In his most recent Ethicist column in The New York Times Magazine, Randy Cohen says a questioner should tear up her contract with a real-estate agent who is an Orthodox Jew and refuses to shake a her hand because she's a woman.
I may be a lapsed-Catholic atheist, but I find this embarrassing and annoying.
Both Cohen and the questioner agree that the agent is guilty of sexism. Well, if so, it’s sexism only on a symbolic level. The questioner calls the agent "courteous and competent" and never suggests that in this business transaction he has treated her with insufficient respect because she’s a woman. And she never hints at any other problem with the agent -- in theory, a religious conservative might refuse to rent to a gay person or someone else a property owner would be happy to have as a renter, but there’s no suggestion of that.
How many social evenings in New York end with a leavetaking between two male-female couples in which the women air-kiss each other, the men and women air-kiss … and the men shake hands? I fail to see an effective difference between this air-kiss double standard and an Orthodox Jew’s refusal to shake hands across gender lines.
The Senate could go Republican in a week and become a hiring hall for anti-abortion judges. Can we please do a better job of picking our battles, people?