Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

07 Aug 2020, 11:20 a.m.

How Do You React To This News?

"Emergency Mission: Hasidic Women Battle Male EMS for an Ambulance of Their Own," by Carson Kessler, in THE CITY, published August 6th, 2020.

So, there's a particular kind of response I imagine some of my readers will have, along the lines of "argh." but perhaps more dismissively put. The article ends with a quote from Levine, the group's outreach director and a daughter of the group's founder, and I think Levine addresses that "argh." As thefourthvine says, "'Should' has no place in policy. We make laws about what is actually happening, not what would happen in an ideal universe, because, newsflash: we don't live in an ideal universe."

There is another kind of response that you might have which is that gender-separated services/spaces are a hack, and as long as they are necessary, we should should support them while also working to remove the root causes that make the hack necessary. And it sounds like these Hasidic women's modesty concerns are getting in the way of them feeling comfortable seeking urgent medical treatment, so let's get rid of the immediate problem by providing a service they can accept.

That's where I was at a few minutes ago.

Then, when I reread Julia Evans's 2016 piece "Women-only spaces are a hack" so I could link to it here, I realized: what if the thing they're worried about isn't just breaking a modesty taboo? As Evans writes: "If there are no men, nobody can get harassed by men. That's it. That's the entire hack." That's never mentioned in the article, but maybe it's a concern.

So. I'm guessing the vast majority of people reading this post are not affected by this specific issue (emergency medical services within New York’s Orthodox Jewish community).* But perhaps you are in a position of power, even a small one, and you have seen people reticent to ask for something. And maybe you have been frustrated by their shyness. Then maybe this story is a reminder that other folks have their reasons, even if you have a hard time relating. Or maybe you have needed something and not felt like you could ask for it. And then maybe this story is a reminder that you are not alone, and that people can band together to make alternatives and help each other.

* Unless this blog post gets tons of publicity among people who are in or think a lot about New York’s Orthodox Jewish community, which I hope it does not, because I would rather not simultaneously deal with people on all sides of this issue, with argument inevitably branching out into, like, atheism, Richard Dawkins, Israel, Palestine, hijabs, and NYC parking