However, there are times when it gets carried too far - and I think that the residents of Beit Shemesh (where I have relatives living) have reached that point. In parts of the town, there are now separate sidewalks for men and for women. Signs are posted on the street advising women that they have to cross over to the other side of the street. Women are not allowed on the side of the street where the shul is located.
Now, lest I sound like someone who is in favor of licentiousness and free love, let me reiterate that standards of tznius are a good thing. Lord knows I don't need to see any more bare midriffs in New York in the summer. But the idea that the sexes have to be so completely separated that they can't even walk on the same street is ludicrous.
Has there ever been a Jewish community where it was noted that this standard was observed? Did our ancestors in the midbar walk on different sides of the paths between tents? When Dovid danced in the streets, did he do it on the men's side? In any of the shtetls in Europe, was there ever a reqirement that the men and women occupy different streets?
Rabbi Maryles has noted in his blog recently the ever-increasing trend toward the separation of the sexes, starting with separate seating by weddings, to the ever-increasing fact that the kallah does not come over to the men's side during the dancing, to separate seating by Sheva Berachos - even of the chosson and kallah!
I recently read a science fiction series by Robert J. Sawyer called the Parallax Trilogy. The series centers on a world where the Neanderthals, not humans, survived and became the dominant species of the planet. On the Neanderthal world, the sexes live separate lives for most of the month. For 25 out of every thirty days, the men live in one community and the women (and small children) live in another. It is only during the remaining five days (when "Two Become One" that the men and womenfolk get together.
One has to wonder if that isn't the goal for some of the ultra-zealots - to, in short, have separate communities where men will sit and learn all day and not be distracted by the womenfolk and the women will work and support the men without being distracted by their presence. Of course, I realize that I'm greatly exaggerating the situation - after all, we're only talking about separate sidewalks, not separate houses and communities. But sometimes, I feel like that is the direction that we are headed in.
What ever happened to taking a moderate approach?