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woman and changing seat on plane - who would you move for

 
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There's been a few stories about Orthodox Jewish men asking women to move to a different seat on the plane because "a man isn't allowed to sit next to a woman he is not related to." (The quotes are because that's not what the religion actually says as I understand it. I lived in an Orthodox community for a few years and they were fine with sitting next to a woman on the bus or train. Accidental contact was ok.)

In the NYTimes article today, i said an 81 year old woman is suing the airline for being asked to move. While I like that she is challenging their policy, she did agree to move. And I think she loses some of the grounds to complain based on that.

When I first read about this problem, I thought about who I'd move for. I'd move for a parent and a YOUNG child to sit together. (Maybe 5-7 or under.) If I had an aisle seat, I'd move for someone with a bad lag who needed the aisle. That's hypothetical though as I almost always get a window seat. I absolutely would not move for someone who claimed he couldn't sit next to me for religious reasons. At work, I'm ok with minor things like a man not wanting to shake hands because of religion. But why should *I* have to change my seat over someone else's claim to religion.

Which means if I was in the position of the lady in the article, I'd have had a loud argument with the flight attendant and not moved. There is a problem in this space though. What if they guy who doesn't want to sit next to a woman gets on the plane first? He wouldn't let me in to get to my window seat. Now I'd be the person holding up the line and plane departure because he has a seat and I don't. Which implies they could call security on me. I don't see a good solution to this problem. You can't just climb over someone to get to your seat. All I can think of is to argue at length, eventually accept the seat the flight attendant gives and complaint to the airline enough to get a free flight.
 
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Like you, I would certainly be inclined to move seats for a parent with a young child, or somebody who has a medical need for a particular seat, or even for a couple who want to sit together if possible.

But "religious" objections against half of the human race don't fall into that category, and I'm not sure I see why this should be much of a dilemma. If a man wants to control who sits next to him, he can buy an extra ticket. Otherwise, a plane/bus/train is a public space with limited seats and in a civil society he just has to accept that he can't decide who sits next to him. Or stay at home where he can control who sits where.

Of course, this particular case occurred on an El Al flight to Israel, so it's perhaps more understandable that some people might have the idea they can enforce strict Jewish religious laws on their fellow passengers. It also seems to be part of a wider domestic Israeli problem of applying strict religious laws in civil life.

Other national airlines have their own rules based on their country of origin e.g. some airlines do not serve alcohol. If you really need a drink while you're flying, you can always pick another airline.

But I'm willing to bet that when Ms Rabinowitz booked her flight, she didn't expect to be denied her seat just because she's female. So unless El Al is going to stop selling tickets to anybody except male Orthodox Jews, they can't really insist that other fare-paying passengers comply with the discriminatory demands of religious zealots. Even if she did move, she still has a right to complain because she was subject to discrimination and inconvenience because of her gender: it would not be reasonable to expect an 81 year old woman to put herself through a stand-up fight on a busy plane just to get into her seat, after all. If the flight attendant moved anybody, it should have been the man who was complaining. So good luck to Ms Rabinowitz in her legal challenge to El Al.

Incidentally, I suspect the NYT might have reported this story rather differently if it had been a strict Muslim man complaining about women being seated next to him. And it's over 60 years since Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus - haven't we moved on at all since then?
 
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If I'm by myself, I'll move for almost any reason if asked nicely, as long as my new seat is an aisle as well. But if the reason was "I don't want to sit next to you", regardless of explanation, I would not comply. That's just inexcusable.

I would totally support El Al having separate male and female sections; perhaps one third of the plane could be men on the left, women on the right. I'm unclear on why they don't do this already.
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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chris webster wrote:it would not be reasonable to expect an 81 year old woman to put herself through a stand-up fight on a busy plane just to get into her seat, after all.


The issue has happened on non El Al flights (within the US and between the US and Canada). This is the first lawsuit that I know of. The 81 year old lady was in her seat. She had an aisle seat and agreed to get up and move for this guy. (Which got me thinking of "what if had the aisle"). I think you are in a stronger position if you are already seated. Because he is the one in the aisle refusing to sit down. But yeah, she shouldn't have to fight for the seat she is in either.

chris webster wrote:Incidentally, I suspect the NYT might have reported this story rather differently if it had been a strict Muslim man complaining about women being seated next to him. And it's over 60 years since Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus - haven't we moved on at all since then?


