Yesterday as I was walking into the office I found myself just behind a gentleman who was also heading into my office. As I was walking behind him I couldn't help but notice that he looked like he got dressed in the dark. He was wearing brown shoes, black slacks, a black belt, and an obviously navy jacket. I would be willing to bet he was also wearing white cotton socks, because that was really the level of oblivious this guy was dressing to.
When we got to the glass doors into the office he swiped his badge and then opened the door, stepping back and holding it for me. All I could think at that moment was that his mother might not have taught him how to dress but at least she taught him good manners. Fashion transgression forgiven.
It was later brought to my attention through some well meaning people, that perhaps my assessment of the situation was wrong. It wasn't that it was thought that this man was not fashion challenged, because everyone agreed he was, it was that it was the fact that some people would find his holding the door for me insulting. By some people I mean some women.
I have been hearing these anti chivalry rumblings for a while now. There is an entire school of thinking among some more militant feminists that men holding the door for a woman is sexist and is somehow a way for the man to say that the woman is incapable of doing things for herself. These women would say I am betraying my sex by allowing a man to treat me in such a fashion.
Now don't get me wrong, I am all for feminism. I am all for equal opportunities, equal pay, and not having someone else tell me how to manage my own body. These are all good things. I however can't get around to thinking that any time a man is being polite that it is some sort of sexist misogynistic act.
Look people, I am from the south, I was raised by good southern women, and in a military household; you hold doors for people. I hold doors for people all the time. If I am walking in, and am not in an insane rush, I will pause and hold the door for the person walking in behind me. It doesn't matter if it is a man or a woman, I just do it because it is polite.
I will go out of my way to grab the door for someone who looks like they are overburdened. I am not trying to say that you are weak and incapable, I am just saying you have two purses, a laptop case, a backpack, a lunch sack, a stack of loose files, and a hot coffee in your hands and it might be nice to have the door opened for you so you don't have to worry about wearing scalding coffee or having files scattered across the lobby floor. It is just me being nice.
We have to accept that not every gesture is some calculated measure by the opposite sex to undermine our power as women. Just because a man wants to walk you to the door, pay for your dinner, open the car door for you, or walk on the side of the sidewalk where the cars are more likely to swerve over and hit you, does not necessarily mean he thinks that you are weak and incapable. It very likely just means that he is being polite.
Here is what I want you to do the next time you think someone is being misogynistic in a small act; I want you to forget that it is a man doing this for you. I want you to forget you are a woman. I want you to think if this is a nice thing for one human to do for another. If the answer is yes, then you might be over reacting.
Ladies let the guy pay for dinner tonight, next time you can pay. If he weren't dating you and was just a friend who wanted to buy you a meal would you let him? My friends buy my dinner all the time and I do the same for them. It is just a nice thing to be able to buy someone a meal. Let him be nice. He isn't saying you are incapable of paying, he is saying he likes you and wants to do something nice for you.
There has to be a balance in the world. Yes women need to be respected, and treated equally, and have all the same opportunities a man has. I don't think that means women should be treated like men. I think it means that people should be treated as people regardless of sex.
Not all men are strong protectors, but some of them are and there is nothing wrong with letting them be that. Not all women are delicate flowers, but some of them are and there is nothing wrong with letting them be that. We should let people be what they are. If a boy wants to be a ballerina, or a soldier, or a stay at home dad, or a girl, we should let them be that. If a girl wants to be a ballerina, or a soldier, or a senator, or a stay at home housewife, or a boy, we should let them be that.
Above all else we should strive to be nice to everyone. We should open the doors for people not because they are incapable, but because it is just polite. We should buy meals for friends not because we are trying to say we have more money, but because it is nice to buy someone a meal. We should let people protect us if they want to, because you protect the people that you love.
We should do all of these things not because men are men and women are women. We should do all of those things and more because people, regardless of sex, deserve to be loved and treated well. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.