Hasidic Ladies Night: New York Club Agrees To Bar Men For Orthodox Jewish Band

300px-Up_loz_arleneBulletproof StockingsA curious scene will unfold this week at the popular Arlene’s Grocery, the popular Lower East side music venue. Julia Darling, the manager of Arlene’s Grocery, has agreed to stop any man from attending the performance because the band, Bulletproof Stockings, is an all-female Hasidic rock band and leads Dalia Shusterman and Perl Wolfe refuse to perform in front of men for religious reasons.

The Bulletproof Stockings also cover their hair, knees and elbows according to orthodox scripture. The ban name is a reference to the thick dark stockings worn by Orthodox Jewish women.

Notably, in a rather incongruous twist of faith, the women will allow male waiters to see them perform because they are working.

Shusterman, 40, says that Darling was at first “skeptical” about “turning away half the audience” but then decided to do it after women signed up to guarantee the audience.

I would have thought that the problem was not the ticket sales but the idea of discriminating against males. If a male band insisted on excluding women, would the establishment turn away any woman trying to enter? After all, while Hasidic, this is not a religious event and it is not be held at a Jewish facility. It is a rock event in a public business where men will be barred. The women have celebrated the exclusionary rule as the start to allowing more female-only audiences as “becoming a new movement.”

Should bars and facilities start barring the public on the basis of gender to satisfy such religious beliefs? How about non-religious beliefs or racial exclusionary policies? Where does one draw the line in such accommodation? Could for example a group exclude Muslims or Jews or homosexuals?

This is an issue that we previously discussed when Harvard banned men from workout areas to satisfy the demands of Muslim women as well as other accommodations at other universities. Conversely, cities have banned the boy scouts because they exclude gay scout leaders and were thus discriminatory organizations. Would Arlene’s Grocery sponsor a Boy Scout event that excluded gays for religious reasons?

We have also seen private businesses who have been forced not to discriminate against homosexuals such a bakeries, florists, and photographers. I have previously written on the growing collision of free exercise of religion and anti-discrimination laws. Where does one draw the line where a florist cannot bar a homosexual but a grocery can bar males? The inherent conflicts in these cases leaves us without a single cognizable rule.

This is not the first controversy for Arlene’s Grocery. In October 1997 musicians’ boycotted the store for not paying bands. Owner Shayne Doyle is quoted as saying “I have a lot of money invested in sound equipment, I have door people and sound people to pay. How do I get that money back?” Of course, barring an entire gender at the door may not be the brightest business move.

The women insisted in one interview in Israel that, while men could listen to their music and see it on YouTube, they again see no problem with the consistency with their rigid legal views: “The deal is that it’s not a women’s mitzvah not to play. It’s a man’s mitzvah not to listen.”


30 thoughts on “Hasidic Ladies Night: New York Club Agrees To Bar Men For Orthodox Jewish Band”

  1. Nick – that’s a good point. There are women’s gyms, and ladies’ night at clubs, for example. I’ve also noticed that there tend to be more men than women waiting in line at clubs, and the bouncers will preferentially choose women over men to get in.

    Perhaps it’s best to let the business owners decide how they want to run things, and let the free market decide if it is a wise decision or not.

  2. Lee,
    A private party for a sweet 16th, where presumably the only guests are invited, is different than a publicly announced performance by a band.

    That said, I think a club should be able to limit their clientele when the situations warrant it. If there was a club that wanted to have only men in their bar for a football game that should be okay too. We all know it wouldn’t be, but it should be.

  3. leejcaroll,

    I think you’re right.

    It was years ago, but I remember when bars in South Carolina would have “ladies night” that featured Chippendale’s Dancers. Only women were allowed in until 11 PM (or something like that). — I don’t remember any law suits.

    I think saying that it is “for religious reasons” is throwing a curve ball. As long as it’s a special event, as opposed to the standard business practice, I think it’s OK.

  4. If this was a policy that was for an extended length of time I think there is a question about it being ‘ok” but for one night? If they were hosting a private party for say a sweet sixteen and she only wanted girls would that be wrong too?

