Friday, December 23, 2005

On Segregated Worlds

I saw this posted over at Yeshiva Orthodoxy. The story involves a mall being opened in B'nei Brak for women only.

Some of the "highlights" of the mall to be include:

  • No men will be permitted to shop in the model
  • Clothing offered in the mall will be subject to Rabbinic approval
  • Mall workers will be dressed modestly
  • Mall workers will be trained to be sensitive to the frum consumer.

To be honest, I don't have a problem with most of the provisions listed above. However, the idea that only women can shop in the mall and not men sounds so much like the latest "chumra of the month" club.

Truthfully, I cannot for the life of me, fathom why the frum world has to come up with ever more and more ways of seperating men and women. I'm certainly not advocating anything inappropriate, but the idea seems to be that men should never even know that there are other women in the world aside from his wife, mother and daughters.

Of course there are those who will tell you that by minimizing the opportunities that men and women have of seeing each other, you are also minimizing the possibility of inappropriate behavior between the sexes. While that is certainly true in it's literal sense, you could use the same logic to ban cars altogether on the grounds that by doing so, you're preventing anyone from dying in a car crash.

Of course, no one seriously wants to ban automobiles (except maybe Rav Shach) because we all understand that the cost of banning them outright would far outweigh the benefit. Likewise, this monomania that the chareidi world has with the separation of the sexes in every single possible way is likely to cause more harm than good.

I, personally, happen to enjoy spending time with my wife. I enjoy the fact that I can go out in public *with* her and do things *together*. It's not a sin, folks! For example, I have a policy that I will not go to a chinese auction where there are separate viewing hours for men and women only.* I like going around to the different tables and discussing with her what to go for and what not to go for. To have to play "tag team" at these events is just too difficult, too cumbersome, and goes against the reason I married my wife to begin with - to be able to spend more time with her.

Again, I want to reiterate here - I'm not advocating inappropriate behavior. I stand firmly and squarely against adultery. But this idea of having people living in, essentially, two separate worlds is getting worse and worse.

The Wolf

*I don't have a problem, of course, if they have separate hours for men and women and then other times for both together. Heck, that would be great, since it would serve all people based on their particular wants.


Jack Steiner said...

To me this sounds like it is rife with potential for causing unnecessary problems.

Why lower standards and expectations.

Anonymous said...

Mall workers will be dressed modestly

Whats the point? If everyone is a woman , then they can dress as provoctivly as they want eh? In fact, all the woman can technically take their hair coverings off and run around in boxer shorts. I say this is a great idea. The women of Bnei-Brak are long overdo to relive their college sorority years :)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like your wife is a very lucky woman!

The Jewish Freak said...

It is only relatively recently that weddings have separate seating. Before long husbands and wives will be required to have separate houses during nidah. - JF

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to find out if the idea takes off or if it will be a flop.

While separate shopping might appeal to some people, it is sure to be highly unappealing to others (like me). Not only do I enjoy spending time with my husband, but I also enjoy having a helping hand with the little one.

Even though my husband hates shopping and I'm not big fan, we always have a nice time. Usually we go when the weather isn't nice outside and we need to shop for somebody. We enjoy walking around the mall and getting some excersize in. And, then I tend to leave my husband with the little one at the mall's playyard while I get some of the shopping done that does not involve my husband.

So, I cannot imagine a woman's only mall to appeal to me. But, it will be interesting to see if it is a success or not. I personally think a tzniut mall geared towards families, with a few large play areas, a glatt kosher food court, and stores family friendly stores for men, women, and children would be a much more successful proposal.

ADDeRabbi said...

>Clothing offered in the mall will be subject to Rabbinic approval

will this mall be allowed to sell bras? underwear? pajamas? lingerie? and if so, who will approve them? under what criteria?

Rebeljew said...

More hechshers equals more money and more jobs for the otherwise unemployable.

Ezzie said...

The women of Bnei-Brak are long overdo to relive their college sorority years :)

RE-live? Ummm...

Wolf - Excellent post. What worries me more than the mall itself is what it may lead to. The sliding scale of what should be seperate is sliding off the scales: Will there soon be different streets for men and women? Completely seperate areas? Perhaps 3 parts of town: Housing, Men's, and Women's? Scary to contemplate.

Anonymous said...

There are already separate sides of the streets in certain Israeli communities (and I believe in New Square here in America too).

Anonymous said...

Here's a recent jblog post that made me think of your post.

BrooklynWolf said...

Wow! That was scary SephardiLady. Do you know who that was making that speech?

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

I have no idea who made that speech. I just noted the post on your site because I think it points to more of the same.

While I think that free for all socialization between the genders is not healthy, I think that the increasing separation between the genders may prove to be just as damaging.

I don't know where the lines should be drawn, but separate phone lines and separate shopping malls are beyond what I consider reasonable.

Anonymous said...

The Jewish world has lost it's mind. At least you haven't, Wolf.

Anonymous said...

"The Jewish world has lost it's mind."

