This is getting to be a regular feature of hyper-orthodox Jewish behavior, and it stinks. (I’ve reported on three similar incidents: here, here, and here). As the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports, Christine Flynn of Halifax, a chef, was on a Porter Airlines flight when an Orthodox Jew was assigned a seat next to her. Of course that would lead to cooties, since members of some Orthodox sects aren’t supposed to touch or, apparently, talk to a member of the opposite sex.
“He came down the aisle, he didn’t actually look at me … or make eye contact. He turned to the gentleman across the aisle and said, ‘Change.'”
Flynn said she was confused at first, wondering why the man was speaking to the other passenger and gesturing toward her. The man didn’t speak to her directly, but Flynn said it’s clear to her that he didn’t want to sit next to her because she’s a woman.
Flynn said she might have been willing to accommodate the man had he spoken to her directly and politely asked her to switch seats. She admits language may have been a factor — saying his English “wasn’t terrific” — but said his refusal to even make eye contact was offensive.
“He could have made a plan, he could have put in a request,” Flynn said in an interview Wednesday on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning. “When someone doesn’t look at you, and when someone doesn’t acknowledge you as person because of your gender, you’re a lot less willing to be accommodating.
The man asked to change seats refused, Then another man refused. A flight attendant came, and asked if the woman would switch seats with a man behind her. The woman rightfully refused. The problem was resolved when the Jewish man was finally seated next to another man. Explaining her refusal, Flynn made the point well:
Flynn says she’s frustrated she was asked to move and upset others on the flight were willing to help the man.
“I have a problem with that. He [the flight attendant] probably, maybe, didn’t realize that asking a woman to move because the fact she had a uterus made the man next to her uncomfortable … I don’t think he even would have put it together that that’s kind of insulting and maybe even discriminatory,” she said.
“If someone had refused to sit next to me because I was gay and maybe they were some kind of old-school religion that doesn’t like gay people no one would have switched with him. It would have been off the table,” she said.
As for the airline, they made a mistake by analogizing the Jew’s request with other requests:
Porter Airlines spokesman Brad Cicero confirmed that the situation occurred but said the flight attendant “did his best to manage the situation as efficiently and reasonably as possible in order to avoid an unnecessary delay.”
Porter does its best to accommodate seating preferences, he said in an email Tuesday.
“Most often, this involves families wanting to sit near each other, or something as simple as a passenger preferring a window seat. Religious preferences are very rarely a factor.”
Seriously, Porter “does its best to accommodate seating preferences? What if a white passenger asked to change seats because he didn’t want to sit next to a black person? Would Porter also try to accommodate that? I seriously doubt it. So why should sexism based on religion differ from other forms of prejudice? As I’ve said before, bigotry in the guise of religious belief is still bigotry.
Over at Canadian Atheist, Diana MacPherson is also incensed, reporting on the episode and adding this, “I’m tired of bad behaviour being accommodated in the name of religion and I’m disappointed when people feel women should acquiesce to make these sexists comfortable.”
We have some flight attendants as readers. Would you people try to accommodate such a request?