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I Wish Chivalry Really Was Dead

August 10, 2009

But how can you say that Shinobi?  Don’t you like it when men hold doors for you?

Uhm, no, actually I don’t.  The honest truth is that I’m bigger, taller and louder than 90% of the men I see on a regular basis.  Having some guy a foot shorter than me stand there holding a door for me while I could reach over his head to keep it open without any effort at all is the most annoying thing that happens to me on a daily basis.

I don’t (normally) blame the individuals who are doing this, for some men this is just programmed, you hold the door for the lady.  Sometimes it is easier we don’t all have to stand around waiting for someone to go through first, because I have a vagina, therefore I go first.  (And I’ll do it if it means I’m going to get wherever I’m going without having to stand around making awkward “after you” motions for 10 minutes.)

The reason I hate chivalry in all its forms from door holding to not cursing when there is a lady present is because it “others” me in a way I am uncomfortable with.  I suppose that the reason it bothers me especially is because I am often in environments where I am the only “vagina American” present.  So we’ll be walking along and suddenly 10 guys have to stop to watch me walk through a door.  Or worse someone will make a slightly off color joke and then stop all conversation to apologize to me.  I can’t help but think “what if one of the guys in the room was offended, why just  apologize to me?”

It also reminds me of a phenomenon that I noticed my freshman year in college.  I had a bunch of male friends my freshman year, and we were just friends, seriously I’ve never experienced less sexual tension in my life.  So I hung out, we played video games, told gross out stories and fart jokes, went on weird adventures, harassed other guys with the dildo they’d used for the putting on the condom demonstration.  It was generally hilarious.

That is until my roommate (who I swear never wore a bra) or one of the other more attractive girls from my floor would come looking for me.  Then suddenly most of the guys were all polite, no more gross stories and fart jokes, they were falling over themselves to help the girls find a seat.  Gone were the relaxed fun dudes I’d been hanging out with moments before, here were the charming polite young men desperately trying to get their dicks wet.

Now I know everyone behaves a little differently around people they are romantically interested in, but this was pretty much every straight guy on the floor to a one.  I could tell as soon as I stepped on the floor whether there was a girl there who was not me.

I always found this deeply disturbing both because it meant that the cool fun guys I’d been hanging out with were suddenly annoying, and because it made me wonder what guys I knew did this to me?  I pretty much had to question every interaction I’d ever had with a guy and wonder, how much of their behavior is changed because I am here?

And conversely, how much of what they do and say when it is just guys is what they really want to do or say?  And how much is what they feel socially pressured into?

I’m not saying everyone should go around being rude and crude and pushy.  (Though they certainly seem to manage it on the el.)  I am just saying why does our gender have to determine who recieves and who gives courtesy.

Why does it take a woman in a room to make men offer their seats to other guests?  Why does it take a woman in the room to keep people from making offensive comments that could really offend anyone regardless of gender?  Why can’t we just hold doors for people because it is nice?

I don’t have a problem with courtesy, but I do have a problem with courtesy directed at me because of my vagina.


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  1. The best discussion I ever read of this whole treating-women-differently thing was in one of Miss Manners’ tomes; she dissected the difference between social manners (ladies first on/off the elevator, ladies extend their hand first for the handshake, etc) and business manners (seniors first on/off the elevator, seniors extend hand first, etc).

    Suddenly many of the “my co-worker insists on holding the door for me” complaints made sense. Bringing social manners into the workplace is that it indicates that women are not there to work. What can I do about it? Well, in the elevator case, if someone senior to me is waiting I will indicate that he or she goes first. 😉

    Re: dorm situation, that sounds to me like they had their “company manners” on for the other girls, and not for you…which I think helps show why being overly familiar with family and close friends can indeed breed contempt.

  2. Meems permalink

    A lot of those social manners are things I expect of all people, male or female. I hold doors for people of both genders because I think it’s a nice thing to do – of course, as a woman, those ideas of chivalry don’t apply to me in the same way.

    I do get irritated with men who apologize to me for swearing in my presence; I already have the mouth of a sailor – hearing a few curses won’t offend me.

  3. noceleryplease permalink

    I don’t mind people holding the door for me (of either sex) because I will also hold the door for someone directly behind me or whatever.

    What I LOATHE!!!! is when someone frickin’ 20 feet ahead of me sees me way back in the distance and stands there holding the @#%&*@# door wide open, then I have to hurry my ass up and get through it when I would have been QUITE HAPPY thank you, to just sashay my own comfortable way up the sidewalk and open the door for myself when I got there.

    My rule. If you can get through the door and it shuts behind you before the next person gets there – no need to stand around holding the door.

  4. “I hold doors for people of both genders because I think it’s a nice thing to do”

    Me too, and I’m a guy. I’d hate for the next woman I hold a door for to think she was getting special treatment – and if I let it slam in her face, presumably I’d then be an ignorant pig. I’m similarly unimpressed when someone else (male or female) lets the door go when I’m close behind and end up thinking ‘would it have been so hard for you to hold it a second or two longer’?

  5. Oh – I’m also reminded of Miss Manners’ solution to men who apologize to the ladies for their language: “I don’t care if you swear or not, but I don’t see why you’re wasting all of our time on silly apologies.”

  6. Maischeph permalink

    I believe it’s something still left over from the Victorian era, when women were meant to be known as “the angel in the house” (I believe there is a poem from that era titled that, detailing more on the subject…) and their presence was intended to be a blessing and a balm to those around them. Men had to go out into the filthy, sinful world to earn money, but when they came home, the wifey would be waiting, a beautiful, ‘blessed’ angel with warm slippers and dinner waiting, a pure and cleansing symbol for the callous male.

    Of course it’s a load of horseshit, being as only the upper classes could hire a maid to maintain the houseangel image, and it’s an incredibly backhanded (with the ring hand) compliment. Even now, in the second millennium, there’s some part of society that wants to believe that women are all that is good, and they must not do anything for themselves nor be exposed to vulgarity lest they get soiled (metaphorically or physically).

    And so on.

  7. Yeah, I hold the door for people of any gender, age, whatever… Just because I think it’s kind of assy not to. However, I agree with the other commenters who talk about people who stand there holding it when you’re 20 some feet away. I hate feeling like I need to bolt the last ten feet just so they don’t wind up having to stand there for forever.

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