What War on Women?
We love women. Some of us hire them. Some of us even marry them.
But, ride on a public bus?
Whoa! Wait a minute. Now you're talking crazy.
Last Friday, Tanya Rosenblit boarded a bus in her hometown of Ashdod, just outside of Jerusalem, to travel to that most holy city for an appointment.
She knew that Egged, the bus company that owned the bus and Israel's largest bus firm, provided special segregated buses for its routes through Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.
That deal had been struck more than a decade ago. Reportedly, about 50 bus lines currently have separate seating. Their routes run mainly through ultra-religious neighborhoods and skip over central bus stations to avoid catering to the general public.
On these bus routes, women are typically required to enter through the back doors and wear modest clothes that cover their arms and legs. Those who attempt to sit at the front are often subjected to assaults by male passengers, mostly verbal but sometimes physical.
Indeed, in 2006, an American-Israeli woman was slapped, kicked, punched and pushed by a gang of ultra-religious men when she refused to move to the back of a Jerusalem bus.
The gender-segregated buses remain despite the Supreme Court ruling last January for the first time that they were illegal. Nevertheless, the transportation ministry now requires buses to post stickers inside that say every passenger could choose his or her own seating.
That's because sometimes, even ultra-Orthodox men and women have to travel outside of their segregated neighborhoods to travel - on what remain as public buses - to places where men and women in the rest of society do not live segregated lives.
So, Tanya Rosenblit boarded the public bus which happens to travel a route through a neighborhood populated by the Haredim - a Hebrew term referring to their fear of God. They are a tight-knit community making up about 10 per cent of Israel's population of 7.7 million. They usually remain in their own neighborhoods or towns, where women who don't wear long dark dresses or cover their heads with hats, scarves or wigs frequently face quiet or open hostility.
Ms. Rosenblit dressed appropriately - modestly, out of respect for her fellow passengers - and, when she boarded the bus, took a seat behind the bus driver. In the front of the bus. On a public bus. On her way to Jerusalem.
Then again, Rosa Parks didn't ever intend to become a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement in this country. When asked later why she did what she did, she would say that her feet were tired and she sat down.
Ms. Rosenblit wrote about her experience and posted in on her FaceBook page. She also took lots of pictures. You can read her account and see some of the pictures here.
She begins her account with these words:
The driver looked at the station where I was standing and didn’t stop. I had to signal him by raising my hand for him to stop. When I entered the bus he looked surprised. He explained that the only ones who go on the bus are Orthodox Jews. I sat behind him in the first row and asked for him to tell me when we get to my station.At the next stop, men from the Haridem began to board the bus. She was appalled when an ultra-Orthodox male passenger cursed her and demanded that she move to the back portion because he did not want to sit behind a woman.
|Photo by Tanya Rosenblit|
To her surprise, a policeman summoned by the bus driver asked her to "respect" the men by shifting to a back row.
Respect the men.
Shift to a back row.
Any of this sound familiar?
I know what you're thinking. This happened in Israel. With ultra-orthodox Jews. That's not how it is here. In America. Women are totally respected here. That would never happen here. In America.
Right. Here, we just throw women "under the bus" when political deals are made to cut services to women who live in poverty. Services like education. Health Care. Assistance to help feed their families. Employment opportunities with decent (but not necessarily equal) pay. Access to information about and services for Reproductive Rights.
I know what you're thinking. This was not about the color of her skin as it was for Rosa Parks. This is different. This is about religious tensions.
Right. I would argue that racism is its own form of religion. Indeed, Scripture - Hebrew and Christian - have been used throughout history to support the superiority of Caucasians and the inferiority of anyone whose skin is dark(er).
I know what you're thinking. This is about her gender and how some people - especially religious "fanatics" - see women as "The Weaker Sex". You know. Because of Eve and what happened in The Garden. Just give them time. They'll come to understand about the equality of the sexes. Eventually.
Right. I would argue that sexism, being the "original sin" recorded in Scripture, is the basis for racism, homophobia and heterosexism. As long as there is sexism, there will be racism, homophobia and hetrosexism.
Need some evidence? A little bit of "proof"?
|Credit: Reuters/Max Rossi|
“It is necessary that there be something such as an ecology of man, understood in the proper manner,” he said.
“It is not outmoded metaphysics,” the Pontiff affirmed, “when Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and demands that this order of creation be respected.”
"The rain forests certainly deserve our protection, but man as creature indeed deserves no less,” he said.
“What is often expressed and understood by the term ‘gender,’ is definitively resolved in the self-emancipation of the human being from creation and the Creator,” Benedict warned.
“Gender” as used in the pope’s address is broad enough to encompass anyone who doesn’t completely conform with their assigned sexual roles; including homosexuals, bisexuals, transgender and others.
Benedict XVI explained that great theologians have “qualified marriage, that is to say, the link for life between man and woman, as a sacrament of creation, instituted by the Creator.”
See? It's just the "natural order" of things. Just the way "God intended for us to be happy". We just need to obey the "natural order" of God who created men.....Oh, yes.... and THEN women. Oh, and, remember how she messed that up in The Garden.
Why, see? It's Eve's fault that the rainforests are in destruction. Anyone who is like Adam can save the world. Anyone who is like Eve is potentially dangerous to all of human kind.
Saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behavior is just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.
Right. It's crazy talk, is what it is. Let me hasten to remind you that these words were spoken by The Pope - the undisputed leader of the vast majority of Christians throughout the world.
Crazy like a fox, is what I say.
Feminist theologian, Mary Daly, once posited that "If God is male, then male is god."
Ms. Rosenblit wrote:
I lived in Israel all my life. I was brought up in a free country and I was taught the value of freedom as a basic right that could never be undermined by anyone. All my life, during my teens, my military service, my university years and then after I always felt as equal among my peers. I was always proud to be a woman and never felt deprived or weakened by men, until today.Today has come for women and men around the world to stand up for the Tanya Rosenblits of the world who want to take a seat on a public bus and travel, without harassment, to their destination.
Today has come for women and men around the world to live respectfully in the tensions of our vastly differing religious beliefs and values.
Today has come for women and men in this country to take a stand for the equality and democracy which we say we cherish.
In a few short days, we will be ushering in the New Year of 2012. Before the end of that year we will be electing - or, please God, re-electing - a President of The United States.
A great deal is on the line - including the status of women, especially women who live in poverty. I hope, when you think about stepping into that voting booth, you'll remember Tanya Rosenblit and help to vote someone in (or out of) office that will bring about an end to the War on Women.
Indeed, I hope you'll not forget the Christmas Season we now celebrate with the central message of "Emmanuel" - God with us.
I don't know if God is male or female. I personally chose to believe that Mary Daly is right and that God is beyond gender.
|The Eye of God|
I also personally believe that you have the absolute right to believe whatever you chose to believe.
What I don't believe is that I have the right to impose those beliefs on you.
Neither do you have the right to impose your beliefs on me.
Not in terms of my value as a human being because of my gender or skin color or sexual orientation or educational background, or physical or intellectual or emotional ability, or class status, or who I chose to love and how I chose to fashion my life, which may not be in accordance with your values and beliefs but does no harm.
Neither do you have the right to determine where I chose to sit on a public bus.
That, dear Pope Benedict, is part - a small part, but a central component - of the "sacramental nature of life, instituted by the Creator".
No one - not the church or any one individual - has the right to define or determine how it is that I chose the "outward and visible" signs of the "inward and spiritual" grace of my life.
Here's the "Ecology of Humankind" which we need to protect and defend:
No matter who or where we are, or what or how we believe.