The Brooklyn Bus Where Women Sit in the Back

Wait, let me check my calendar. Yup, 2011. So it's surprising to read about a New York public bus line that still forces women to sit in the back.

Here's what happened when Melissa Franchy boarded the B110 bus in Brooklyn and sat down near the front:

For a few minutes she was left in silence, although the other passengers gave her a noticeably wide berth. But as the bus began to fill up, the men told her that she had to get up. Move to the back, they insisted.

They were Orthodox Jews with full beards, sidecurls and long black coats, who told her that she was riding a “private bus” and a “Jewish bus.” When she asked why she had to move, a man scolded her.

“If God makes a rule, you don’t ask ‘Why make the rule?’” he told Franchy, who rode the bus at the invitation of a New York World reporter. She then moved to the back where the other women were sitting. The driver did not intervene in the incident.

The B110 bus travels between Williamsburg and Borough Park in Brooklyn. It is open to the public, and has a route number and tall blue bus stop signs like any other city bus. But the B110 operates according to its own distinct rules. The bus line is run by a private company and serves the Hasidic communities of the two neighborhoods. To avoid physical contact between members of opposite sexes that is prohibited by Hasidic tradition, men sit in the front of the bus and women sit in the back.

Is it gender discrimination or a reasonable approach to accomodate religious rights?

Sasha Chavkin of The New York World reports: Link | Follow up at The New York World and The New York Times


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Miss Curly, it actually is illegal to make people sit in the back of the bus on public transit based on any protected category: gender, race, religion, etc. A private bus would be different. This bus is not private, but is contracted with the public transit authority.

Not all the people riding the bus are Orthodox; it is available to the public. And I have read many accounts of women being assaulted and manhandled on the gender-separated buses, here and in Israel; it is much more common than on regular public transit, as the men do not believe that they have to answer to secular authorities.
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The whole archaic idea of being "unclean" is what makes me laugh about the whole situation. It's superstition at its least usefulness. There was a point to it centuries ago, but it should be safely put to rest now.

Are women really just menstruating all over the place? Is it that big an issue? If it is, I'm gonna have to start carrying a towel with me.
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Our country was founded on religious freedom. It is not illegal to make someone sit in the back of the bus. YOU may not like it, but they don't seem to mind. Those women are probably on the safest bus in New York, and if they want to sit in the back of the bus, let them, and if my mom and sister were riding that bus and had to sit in back and didn't get raped, mugged or robbed, then it's worth it. Those people aren't getting something special that you aren't getting and you never would have known about this bus anyhow, so just...shut up. Leave people alone!
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No, it would be something much more superstitious and ridiculous, like if you've eaten taco bell recently you can't sit next to someone who just had chipotle.

Just an excuse for segregation. That's all it is. No amount of made up crazy reasoning will change the result.
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