Last Shabbat at dinner, the typically desultory conversation (you'd be amazed the wide range of topics that get discussed at our Shabbat table) touched on the Haredi/Hardali agenda of pushing women out of sight. As the smartest person at the table observed (i.e. my wife): 'They think that the Torah's prohibition is בל תיראה ובל תימצא.'
The point is well taken. Open up any Haredi paper and there are absolutely no women or little girls. (In fact, women are airbrushed out of any and all photographs.) There has been a move to stop females from carrying cellphones, because their talking on the phone in public is immodest. Women are banned from most hours of the Shavua ha-Sefer ha-Torani, from Bakeries on most days, and from Heaven knows where else. Dr. Sima Salcberg, in her brilliant expose of the situation that obtain in Ramat Bet Shemesh, reported that women are not only barred from the street (and a fortiori from sitting on public benches or taking children to the park), they are told to avoid the windows of their homes so as not to expose themselves to passersby (the reverse of היזק ראיה but these guys don't learn Daf Yomi). The Mehadrin buses are simply the logical result of a general trend.
The truth is that if this were merely a Haredi proclivity, I wouldn't care (except for the buses). It's not my community, not my problem. What concerns me is the way this kind of policy is insinuating itself into the Religious Zionist world. The trend is led by the Hardali rabbis (and aided and abetted by self-proclaimed Modern Orthodox rabbis who, as on so many other issues, lack gumption).
So let's get this straight. Not every event needs to have separate seating (e.g. weddings. including the Chuppa). Women can speak in front of men (especially in shul, with the proper arrangements). Women can teach men, and vice versa. Couples can socialize with each other. They can even study Torah together. And the world, Ladies and Gentlemen, is not run from Qiryat Moshe, Bet El, Qiryat Arba, or Elon Moreh (or from many of the 'Rabbinical' opinions offered in 'BeSheva' or 'Maqor Rishon').
[Torah UMadda post to follow.]