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Hearts of the City / Exploring attitudes and issues behind the news

A rotating panel of experts from the worlds of philosophy, psychology and religion offer their perspective on the dilemmas that come with living in Southern California.

Today’s question: Has the day gone by when a male in a crowded bus or train should offer his seat to a woman standing nearby?

R. Patricia Walsh

Professor of psychology at Loyola Marymount University

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Yes. The day should never have come. Traditional rules like this are based on the general principle that the strong should protect the weak. Most people in the United States today would probably agree that the abled should give up their seats to the disabled. However, they probably don’t believe that women are either disabled or are so weak they cannot stand up in a moving vehicle. This is similar to many other non-Western cultures that have traditionally felt that women are strong enough to be the main “burden bearers.”

The Rev. Ignacio Castuera

Pastor of Hollywood United Methodist Church

Religion and basic civility require that those who are stronger look after those who are less strong. Traditionally, at least in my Latino culture, women were perceived to be weaker and all kinds of “favors” were offered in public, including offering a seat in a crowded bus or room. Today in the metropolitan Los Angeles area, one must not assume that the definitions of “strong” and “weak” are commonly shared. I would hope the most healthy young males would continue to offer their seats to not only women but to anyone who appears to be in greater need of that seat. Furthermore, I would hope that public displays of civility are accompanied by the conviction that in order for the social fabric of an area as diverse and rich as ours to hold it is important to practice courtesy and civility.

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Miriyam Glazer

Associate professor of literature at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles

Gender isn’t really the criterion--for, after all, should an elderly man feel emasculated if a healthy young woman offers him her seat? Our culture would be infused with more kindness and courtesy if the vigorous, able-bodied and unencumbered of either sex spontaneously offered their seats to those less able, to those who look weary, to those who are laden, or to those very pregnant.

Compiled by JOHN DART/Times Staff Writer


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