articles about it if you google it.

    Well, I won’t shut up. I am going to scream the hideous truth about the rise in male violence against women, about the way men terrorize girls and women all of the time, every day, from the rooftops. I know those of you who read here will join me. I know thousands of people, every day, are reading what I write here. I know a lot of them are men because a lot of them attempt to comment and also e-mail me. I have some things to say to them pretty soon, too, when I feel like devoting time to that particular project. In the meantime, all of you men reading– pay close attention to the way men brutalize and terrorize women. Read the “male terrorism” category of posts here if you need some place to begin. And please keep what I’ve blogged about here in mind before you decide to comment or e-mail me. If it’s clear to me you aren’t paying attention to what I’ve written here about the way men treat women and girls, then I won’t be paying attention to what you have to say to me and hell will freeze over before I approve your comments.

    Meanwhile, why in the name of the goddess on high are we in this time in history when atrocities committed against women, by men, in ever-increasing numbers, are barely newsworthy, are unremarkable, ho hum. Even self-identified feminists seem to prefer to write about just about anything but this.


    Posted by womensspace | December 23, 2006, 6:05 am
  3. Tonight, I was standing in line at the store, and there was a young couple in front of me. The young woman, who was buying an inexpensive pair of shoes, seemed really happy and playful with the young man. He stood there with no emotion.

    All of a sudden, the guy reaches into the cooler to grab some orange juice.

    I nudged my partner and said loudly, making sure he could hear, “Now watch this. That mutant is going to expect “mommy” to pay for his orange juice.”

    It’s not that I’m psychic. It’s just the going trend these days. I can’t remember the last time I saw a man reach for his wallet. These days, the boys expect the girls to take care of them in every way. Including paying for anything he might desire.

    Sure enough, that’s what went down. The woman’s demeanor immediately changed. She went from happy and playful to upset. She told the young man she couldn’t afford to buy him the orange juice. She only had enough money for the shoes. Couldn’t he wait until he got home? She had lots of orange juice at home.

    The young man ignored her and kept his orange juice on the counter.

    Upset, the woman walked out of line and walked away from him. She couldn’t pay for the orange juice.

    I said loudly to my partner, “I don’t know why women put up with these blood sucking, piece of shit, good for nothing men. That boy ain’t even cute. That boy is downright ugly.” My partner said, “I know! And she’s so cute!”

    Oh, he heard us all right. I could see him stewing.

    The young man went after the young woman and as he rushed by me I heard him tell her to get back in that line before he beat the shit out of her. My partner didn’t hear him but I sure did.

    WTF?! Put down your shoes and pay for my orange juice or I’m going to beat the shit out of you?

    It isn’t the first time I’ve heard it. I’m hearing it out of too many men’s mouths these days. And they don’t care who hears it either. They know they can not only say it, but do it, and get clean away with it. There is nothing standing in their way.

    Posted by Luckynkl | December 23, 2006, 7:27 am
  4. I have recently begun using public transport. I clung to my car as long as I could because I will become increasingly disabled now, by now having my “wheel chair”. Apart from freezing to the bone at unsheltered bus stops, and having to be jerked around by bus movement and then deal with more pain, I am afraid. I am afraid because of the violent talk and carelessly aggressive and ugly behaviour I see around me. Now this isn’t a surprise to me that this exists, I sure know it. But I’m afraid in the way I am within a house, but never in the outdoors. And I just realized why. There is no escape in a bus, like in a home, and in a home is all the times I was sexually and physically abused. I am filled with fear in a bus, palpably, and I didn’t until this moment realize why.

    Posted by Pony | December 23, 2006, 8:43 am
  5. luckynkl – what a horrible story!

    On women’s role – I’m also from a religion where we’re told over and over again that women are equal in power, equal in importance, we just have different roles.
    There’s a lot of nice talk.
    You keep your eyes open though, and all you see is women’s role being belittled while men’s are inflated. I see women working, women exhausted with child-bearing and church work and looking after their husband, trying to be all things to all people… presumably for the reward in Heaven.
    And then hubby turns round and reminds them that oh no, there will still be child-bearing and work in Heaven.

