Take Off That Hat:
A Message to My Subway Harasser

large_238854221In the span of two weeks a few months ago, I was sexually harassed twice on the subway. The first time, an older, white-bearded Haredi [ultra-Orthodox] man drove his thumb straight into my right butt cheek. The second time, a secular-looking fellow with a mop of brown curls and a computer bag over his trench-coated shoulder flashed me, gently tossing his penis from hand to hand a few feet from me while I waited for the train.

Both these experiences were upsetting and degrading. But I found myself more upset by the Haredi man groping me than I was by the religiously-not-identifiable schlub who decided that I absolutely must see his member. And since then, I’ve been wondering: Why do I care so much more about the Haredi guy?

Was it the fact that the first experience involved physical contact, while the second was only a visual assault? That said, both the old man copping a very emphatic and unwanted feel and the middle-aged man deciding I absolutely needed to see his member registered as such profound violations that I would be hard-pressed to call one worse than the other.

Was it because one guy was a Jew while the other one wasn’t, at least, not as far as I know? That explanation definitely doesn’t do it for me. I’ve never been comfortable holding Jews to a higher level of moral accountability than I do others just because we happen to be co-religionists. For me, a person who did a bad thing is just that: a person who did a bad thing. Whether he’s Jewish or not is beside the point.

8 comments on “Take Off That Hat:
A Message to My Subway Harasser

  1. Hindie on

    Thank you for a very well written article. I was troubled by the double standard of this supposedly religious man. Or more likely how he was taught to see women as just sexual things for his pleasure

  2. Lisa on

    I hoped you yelled like hell and called attention to the Haredi man, at least, and notified the conductor. It would also be worth the time to fill out a report.

  3. sheepdan on

    Replace the hat with a black face, and every time she sees a black man she gets scared. Racist right?

    Yes, racist, that is right. And this is bigoted too.

  4. sheepdan on

    Or more likely how you just throw that accusation at anyone who has a different perception of the world than you do.

  5. Julie on

    Who is Hindie “accusing” here? A man who sexually harassed the author of this post.

    But you’re right–maybe he simply has a different perception of the world than Hindie (and the author, and myself): maybe he perceives it to be a world where it’s okay to grab a woman’s buttcheek.

  6. Yehudit on

    Please don’t disrespect all Jewish men because of this bad apple. My dear husband, son, son in law and grandsons do not deserve your unkind suppositions.

  7. Golden Boy on

    Realize though that just because you hold these ‘religiously dressed’ Jews to a higher standard of behavior than you would Joe Shmoe, they don’t necessarily feel the same way. The garb that you associate with piety and godliness is to many ultra-Orthodox merely normal dress, the T-shirt and jeans of their society, a dress code that all wear to fit in without any special significance. While of course what he did is wrong and reprehensible, it is a bit unfair for you to hold him to a higher standard of behavior than others simply because you associate some meaning with his clothing that he may not.

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