By Lauree Benton
Or, open the door for her. And the guy in front of her. And the guy behind her.
Open the door for everyone. Because it’s polite. Because you respect them as people. Because manners and civility are lovely things.
But under no circumstances should you open the door for a woman because she is a woman. That is not respect, it is benevolent sexism. And its time has passed.
Chivalry is based in a privileged code of the Middle Ages that attempted to trade women’s crappy lives (can’t read, own property, have a job, or marry who you choose) for a dose of “honor” and “bravery.” Because there’s just nothing more romantic than having a man go kill, rape, and conquer in your name. As long as he has your hanky in his pocket. Or some crap like that.
Aside from the fact that in our demented society this was EVER seen as a good thing, we decided to keep it. As times changed, chivalry stopped being about crusades and jousting and started being about gestures. It evolved into a society-wide desire to narrowly define a woman’s role in the world, and simultaneously put her on a pedestal.
It involves treating us as though we are made of glass, shaming us when we don’t live up to the impossible (and boring) standards set for us, and then decry us as “ungrateful bitches” when we don’t treat you as if you are a knight in shining armor for pulling out our chair or paying for our dinner. Relax. It’s not like you just conquered the foreign lands.
I know some men, and a lot of women, are going to be unhappy to read this. It’s okay. Grieve if you must. But remember: We are moving toward a world of gender equity, and that is a good thing. (Albeit slowly. You might even call the pace glacial.But we are headed in the right direction.)
Before you “gentlemen” get upset about being called out for treating her as if she has no arms, hold your judgment: I’m about to save you money.
Stop paying for all her meals. And drinks. And movies. And giant teddy bears at the fair. Stop treating women like they cannot be the breadwinner. Stop assuming she isn’t capable of financial independence. That is not respect, it is an insult. And it’s an expensive one.
And for the ladies I know I just pissed off, think of it this way: If he is always paying, why do you need equal pay, anyway? Hell, why do you even need a job? Just stay home and have babies. But make sure dinner is on the table by 5. And it better be delicious.
This is not to say that being polite is bad. Being civil and respectful to your fellow human beings is a wonderful thing and something we all need more of. However, perpetuating gender stereotypes and thinking that you’re doing us a favor is ridiculous, not respectful.
If a woman is too weak to carry her groceries, is she too weak to lead a company? If she needs protecting from the harsh realities of the world, how can she be trusted to make a complicated decision like whether or not to end a pregnancy? And if women are treated so much better than men, what the hell are feminists complaining about?
Despite a lack of gender equity in government, business, academia, policy making, poverty, or even violence…we’ve got it made!
Never mind that we are objects to be won with money and empty gestures that actually have nothing to do with who we are as people. (And got forbid we turn the guy down…)
There is certainly a place in this world for being polite, protecting your loved ones, and doing kind things for people. But it shouldn’t be associated with being chivalrous or “manly.” This exchange makes it about power rather than respect. And
these gender roles are as damaging to men as they are to women.
What happens when a gay man enters the picture? Or a trans woman? There is simply no room for gender fluidity in “chivalry.” Our world is moving past this, and so should the way we treat each other.
So, men, go ahead and give up your seat on the bus. But the guy with the cane is just as deserving as the pregnant woman. And there is nothing wrong with that.
Lauree Benton is the nom de plume of an otherwise respectable human being who lives in San Diego.