    Women like me are ‘placated’ with the advice that we do have a role to play – we can love and teach other people’s children until we find the husband without whom we cannot be ‘saved’. All the nice words, ignoring the fact that single women are side-lined and made worthless.
    Rejecting the set gender role is to invite a lot of criticism. It doesn’t even have to be said – by rejecting marriage and motherhood, I’ve also rejected my place in the after-life. Suggesting that all isn’t rosy in the realms of marriage is beyond the pale, proof that you really are a lost soul and a danger to other members.
    If I’ve ever had a problem with the way the Church is organised, it’s this. There is no place in my church for someone like me, and all the placating doesn’t make that any less true.

    The criticism I’ve received has been verbal, but pointed. Several times I’ve been plainly told that I cannot reach the higher levels of salvation without a man.
    When you understand how much it matters to these people that every soul is saved, then it is obvious how easily the line between persuading and force, or between verbal admonishment and physical punishment, can be crossed.

    Posted by sophie | December 23, 2006, 9:58 am
  6. This may be a bit OT, but in regard to men being without emotion, I remember a story told by the teacher in my all-female medical technology (lab testing) class years ago. We were on the subject of professional ethics, specifically what would you do if you saw the lab results for the boy/girlfriend of a loved family member and they were HIV positive. Lab results are strictly confidential – would you tell your family member they were sleeping with death? The women in my class were quite emotional, vehement that they would violate professional ethics in order to save the lives of their loved ones. I felt the same way. Then the teacher, who had had male students in most previous classes, said “You know, young males are wonderful.” Wonderful, I thought, what does she mean? Then she continued, “when I give this scenario to young males, they have no problem at all with maintaining confidentiality.” Holy smokes! Young males, she was telling us, had no problem whatsoever with keeping their yaps shut when a family member was having sex with an HIV postitve person! (and this was “wonderful”). The women were having big problems with it because they LOVED their families. We then went on to discuss what to do to protect others without violating professional ethics. But what the teacher said about young males stuck in my mind and I wonder if they even love their families all that much.

    Sorry for the digression.

    Posted by Branjor | December 23, 2006, 12:18 pm
  7. Well, along that lines, in a far-off manner, Brajor, I work with the public. Mostly the poor. Part of my job is to take their mug shots and fingerprints. That’s right. The government is now fingerprinting anyone who needs assistance and takes their mug shots. As if being poor is criminal.

    It didn’t me long to notice there was a pattern along gender lines. When women sit down to have their pictures taken, they smile wide for the camera. When men sit down for the camera, all emotion suddenly drains from their face as they put on a poker face and glare into the camera. Even tho just seconds before they were cheerful, playful and smiling. The shift in men from one extreme to the other is startling. And what’s more unsettling is that I’ve only run across one man that didn’t do it.

    Posted by Luckynkl | December 23, 2006, 3:51 pm
  8. I don’t quibble with calling out the professor.

    But, how do you know all the young women were motivated to break privacy for love? How do you know sleeping with HIV is sleeping with death? How do you know the partner does not already know?

    Until our society becomes a bit more enlightened on the subject of HIV and HCV I don’t think anyone has a right to tell someone’s test results, for anything.

    But we do have a right to demand the person so tested disclose. There is some legislation (somewhere) for other viral diseases, isn’t there?

    Posted by Pony | December 23, 2006, 4:51 pm
  9. ***But, how do you know all the young women were motivated to break privacy for love?***

    Why else? The scenario was that you see the HIV positive results for the boy/girlfriend of (fill in whoever you love the most/are closest too). The blank was filled in with sisters, mothers, brothers, etc.

    ***How do you know sleeping with HIV is sleeping with death?***

    My words, just a paraphrase. The teacher probably just said “will you tell”. The class went on the current medical understanding that if one was HIV +, then one *would* eventually develop AIDS. And if one developed AIDS, one *would* eventually die and that sex was a main route of transmitting AIDS. That was the understanding, it may or may not have been true.

