A guest post by TikunOlam
I notice that on this blog, there is always a lot of debate about how much or how little women should be separated from men. Just today, Rafi G wrote about the latest in the never-ending Israeli bus soap opera.
I thought it was high time an argument was made as to why women and men *should* sit together on the bus. And in effort to prove that I am not just "eye candy," I figured I would give it a shot.
So I would like to present an argument that not only should men and women sit together on buses, but they should sit together on trains, planes and automobiles too. Of course I also think they should sit together in classrooms, work together in the workplace, share meals together, blog together and even just hang out together. Here are some of my reasons:
1. Adam and Eve did not sit under separate trees. It is only because they hung out at the same tree that any of us were even born and can now sit on buses.
2. Men are from Mars and women are from Venus. It is therefore helpful to have a friend or two of the opposite sex (one that you might have met, let’s say, on a bus) with whom you can talk through the challenges of understanding members of the opposite sex.
3. Shidduch dates can be really awkward. It is easier to talk to a member of the opposite sex when you've had, well, some experience talking to them (I mean ones other than your siblings).
4. Platonic friendships between members of the opposite sex can be totally awesome. I can’t imagine my life without my male friends and I credit the ones I had in early adulthood with warning me against getting involved with “bad guys” and letting me know who the good guys were.
5. Friendships between members of the opposite sex sometimes develop into relationships that end up at the chupah. Mine did and I am sure that some of the girls on Rafi G's bus will soon be kallah meidels too.
6. When men spend time with women, they have opportunities to develop their more feminine sides and women who spend time with men can develop their more masculine sides. Results of research on androgyny indicate that having highly developed feminine and masculine traits results in improved well-being. Truth be told, some of the research in this area is mixed and it seems that women benefit more from developing “masculine” traits then men who develop "feminine" traits, but the research is not all in yet.
7. Grown men and women who have been kept separate from each other their whole lives end up in adulthood relating to members of the opposite sex with, at best, an adolescent mentality. I mean, who other than pre-adolescents could possibly get distracted from their Torah learning at the sight of an elbow? Or a picture of a pretty woman, tilting her head, wearing fake hair? That is so 12 years old.
8. There are too many negative stereotypes of women perpetuated by men and men of women. This fosters a lack of respect between the sexes which does nothing good for marriages, communities, workplaces or for the world at large. Just like any other bigotry, sexism is best combated by time shared communicating, sharing, debating and listening to members of the opposite sex. A good conversation or ten, while sitting on the bus side by side, could change the world for the better!
9. Sitting next to each other on a bus has never been proven to lead to mixed dancing, swimming or anything else. We can trust that with proper Torah preparation, people should be able to control their ids. Those who can't control themselves because they are sitting next to a member of the opposite sex, let's face it, have serious problems that separate seating on buses will do little to nothing to solve.
10. Going back to Adam and Eve, we all know what happens when you constantly tell someone, “don’t look at that,” “don’t touch that,” “you can’t have that.” There is a term we psychologists use to describe the way people compulsively want what they can’t have. It is called “coveting the forbidden fruit.”