I can open doors

There is a debate that I have with one of my sisters quite often, and since it came up on Facebook again, I’m going to have my rant here. So, you’ve been warned.

The debate is essentially about chivalrous behaviours by men toward women. Celeste (and some of my other sisters and friends) believes that a man should always open a door for a woman. And he should carry her bags. And he should stand when she is arriving at or leaving the table.

Now, I don’t know exactly how far Celeste’s views go, so I’ll end the ‘she thinks’ things there. But there are other views on chivalry held by other women I know. They include things like a man should always pay. Always. They should pump gas (petrol) for a woman. They should walk on the outside, closest to traffic.

As I think about the possibility of dating again, I realise that these are all things I’m going to have to contend with. And, to be honest, I worry that with my age I’ll be stuck (?) dating men who’ve gone through a divorce and I fear that they may over compensate by trying to woo me with these chivalrous acts. And, well, that’s just going to make me fume.

I mean, it’s not that I don’t like a man to be kind and polite. It’s that I don’t want a man to treat me as if I’m a helpless woman.

My view is one of equality: He (or she!) who reaches the door first opens it for the other person. If there are four bags, each person can carry two—or the task can be shared based on weight rather than quantity*. If both people can afford to pay, then turns can be taken**.

Basically, everyone should be treated fairly and with respect and equality—regardless of their gender. I don’t necessarily believe in a 50/50 split of everything, either. Rather, I believe in the idea of everyone contributing to their strengths and weaknesses. So, if my arms are loaded with boxes and I get to the door first, then of course I’d expect some man (or woman!) to be kind and open the door for me.

Women have worked far too hard to be treated equally for some ‘helpless’ woman to go around demanding they be treated differently just because they’re a woman.

And don’t get me started on ‘romantic’ gestures like flowers and chocolates!!

And that, Dear Reader, is an abbreviated version of my chivalry rant.

So, I’d really love to hear your thoughts on the issue. Really. What do you think?

* Less than two weeks after Paul and I started dating, we went to the shops to get fixings for him to make my birthday dinner. On leaving the store, I grabbed one of the two bags, only Paul insisted on carrying both. He was very adamant and this upset me. I made a mental note to be aware of any other controlling behaviour. But there weren’t any, and he was generally happy for me to ‘carry my own weight’. It just happens that on that day, he had just picked me up after being released from hospital and didn’t feel that a ‘sicky’ should be carrying anything.

** When Paul and I started dating, I was a poor student so we made the deal that he would pay when we went for meals and such, and I would pay when we went for coffee. Now, as a starving student again, I find it hard to let friends pay my way, but I do let them when they offer because I know that it’s just a temporary thing.

6 thoughts on “I can open doors

  1. Yep! I knew you couldn’t/wouldn’t let the chivalry rant pass without comment. My thoughts run pretty close to yours. First one to the door opens. Man/woman, it doesn’t matter.

    You dad and I have an understanding of sorts, I guess, though we have never verbalized it. Generally, he totes most of the bags…at least the heavier ones. I pack the bags for trips and he packs the vehicle. It works for us and that’s really what counts.

    And, if I cook the meal, he fills the dishwasher. Seems a pretty fair trade-off.

    As for the flowers and chocolate thing, sure, I’d like flowers once in awhile, but they aren’t necessary. And I’d rather pick my own chocolate…unless someone wants to give me Boehms. (Candy is something very different.)

    • I guess that’s why I find it so difficult to believe that (at least) half of your daughters think that there are clear divisions of his/her tasks and manners. Crazy. Oh well…

  2. I’ll set my stall out now and say that I’m a man and yes I do err on the side of ‘chivalry’ if that’s the right word.

    For me I guess I don’t actually see it as a gender based issue. Is my deep seated need to open doors and carry things really just another insidious contribution to sexual inequality?

    It’s a moot point I think, or maybe not so moot in some people’s eyes!

    In my defense (if defense is indeed required in this situation) I’ll make only these few points.

    1. For me I think it’s a culturally and generationally ingrained thing. I watched my Dad do these things and he imparted that those actions said more about manners and the man rather than any perspective on a woman’s place in the world. In support of that view I would say that I’d offer to do most of the things you mention even if my companion were male .. perhaps not the flower thing though.

