In 1955, a 42-year-old seamstress named Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and since then, every bus in the nation has been a bastion of total respect and equality in every way. Except one bus in Brooklyn, where women of any race have to sit in the back, as a New York World investigation recently discovered:
On the morning of October 12, Melissa Franchy boarded the B110 bus in Brooklyn and sat down near the front. For a few minutes she was left in silence, although the other passengers gave her a noticeably wide berth. But as the bus began to fill up, the men told her that she had to get up. Move to the back, they insisted.
On any other bus, such a request might have resulted in an uproar, an angry confrontation, and an entertaining YouTube video. But the B110 is no ordinary bus. It's a Jewish bus.
They were Orthodox Jews with full beards, sidecurls and long black coats, who told her that she was riding a “private bus” and a “Jewish bus.” When she asked why she had to move, a man scolded her.
“If God makes a rule, you don’t ask ‘Why make the rule?’” he told Franchy, who rode the bus at the invitation of a New York World reporter. She then moved to the back where the other women were sitting. The driver did not intervene in the incident.
The Department of Transportation is now investigating whether the bus's gender segregation policy represents a violation of the city's anti-discrimination laws. It appears that it probably does. As the World explains, the B110 "operates as a franchise, in which a private company, Private Transportation Corporation, pays the city for the right to provide a public service." While the B110 exists for the benefit of Brooklyn's Orthodox Jewish community, it's still obligated to serve the broader public and "comply with all applicable laws," a DOT spokesman says.
This creates a bit of a pickle. On the one hand, a public bus service can't be allowed to discriminate against women. On the other hand, this is a bus that is used almost exclusively by the Orthodox Jewish community, which enjoys gender discrimination very much. Clearly the solution here is for the B110 to pretend that it won't discriminate against women, and then do it anyway. Since meddling reporters are pretty much the only non-Orthodox who ride it, who's going to know? It's like that old falling tree question, except with Jewish women, and buses.
Women ride in back on sex-segregated Brooklyn bus line [New York World]