Is there a rule that a string Muslim man can't sit next to a woman? I tried to find something online and couldn't. I found things about not being alone with a woman. But an airplane clearly isn't alone!

Ernest Friedman-Hill wrote:I would totally support El Al having separate male and female sections; perhaps one third of the plane could be men on the left, women on the right. I'm unclear on why they don't do this already.


That would be a good way for them to solve this problem. People could still sit next to their relatives in the non-gender segregated part. It makes sense to me why they don't do it already though - what if they have more men than women for that section. Then they have empty seats. I'm presuming more men fly alone than women. (who would fly more with families).
 
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:an 81 year old woman is suing the airline for being asked to move...



America - the country where you can "sue" for the most minor of things!

Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:I absolutely would not move for someone who claimed he couldn't sit next to me for religious reasons. At work, I'm ok with minor things like a man not wanting to shake hands because of religion. But why should *I* have to change my seat over someone else's claim to religion.



I would move if they asked me nicely. I might not believe what they believe, but if sitting in that particular seat wasn't important to me and the seat I was being moved to was a one I liked, I don't see why I shouldn't move - if it made the journey easier for the guy, good for him. Additionally, would I really want to continue sitting next to someone who is now in a bad mood with me? I don't think I would!

Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:Which means if I was in the position of the lady in the article, I'd have had a loud argument with the flight attendant and not moved. There is a problem in this space though. What if they guy who doesn't want to sit next to a woman gets on the plane first?



In such a case he should be forced to move. If he doesn't move, then security should be called and he should be thrown off!

Jeanne Boyarsky wrote: Is there a rule that a string Muslim man can't sit next to a woman? I tried to find something online and couldn't. I found things about not being alone with a woman. But an airplane clearly isn't alone!



There is no rule that states men cannot sit next to a woman, but religion is a funny thing and rules can be made up by the clergy as they like. The rule is that men and women who are not related shouldn't touch one another, and so I guess some cleric somewhere can issue a fatwa that men and women shouldn't sit next to one another in a plane as they might end up touching one another.

What if the roles were reversed - what if a woman who was on a long-haul flight and sandwiched between two men said she doesn't want to sit next to men because she feels uncomfortable going to sleep next to men who are strangers to her - should she be allowed to move seats? If I had a daughter under the age of 18, and we were on a 12 hour flight where the lights would be dimmed during the night time, and she was sandwiched between two guys, I would have a problem - now I might be accused of being sexist, that I am judging men as being predatory, and you'd probably be right, but I would just feel uncomfortable, and would ask for her to be moved.
 
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Ahmed Bin S wrote:

Jeanne Boyarsky wrote: Is there a rule that a string Muslim man can't sit next to a woman? I tried to find something online and couldn't. I found things about not being alone with a woman. But an airplane clearly isn't alone!



There is no rule that states men cannot sit next to a woman, but religion is a funny thing and rules can be made up by the clergy as they like. The rule is that men and women who are not related shouldn't touch one another, and so I guess some cleric somewhere can issue a fatwa that men and women shouldn't sit next to one another in a plane as they might end up touching one another.



In Turkey, if you reserve seats on an inter-city bus over the web, the sites ask you to specify your gender and then when you go to choose your seat the display shows you the gender of people who have already reserved seats. So presumably a man can book a seat next to a female relative but out of courtesy will refrain from booking a seat next to an unknown female. But oddly enough the Turkish Airlines website doesn't do that, even for flights within Turkey.
 
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Paul Clapham wrote:
In Turkey, if you reserve seats on an inter-city bus over the web, the sites ask you to specify your gender and then when you go to choose your seat the display shows you the gender of people who have already reserved seats.



Ah, I didn't know such a system already existed. I see no reason why we cannot have one for the airline industry, other than I guess there are very few people who are bothered by this, and any airline that started using such a system would probably lose more customers (who don't believe in gender segregation) than gain customers (who do)!


 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Ahmed Bin S wrote:America - the country where you can "sue" for the most minor of things!


