Men complain based on religious beliefs, and women are forced to move

Nick Little – director of legal affairs and VP at CFI – casts a cold eye on this business of airlines making women change their seats when men afflicted with religious misogyny refuse to sit next to women. He starts with Renee Rabinowitz, and then proceeds to the general.

This isn’t an isolated event. This scene is being played out repeatedly at multiple airports, and on multiple airlines. Men complain based on religious beliefs, and women are forced to move. When men are denied this “accommodation” they have protested, stood in the aisles, and refused to allow the plane to take off. So the airlines have kowtowed to their demands, and the men have gotten their way. The offending and offensive woman has been taken elsewhere in the plane, where, presumably, she should be grateful that she can sit without having curtains drawn around her.

Beyond even the ridiculous notion that sitting next to a woman on a flight, be she 18 or 81, should somehow tempt you into sin, there’s what is to me a stunning problem in this story. HE had the problem with his seat assignment, yet the airline’s policy was to ask HER to move to a different seat. If it’s his problem, if he is seeking the special treatment, why shouldn’t he be the one to move? Yet the default solution is that where a man is unhappy with the actions (or existence) of a woman, it should be up to the woman to change. The problem is no longer his irrational fear of sitting next to her, it is her very existence in a seat next to him.

Making the woman move just accepts that idea, and also makes her deal with the inconvenience of it. Doing that just endorses the idea that women are a contaminant and a nuisance, and get to share public facilities only on sufferance. Oh all right, you can fly on airplanes if you insist, but you can’t force anyone to sit next to you. If anyone doesn’t want to sit next to you, you have to move. Bitch.

The airline has multiple choices in this situation. It could, at the very least, require the adjustment to be made by the complaining male passenger. It could (and should) require any seat requests to be made in advance of boarding, when the ticket is purchased. That way a woman is not publicly accused of being unclean, and unfit to share a row of seats with a pious man.

Good line? Round of applause?

But El Al, and other airlines do none of these. They bow to the pressure, and they require women to bear the burden, and to make the change

The airlines concerned aren’t the only villains of this story. The United States government regulates air travel and airports in this country. It strikes me as inconceivable that an airline would be permitted to operate in the United States if it treated people of color in this fashion – if a white passenger was allowed to complain that he didn’t feel like sitting next to a black person, and that the airline should move the black person to a different part of the plane. For that reason, on behalf of CFI, I wrote today to Michael Huerta of the Federal Aviation Administration, asking what the policy of the government is on this issue, and how women’s rights to respect and equal treatment can be protected in U.S. airports. You can find the text of the letter here. I’ll let you know what response I get.

It’s a terrific letter. I’m looking forward to the response (unless it’s a “thank you for concern now fuck off” response).

8 Responses to “Men complain based on religious beliefs, and women are forced to move”