"Feminism is about women having choice."
A new proposal for gender-segregated beach days has sparked debate among activists over the possible dissonance between feminism and religious tolerance.
Because of the college's summer recess, the beach would have otherwise remained closed on these days. Deutsch is currently raising private funds in order to cover the costs of keeping it open.
“I have a lot of Orthodox Jewish and Muslim constituents in my district who have never been able to go to the beach before,” Deutsch told
A matter of choice: Allison Josephs, founder of "Jew in the City," an organization that aims to shatter stereotypes of Orthodox Jews, approves of the proposal.
"For the women who choose to not expose themselves to members of the opposite sex, they have less beach options than women who go to mixed beaches," Josephs told Pluralist.
The issue, according to Josephs, is not just respect for religion, but an attempt to accommodate individuals who elect to live chastely.
"If there is a sizable portion of this community that chooses to live a modest lifestyle like this," she said, "why shouldn't they have the chance to go to the beach sometimes too, in the manner that they choose? Who cares if for many of these women the modesty is inspired by religion?"
The right to conceal: Fatima Younis, a
But... No root in Islam: Ani Zonneveld, President of Muslims for Progressive Values, is dismayed by Deutsch's proposal. The very idea of gender separation, said Zonneveld, has no mooring in Islamic theology, but rather reflects Saudi Arabia's radically sectarian interpretation of faith.
On one hand:
“What chutzpah. People don’t have the right to impose gender discrimination on a city beach simply because it’s mandated by their religion,”
On the other hand: Akiva Shapiro, a New York attorney who specializes in constitutional and religious liberty laws, disagreed with NYCLU's conclusion. According to Shapiro, the proposal isn't discriminatory because it is:
1. Limited in scope.
2. Limited in time.
3. Paid for by private funds.
Asked whether he thinks Deutsch's move could be successfully contested in court, Shapiro expressed doubt.
"I don’t think that a court would uphold that kind of challenge," he said. "The human rights law says that you are allowed to make distinctions on the basis of sex for a reasonable public policy reason."
Shapiro also added that Deutsch's plan is legally sound as a public policy, given that it does not attempt to establish one religion