    ***How do you know the partner does not already know?***

    We didn’t, and that was discussed.

    Posted by Branjor | December 23, 2006, 5:55 pm
  10. Gossip, self-importance, the power of being the one who knows, jealousy, malice; there are all kinds of motives among friends and family. Actually love is probably the last when it comes to things like this. One might give love and caring lip service in the context but that doesn’t mean it’s the motive.

    If healthcare workers start deciding when to tell whateve, we can expect the hammer will come down, on everyone, but hardest on women. It always does.

    Posted by Pony | December 23, 2006, 6:27 pm
  11. ***Gossip, self-importance, the power of being the one who knows, jealousy, malice; there are all kinds of motives among friends and family. Actually love is probably the last when it comes to things like this. One might give love and caring lip service in the context but that doesn’t mean it’s the motive.***

    That’s not the impression I got at all and I was there. But, if you’re so omniscient and all knowing as to my classmates’ motivations, go right ahead and think whatever the hell you want.

    Posted by Branjor | December 23, 2006, 8:49 pm
  12. I apologize Branjor if I seemed to be casting aspersions on your friends/classmates. I am not saying this was your classmates motives but that these are other things that motivate people. It is human nature, not the best of human nature, but there still, in all people, in all walks of life, to varying degrees. Since the context was healthcare I’ll just give you a couple instances of motives that were not in the patient or public interest, not you might say, motivated by love: Canadian Red Cross and the HCV blood scandal, drugs to treat thalessemia tested on Africans without their knowledge, and given criminally (the jumping off story for the movie and book The Constant Gardener) , the Korean stem cell researcher who completely fabricated his data, the menopause doctor who made up data that had millions of women taking carcinogenic hormones unnecessarily and who received $3 million in research funds for it, and whose data was used to back up dozens of other groundbreaking hormone research findings, etc.

    I am not saying that’s what happened in your classroom. I’m saying I would be cynical. They are only human, and the mantle l of goodness and honesty that once cloaked healthcare professions is long since gone.

    Posted by Pony | December 23, 2006, 9:37 pm
  13. I’ve grown up with men in my family that I’m close with. Had many male friends, and relationships with men, which for the most part were good. I’ve encountered my share of bad men too but there was a balance.

    But 2006 is the first year of my life I honestly question the integrity of men as a gender on a more personal level, based on my own experiences this year for the most part. It may be late in my life to say this in comparison with other women’s views but I think I’ve lost faith in them. Well, most of them. I spent a lot of time this year holding onto my good memories of men to bolster myself against the sheer misogyny that came my way this year in different venues. I’ll be so glad to put this year behind me, but then what will the new year bring? More of the same, or different experiences?

    I feel badly for these women, and all the other women in the world who experienced colonialism, discrimination, harassment, violence, murder and other forms of misogyny at the hands of men. There have been so many this year as there is every year.

    There are good men including men who do speak out against violence against women, but who’s the exception and who’s the rule. I’m not sure I know the answer to that anymore.

    Posted by Radfem | December 24, 2006, 6:22 pm
  14. So did the Jewish preach equal rights? What equal rights?

    Good for the woman for sitting at the front. People – any sex – should be able to choose the location of their seat in a bus!

    Posted by MJ | December 26, 2006, 10:32 am
  15. My first thought on this was how bloody hypocritical the men in question were being. They follow a set of religious rules that forbids them physical contact with an unrelated female – so how does grabbing and assaulting one, and for that matter removing parts of her clothing, fit with this? How exactly do they think this behaviour is consistent with anything any deity would ask for? It strikes me as an incredibly perverted view of religious piety.

    Posted by Nella | December 26, 2006, 5:40 pm
  16. I agree with Nella

    Posted by Leif-Harald Nesheim | January 9, 2007, 11:15 pm
  17. I agree with Nella too.

    Posted by Lisa | February 15, 2007, 5:57 pm


  1. Pingback: Another post on gender issues « Blather - Rinse - Repeat - December 23, 2006

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