Creating people's geographies
Charles Fourier once astutely noted that “The degree of emancipation of woman is the natural measure of general emancipation.” That is, the degree of freedom women enjoy as their natural birthright serves as something of a yardstick for the overall measure of progress and emancipation in any given society.
And for once the spotlight is on the Middle East, but not where you may think (in fact, the country’s apologists make an art of trying to deflect attention away from it.) Here, finally, a story highlighting the plight of women in Haredi culture.
Brian Whittaker in the Guardian relates how a woman was beaten for sitting in the wrong seat on a sex segregated bus – and, as noted in the article header, “you might be surprised to learn who the culprits were.” He writes:
She used to get the bus every day on her way to early-morning prayers.
“Every two or three days, someone would tell me to sit in the back, sometimes politely and sometimes not,” she told the newspaper. That’s where “modesty” requires women to sit. One morning, though, it was worse. A man got on the bus and demanded her seat near the front, even though there were others available.
“I said, I’m not moving and he said, ‘I’m not asking you, I’m telling you’,” she recalled. “Then he spat in my face and at that point, I was in high adrenaline mode and called him a son-of-a-bitch, which I am not proud of. Then I spat back. At that point, he pushed me down and people on the bus were screaming that I was crazy.
“Four men surrounded me and slapped my face, punched me in the chest, pulled at my clothes, beat me, kicked me.” The other passengers, she says, told her she was stupid for not moving. “People blamed me for not knowing my place and not going to the back of the bus where I belong.”
According to one eyewitness, nobody helped her. “I tried to help, but someone was stopping me from getting up. My phone’s battery was dead, so I couldn’t call the police. I yelled for the bus driver to stop. He stopped once, but he didn’t do anything.”
An everyday story of fanatical Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia? No. Ultra-orthodox Haredis in Israel, actually. The full story is here.
The woman, Miriam Shear, is an American Israeli who currently lives in Canada. In the article we’re told the case is “under investigation” (now that’s a familiar refrain, but usually as it relates to war crimes). One commenter amongst the very long line of responses to the article quips: Welcome to Talmudistan. Indeed.