I think she is suing in Israel, not America.

Ahmed Bin S wrote:Additionally, would I really want to continue sitting next to someone who is now in a bad mood with me? I don't think I would!


I did that once. It was only an hour flight luckily. I was the very last person to board a "choose your seat when you get on the plane" flight. (My flight was cancelled and I was just barely able to get to the airport for the earlier flight.) This gentleman next to the seat I "choose" had put substantial effort into arranging things so nobody sat there. ("choose" because there was only one seat left on the plane that I could see.) He put his elbow in my lap after I sat down. The second he moved his elbow to adjust, I put the computer book I was reading right against the armrest. He hit is elbow hard against my book when he tried to reinsert it in my lap. Then neither of us could move for the next 45 minutes. I wasn't moving my book and he wasn't moving his elbow. I suppose my point is that I will sit next to someone who is in a bad mood with me if the reason is important enough to me.

Ahmed Bin S wrote:There is no rule that states men cannot sit next to a woman, but religion is a funny thing and rules can be made up by the clergy as they like. The rule is that men and women who are not related shouldn't touch one another, and so I guess some cleric somewhere can issue a fatwa that men and women shouldn't sit next to one another in a plane as they might end up touching one another.


That's what happened on the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish side. Someone re-interpreted no touching into the current scenario. I have no problem avoiding touching someone of the opposite gender to accommodate their religion. I'll be extra careful for that matter if it is important.

Ahmed Bin S wrote:What if the roles were reversed - what if a woman who was on a long-haul flight and sandwiched between two men said she doesn't want to sit next to men because she feels uncomfortable going to sleep next to men who are strangers to her - should she be allowed to move seats? If I had a daughter under the age of 18, and we were on a 12 hour flight where the lights would be dimmed during the night time, and she was sandwiched between two guys, I would have a problem - now I might be accused of being sexist, that I am judging men as being predatory, and you'd probably be right, but I would just feel uncomfortable, and would ask for her to be moved.


First of all, I notice that you would ask for your daughter to be moved rather than insisting the men move. That's a far better position than assuming others should move to accommodate you. However, if there are no other seats, I would expect her to sit in the seat assigned.

Paul Clapham wrote:In Turkey, if you reserve seats on an inter-city bus over the web, the sites ask you to specify your gender and then when you go to choose your seat the display shows you the gender of people who have already reserved seats. So presumably a man can book a seat next to a female relative but out of courtesy will refrain from booking a seat next to an unknown female. But oddly enough the Turkish Airlines website doesn't do that, even for flights within Turkey.


So this is a partially solved problem! El Al should get on board! It can still happen if someone books later of the "wrong" gender.
 
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:
I think she is suing in Israel, not America.



Ah, ok!

Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:
I did that once. It was only an hour flight luckily. I was the very last person to board a "choose your seat when you get on the plane" flight. (My flight was cancelled and I was just barely able to get to the airport for the earlier flight.) This gentleman next to the seat I "choose" had put substantial effort into arranging things so nobody sat there. ("choose" because there was only one seat left on the plane that I could see.) He put his elbow in my lap after I sat down. The second he moved his elbow to adjust, I put the computer book I was reading right against the armrest. He hit is elbow hard against my book when he tried to reinsert it in my lap. Then neither of us could move for the next 45 minutes. I wasn't moving my book and he wasn't moving his elbow. I suppose my point is that I will sit next to someone who is in a bad mood with me if the reason is important enough to me.



HAHA! People are weird, ok, so I like my personal space around me, but I wouldn't get upset if someone sat next to me on a flight that was more or less full, I mean, the person has to sit somewhere!

 
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Well, if you're interested, i'll explain to you what the issue is. Not sure you're interested though...

There are rules against unrelated men and woman touching or being alone, and there are variations in practice which might complicate the matter further. Regardless, while related, i don't think it's the issue here. Instead, there are other rules and culture at play. One, is a rule that a man may not walk between two women, and a woman may not walk between two men. Sitting between two people of the opposite gender is simply not allowed. A second issue is propriety. A hallmark of Orthodox (though not necessarily Modern Orthodox) Jewish education is the separation of boys and girls. As a general rule, they are in separate buildings starting from nursery. This attitude continues through adult life, but varies by venue (and sub-sect). In Israel, the Orthodox (Chareidim) are very particular about this, and expecting support on El Al for this is not abnormal. Further, Israel is well known for protests to have your voice heard. It's a bit of a culture shock for anyone who moves there from the US (outside of New York. ), but you get the idea after waiting "in line" at a store, forever. Where in the US, the man would have asked for a new seat, Israel doesn't really work that way.

