‘Scent of a woman’ keeps these men at arm’s distance



April 10, 2015 - 12:00 AM

The problem:
An ultra-conservative Jewish male feels it goes against his religion to be within touching distance of a woman who is not his wife and so refuses to accept a seat next to a woman on an airplane.
The answer:
Get over it.

A STORY in this week’s New York Times tells of how with more and more frequency, these men, usually ultra-Orthodox Jews, are causing disturbances on airlines, buses, subways, etc., when they find themselves up next to a woman.
Such men contend a woman’s body may tempt them, as former President Jimmy Carter once so famously admitted, to “lust” in their hearts, and put them crossways with their religion.
In reality, this is no more than sexism under the cloak of religion.
A few years back my sister-in-law and her husband, both ministers, participated in a religious exchange in Iran through a Mennonite association based in Canada.
At first, Linda found the culture almost charming. But as the year progressed she found the expectations of a woman’s role more and more stifling.
She was not to be seen in public without her husband, David. Despite the torrid heat, she was to cover her entire body with a heavy black cloth. And, despite her credentials, she was rarely consulted.
My husband’s reaction to the NYT story was a refreshing take.
“Are they so unable to contain themselves?” he said of the men fearful of being so near a woman’s body. “Where’s their self-discipline?”

IN REVIEWING past issues of The Iola Register a perennial topic was the dress code at Iola High School. In 1960 the dress code required girls to wear dresses and skirts. Boys could wear T-shirts, deemed as underwear, only in warm weather and only if they were tucked in. For the girls, hair pinned up or the wearing of scarves was considered “suggestive,” and “extreme haircuts and bleaches” as “disruptive” to the classroom.”
By 1966, students could come to school with dyed hair. A few years later dress codes were universally relaxed, including girls wearing jeans or slacks.
The changes didn’t spell the doom of public education, and in fact, did a world of good by freeing young women from being Gidget cutouts.
To those who think the “good old days” have been lost. Ask a woman.

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