  5. It does have a “Little Theatre” feel about it though. I am not sure this business model will survive.

  6. I am surprised that the dress code for the male waiters is not ‘stripped to the waist.’ However, I am not against male only or female only gatherings. I think they are healthy and we need them.

    I am nonplussed by the name of the group, however. Is it a bad translation from Yiddish? or Hebrew?

  7. It’s not a ‘public venue’. The club is privately owned and operated. So, the collision is between the men who want to see this band live, and the band which does not want men attending. Those who would never have attended anyway; should they dictate how others run their businesses?

  8. Dredd
    Sexist religious dogma is not economical.

    Sure it is. And it’s just as profitable when it is sexist dogma without the religion.

    All the hand-wringers from the Northeast need to come to Wisconsin during the deer hunting holidays. Male dancers far and wide probably think of October in Wisconsin as Christmas. And those shows are women only.

    Nothing new here.

  9. Bailers- good point. What does Hasidic Judaism say about proper dress for women when performing before transgender folks and cross-dressers and how exactly should the female performers ascertain the gender of their audience? Religions which focus on gender differences falsely assume that everyone is clearly one gender or the other with all the assumed physical and mental features of a given gender, which is, of course, a false assumption.

  10. I don’t have a philosophical problem with barring men from the bar. It’s their bar, they should be able have the clientele they want. And if that means excluding 50% of their potential patrons, so be it.

    But can anyone else imagine the holy hellstorm that would descend on the lower east side if the genders were reversed here?

  11. It’s funny. If you were to ask people, “Is it OK for there to be an all male or all female athletic club, music club, etc. I think most would say, “Sure.” Men and women have a right to associate just among themselves. It’s healthy as long as it’s done sparingly. But, if it’s for religious reasons you want a single sex venue then it gets all crazy.

    Ct., where I grew up, had Men’s Bars, up until the 1970’s. These were not private clubs, they were public bars, usually owned by a sole proprietor, where only men were allowed. The vast majority of bars were both sexes, but maybe 5-10% of bars were Men’s Bars. For reasons I never understood, they had no bar stools, akin to old Western saloons. The atmosphere was different, as you might imagine. There was a certain decorum expected in coed bars, but it was rougher in Men’s Bars. Of course, Men’s Bars were made illegal in Ct. in the 70’s because of the old school feminist revolution. It said a lot to me and many men that feminist of that era simply didn’t demand Women’s Bars, where only women were allowed. But, they chose to simply ban Men’s Bars. I think today’s feminists would have opened Women’s Bars and then you would have 3 choices, instead of just one.

  12. Just let the religious have their way. They want religious freedom, I say let ’em have it, in spades.

  13. If it was part of an organized religious event that might help their case I would imagine. But maybe this becomes more gray when admission is charged.

  14. #1 how do these music venues come up with these names???

    #2 The only way to compare this to Hobby Lobby is if the owner of the music venue was a Hasidic Jew, and wanted to ban men from her religious rock venue on the basis of her own faith. She would be running her business according to her own values.

    As for the band imposing their religion on venues – no I don’t think a pubic venue should exclude an entire gender, and one would think they could not legally do so.

    It has gotten confusing with bakers being forced to serve gay weddings against their will, but bars can ban all men from entering.

    The question is, should government get more involved, and say no one can be banned, ever, for any reason? Or that anyone can ban anyone for whatever reason?

  15. Well, if Hobby Lobby can claim a religious exemption from providing their employees some forms of birth control, I suggest it’s pointless to fight against any religious accommodation some group demands. It looks like the religious can dictate based on their beliefs. Perhaps we should just give them their way and shut up. No one can claim that there is war on the religious, if we just agree to their many demands. Let them have it their way, it should get really interesting to see what religious group demands what in the coming months and years.

  16. Sounds like ‘Pussy Riot’! With a name like Bulletproof Stockings, why so shy?

  17. Allowing religion to segregate public places is wrong. Very wrong. I say boycott all establishments that engage in this practice.

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