It's not really a matter of right or wrong, but of multiple cultures in one fuselage. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.
 
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I look to all this very simple. I fully agree on Jeanne's first thoughts about freeing up space for a reasons which falls into "fully understand" category.

What's down to religion, I absolutely again with Jeanne, and thinking, that such religion aspects cannot supersede the actual rules of that area where action is.
Moreover, in my opinion such edicts should be considered as an offense after the certain level is reached.

Personally myself simply would get annoyed by such request to move, unless there are such rules in particular airport or plain.
Someone else's religion directly means nothing to me (trying to sound not rude, I do respect religion, laws, but of that country or area where I am at that time).
Being in an airport, there are rules of an airport and these should be followed. That is it what everyone needs to know and follow in order do not cause trouble to anyone else around.

In the same way as someone comes to my home, they need to take shoes off before step on the carpet. Those rules are created by me, because it is my space, and non of others rules being applied, because in their space they have different ones. If someone is not happy doing that, probably not coming at all, or I don't want them to come.
Some people are intended to break the rules as the guys who comes to check electricity, water or gas meters, becauce it is sort of OK, but once again, not in my home, I always deliver a note to take them off just to avoid ambiguities.
 
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Brian Tkatch wrote:Well, if you're interested, i'll explain to you what the issue is. Not sure you're interested though...


I am interested. I didn't know about the rule about walking/sitting between two people of the opposite gender. I did know about the separation in eduction.

Brian Tkatch wrote:and expecting support on El Al for this is not abnormal.


Yet El Al doesn't support it. They do this delicate dance to sit on the fence. I like the comment about about the Turkish bus. Or the having sides of the plane separated by gender. That way this doesn't keep "catching them by surprise"
 
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:the rule about walking/sitting between two people of the opposite gender.


It's from the Talmud. It's also Good Manners.

Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:Yet El Al doesn't support it. They do this delicate dance to sit on the fence. I like the comment about about the Turkish bus. Or the having sides of the plane separated by gender. That way this doesn't keep "catching them by surprise"


Yeah, it's best to reserve an aisle or window seat, or travel with friends. Israel also has separated buses in religious areas, enforced by convention.
 
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The El Al case concluded. They paid the woman $1,800 and required the airline to change their policies so they aren't asking women to change seats at the request of a man.

Source: NY Times
 
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A year after this lawsuit, it was still a problem. (6/22 four men refused to move and it delayed a flight) So the court ordering them not to do this didn't work.

An Israeli tech company announced they would boycott El Al until this policy changed. Less than a week later, El Al announced they will  no longer be moving people based on gender. And instead will through the men who refuse their seats off the plane.

I'm glad it turned out this way. Not that it required another company to protest. But that they won't do it anymore. Because if El Al can do it, why can't other airlines.
 
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:He put his elbow in my lap after I sat down. The second he moved his elbow to adjust, I put the computer book I was reading right against the armrest. He hit is elbow hard against my book when he tried to reinsert it in my lap. Then neither of us could move for the next 45 minutes. I wasn't moving my book and he wasn't moving his elbow



I'm sorry, but that guy needs to grow up! His behaviour is something you would expect from a child, not an adult! It reminds me of when we were kids, my brother and I would fight in the back seat if one of us got into the other's space. We'd argue and fight until mom turned around and ended it with a smack or yelled at us to stop. So in essence this guy's body matured, but mentally or socially he didn't.

You paid for that seat, he didn't. You have just as much right to sit in that seat as he does in his own seat. As uncomfortable as it must have been to have had to sit beside him for the flight, at least you got off the plane knowing you were able to go separate ways and would probably never see him again!  
 
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So we needed the flight attendant to be "mom". And yeah, at least it was a short flight!
 
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