No, the Orthodox world has lost its mind. The majority of the Jewish world came to its senses when it left Orthodoxy.

BBJ said...

I look at some of these things the hyperstringency crowd comes up with, and just have to throw my hands up. I know, I'm an outsider from a Conservative shul, but ya know? My great-grandparents did not live like this, and neither did theirs. And they were very good Jews.

Anonymous said...

Have to disagrre with you there, Anon. I don't mean to advocate one leaaving the Orthodox world, although some things the Orthodox do are insane. Keep in mind that these are only the most extreme; most Orthodox Jews are not like this.

Anonymous said...

Good Gawd. A women only mall! Sounds exactly like Saudi Arabia.

Beyond ironic.

queeniesmom said...

It probably started with seperate seating at weddings and moved on from there. each day it seems to morph into something bigger and better?! where does it end? i'm tired of taking 2 cell phones to weddings so i can call my husband when i want to leave. I realize this is a radical thought but on the few nights when i get to go out, leave the kids at home, i want to spend time with my husband not other women who i have no idea who they are. silly me!

where does this madness end? who is willing to stand up and say the emporer has no clothes?! I hope someone does it soon! this is so unhealthy for all concerned.

shavoah tov!

Jewboy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jewboy said...

Queeniesmom, I agree entirely. Much of the Orthodox world seems to be concerned that if men and women are together as couples in any social situation, things will get out of hand and people will committ adultery with other people's spouses. If people would just be normal, nothing wrong would occur. The tremendous emphasis on separation only creates a greater problem because people then think about why they are seated separately, and the very thoughts that the separation is intended to prevent enter their minds. I too am tired of having to call my wife on a cell phone when we are at a wedding.I hope people like us can unite and create a normal Orthodox world.

Air Time said...

I know I am two weeks late to this post, but I think that you are missing the point.

Israel is a capitalist country. If someone thinks that they can make mkore money opening a women's only mall, more power to them. Maybe they will be successful and maybe they won't, but this department store is not being forced by government or rabbinic mandate.

It is making a marketing decision to cater to a niche market.

The merchandise that they are carrying is catered to that market. If the owner of the department store (and if memory serves me correct it is an Israeli national chain that is closed on Shabbat) feels that they can increase sales by having some kind of rabbinic oversight on the merchandise that they carry, more power to them.

While I personally have no problem with the mixing of the sexes in shopping malls, weddings, schools or many other venues, I absolutely applaud the store for learning about their customers, the needs and wants of those customers, and tailoring their store to maximize sales to those customers.

Air Time said...

If someone thought they could make money with a whites only mall in Virginia, and it was legal, I would not have a problem with it.

But the reality is a Whites Only mall is illegal in the US. Even if it were legal, customers walking into the mall would be harassed by protesters, the ACLU, civil rights leaders, and other people fighting for equal rights. The mall would be constantly protested, making it an unpleasant shopping experience, and market forces would most likely ensure that the mall did not stay in business.

If it was just a franchise of another larger chain all the stores in that chain would be boycotted by a large segment of America.

In America, the color that is most important to businesses is not white or black, its green. And the last time I checked, a dollar coming out of a black man's wallet is worth the same as the dollar coming out of my wallet.

There is nothing stupid about researching your target market, and targetting your product (in this case a store) to that market.

If you have a problem with over-the-top rabbinically-decreed chumras, you are looking at the wrong case. This is a case of a private enterprise operating in its best interest.

BrooklynWolf said...

It's not quite the same, Air.

A women's clothing store is, of course, primarily targeting women and is catering to it's market - and there's nothing wrong with that. However, there is nothing stopping a man from walking into the store, looking for something for his wife/daughter/girlfriend, etc. and buying it.

Here, however, they want to ban males from entering the mall at all. That's a whole different ballgame.

The Wolf

Air Time said...

Do you object to Curves, a nationwide chain health club for women only?

While it is a complicated legal issue, US courts have ruled that it is legal to have a women's only health facility if "A business must establish a factual basis for believing that not excluding members of one sex would undermine its business operation."

Now, I'm not a lawyer, but it seems to me that if we apply this ruling to the shopping center, which women will most likely shop at because of the fact that there are no men in the store, allowing men in the store would undermine their business operation.

If the women's only mall was the only shopping facility in the area, and men had no place else to shop, the argument against its women only policy would be understandable. But there are plenty of places where men and women can freely shop without being discriminated.

Just to reiterate, this is not an issue of a rabbinic chumra (which I would be against), this is a private enterprise meeting the needs of its clientele (which I am in favor).

Could it snowball into some kind of ridiculous chumra? Perhaps, but not because a business is looking out for its bottom line. It would be because the rabbinic authority is overstepping its boundaries.

Air Time said...

I agree with you about chumras. They tend to get out of control. I just can't put this in that category.

BrooklynWolf said...


Certainly you can see the difference between a shopping mall and an excercise club!

I agree that it's not a rabbinic chumra. But it's still highly discriminitory nonetheless.

The Wolf