    2. Some of the things you mention actually just feel like.. well good sense. At the end of the day I am 6’3 and spend a lot of my time keeping fit and strong. I can carry a lot, my stride is pretty long so I tend to get to doors first anyway, I prefer to stand rather than sit, and I really would prefer that if a car ran onto the pavement that I be hit rather than anyone I was with (well there are exceptions). I really don’t mind rain or sleet or bitter wind, so yes I’ll fill the car with petrol or hold the umberella over someone else.

    Some of the things I do however have no real practical purpose, I can’t (try as I may) remain seated when a woman leaves or joins our table. It’s a curious uncomfortable physical thing that perhaps counselling could help me with.. but really I have several more deep seated issues I should probably deal with first.

    As for the flower thing, I admit that I do that. Luckily my wife seems to quite like them (or so she says) and you know, to steal a line from the Proclaimers..

    Yeah, it’s just a piece of paper but it says “I Love You”

    I’ll go back to nursing my frail wounded male ego now..:)

    • I suppose I should clarify to say that I don’t ‘not like’ men to open doors for me. What I don’t like is 1) when they won’t let me open the door if I get there first and 2) when they get upset with me for opening my own door. I appreciate good manners very much, and feel that it’s good manners to allow someone to open a door if they so desire.

      With carrying things (or fixing plumbing, cars, flat tyres, etc) it’s very much that I can do those things and I want to do those things. When I’m told I can’t because it’s a man’s job, I’m offended.

      As for flowers and chocolates, I think the practice is great–if you use a bit of thought. If you just pop into the gas station / garage and pick up any-old-thing, there’s no thought. For me, my favourite flowers are tulips and I don’t care for roses and I’m not fussed with chocolate. So, for a man to impress me, he’d have to bring tulips and, say, a bag of pretzels or maybe some dark roast coffee beans or Love Hearts. That would show that he had me in mind, which would be much more romantic than and expensive box of chocolates!!

      • Goodness this conversation takes me back.

        I was a student in Edinburgh in the ’80s at a time when no shared flat was without a subscription to Spare Rib, and the topic of chivalry (among other things) was dissected ad absurdum over too much alcohol in the Potterrow Union.

        Not to say that this conversation is antiquated or any less valuable now, it just makes me wonder if we’d have changed our perspectives knowing that we’d still be discussing these things in almost the same terms some 30 years later.

        Needless to say that in my youth I was an ardent supporter of second wave feminism, if for no other reason than I didn’t fancy 4 years of celibacy stretching out in front of me.

        Unfortunately, as it turned out, my stance on feminism wasn’t the deciding factor in whether I was celibate or not.

        I’m not particularly well informed in this area (obviously), but I think that a fair criticism of feminism as espoused back then was that it assumed a homogenous female identity and actually that said identity overly reflected the perspectives of a tertiary educated middle class.

        As a man who would like to think of himself as a “feminist” to some degree (if that word actually still means anything coherent) I sometimes get a little frustrated because I wish someone would actually draw a line as to where the real battles really are (and of course there are still many).

        Does door opening and who has the keys to the toolbox really matter in the context of a recent statistic which states that women still make up less than 6% of board level executives in FTSE 150 companies?

        I’m guessing the answer is probably yes, if only from a cognitive dissonance perspective. Perhaps it really is difficult for a man to accept the credibility of a female Managing Director while still believing that it’s his job to open the door for her.

      • In a way, I think that women ruin our chances at equality more than men do.

        You ask if ‘door opening and who has the keys to the toolbox really matter in the context of a recent statistic which states that women still make up less than 6% of board level executives in FTSE 150 companies?’ and the truth it is does. But it’s because of the women (not all, but enough to weaken the system) who expect doors to be open for them but declare the need for equality. (Expect being the key word.)

        Women (and not all women) want to be treated equally, but they demand special treatment. Such as altered work schedules for parenting (and childbirth) activities. Some women want to be treated as equals when it suits them and as the ‘fairer sex’ when that is more desirable. And that is the problem. We can’t have it both ways.

        At the same time, men aren’t treated equally in the workplace. If a man wanted to leave work early for his kid’s doctor appointment (or stay home because the kid was sick) he would not be given as much leeway as a woman—because it is expected that he shouldn’t have to (or want to) take on such a domestic role.

        So, again, it comes down to equality. For both genders. Really, I don’t just feel that women get a raw deal—so do men. Women expect them to be able to do certain things (i.e.: provide financially, fix the car, protect them) even when that isn’t always within a man’s desire or ability.

        As for your student-days celibacy, I wouldn’t dare to comment. 🙂

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