There are increasing reports of women on planes being asked to move seats because their presence ‘offends’ some men with religious sensibilities.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised about this. Women are still routinely expected to curtail their ambitions and talents to make room for others. It doesn’t seem to matter how important or high profile a woman may be, some men will find a way to make her take up as little space as possible, to the extent of making her disappear altogether.
When Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State she was very much involved in the search for Osama Bin Laden. As part of her job, she was front and centre in the situation room as American forces attacked the Bin Laden compound. A photo was taken and ran on front pages all over the world except in the ultra-orthodox Jewish newspaper “Der Tzitung”. That publication airbrushed Clinton and Director of Counterterrorism, Audrey Tomason, out of the picture, leaving a room full of men.
There was an outcry at the time but the newspaper justified its action by saying they never publish photographs of women because ‘modesty’. Recently German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo experienced the same treatment in Israeli newspaper HaMevaser when they marched with other world leaders in protest against the Charlie Hebdo shootings.
I wonder what the ultra-conservatives from all sorts of religions will do if Clinton is successful in her second bid for President? There will be a lot more airbrushing going on, no doubt.
For me, however, it was the news from America that ordinary women going about their ordinary business could still be expected to inconvenience themselves to protect misogynistic religious beliefs that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. As I read about men asking women to change seats a red mist descended in front of my eyes. It is never okay to discriminate against women, but if you must behave in such a manner it is you who should have to bear the consequences of your prejudice. In a cold fury, I wrote the following open letter (well, facebook post, actually) to men who might feel they have a right to make such demands.
"Dear religious men,Advertisement
If you find yourself seated next to me in a plane or in some other public place, you need to suck it up. If you ask me to move, I will smile and refuse.
It is your problem and your prejudice. You need to pay the price - whatever that is. It might be inconvenience for you. It might be the anger of the other passengers if your bigotry prevents the plane from taking off on time. It might be the cost of two tickets so you can ensure an empty seat next to you.
I have paid the same price for my seat as you have. I am just as entitled to sit in it as you are. I am not asking you to move - you are asking me to do so. It is not my problem or my issue. It belongs to you.
If I was black or (as apparently some of you are) Jewish & someone refused to sit next to me for that reason the whole world would rightly condemn them.
I am female. I can no more help that than someone can help the colour of their skin. To ask me to move, to see me as unclean or some kind of weird temptation (still entirely your problem, by the way) is discrimination, bigotry and prejudice.
The fact that your god tells you that such oppression is okay cuts no ice with me.
If sitting next to a woman is unacceptable to you, you may need to stay home. If seeing a woman uncovered in public is unacceptable to you, you may need to stay indoors. If seeing a woman in a photograph is unacceptable, you may need to stop buying newspapers or watching any media.
You need to constrain your freedom, not mine.
Are we clear?
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