On Chivalry, Opening Doors, and Basic Humanity

Chivalry. There was a time when men opened doors for women, but now we have lost all of that. Honor, bravery, chivalry. And now, if a guy holds a door for a woman he has to worry about the possibility of being dressed down for his effort by a man-hating feminist. Or so goes the narrative I was taught growing up in an overtly patriarchal home. 

And it’s a narrative that’s not hard to find using google. Men are confused, these articles say. To hold the door or not hold the door? Women don’t know how to say thank you and accept such “chivalry” graciously  these articles say. But I have to ask. Can’t we all just be people? Is that really so very difficult? Why do we have to make everything about gender?

Today I hold the door for people all the time. If I’m there, and it’s not going out of my way, why in the world wouldn’t I? I hold the door for women, and I hold the door for men—honestly, gender doesn’t even cross my mind when I do it. I’m just trying to be nice. And if I see someone coming with a box, or a stroller, or what have you, I hold the door even if it means going out of my way. The thing that I don’t do is determine whether I hold a door for someone by that person’s gender. Why in the world would I? It’s simply about treating others as you would have them treat you.

I ride the bus a lot. That’s pretty common when you work and study on a university campus. Anyway, when I was massively pregnant with Bobby, it was quite common for someone to give up a seat for me on the bus. Good thing, too, because by that point standing for long stretches of time can take their tole. But now, as a very un-pregnant able-bodied woman? I neither expect nor want people to give up their seats for me on the bus. Why would I? And today, I myself give up my seat if someone who is elderly, or disabled, or pregnant, or accompanied by young children comes on the bus. That’s needs-based, not gender-based. Am I the only one who thinks this doesn’t sound all that complicated?

Being female doesn’t make me need someone to hold the door open for me, or give up their seat on the bus for me. In contrast, there is every reason to help someone out by holding the door open behind you, or to go out of the way to get a door for someone with a box or stroller or give up seating on a bus for someone who needs it more than I do. It’s called being a decent human being. It’s called treating others as we would like to be treated.

There’s nothing lost by throwing out gender-based chivalry and replacing it with a respect for each other’s basic humanity, and it’s really not that complicated. I promise.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Mogg

    Nope, not complicated at all. I hold doors, pick up dropped items, and offer to help with heavy boxes all the time, and it doesn’t even occur to me to think about the gender of the person I’m offering to or the fact that I’m a female. I can change a tyre and open doors for myself, but if someone offers to do it for me I am appreciative, not offended. Who doesn’t like having a door held for them?

  • Penguin

    Since my sister married, I’ve heard a lot about how her husband “won’t let her open doors” when out and about. To the point where he will run ahead of her in order to get to the door first. He’s said that this is because his mother taught him to always open the door for women, which I can understand (that he was taught/raised that way). Despite her repeatedly telling him it’s not needed/wanted and even makes her feel uncomfortable, he continues to do so (which I can understand to an extent, ingrained habits are hard to break). What I can’t understand is that other people (friends, family, etc) just tell her it’s something she’ll have to get over, that they wish more men were like that, that it’s wrong to even ask him to tone it down. Even my family, who taught my sister and I that whoever gets there first should open/hold the door, come down on his side, “because it’s good manners”. But I can’t see how RACING to the restaurant door and sometimes knocking into others, so that HE can get the door, is good manners.

    • BringTheNoise

      But I can’t see how RACING to the restaurant door and sometimes knocking into others, so that HE can get the door, is good manners.

      Yeah, that’s not good manners, that’s being an asshat.

    • Niemand

      Failing to break a lifelong habit in one go is one thing, but is he making a good faith effort to try to break the habit? Does he take reproofs for running ahead of her (and especially for knocking her over) well or get huffy because he’s “just trying to help”? If he’s not making an effort, she should have a frank conversation with him and consider questions like whether this relationship is worth holding on to.

    • Jeff

      I’m curious as to how it’s Good Manners to explicitly disregard a person’s simple request, especially since going against that person’s wishes requires a greater expenditure of energy than not.

    • Abigail Gorton

      Is this a 2 sided ‘deal’ in their marriage? Does he believe that he opens doors, but she does 90% plus of the housework? If so, it’s a sweet deal for him.

      Obviously, I do not know the termsa an conditions of your sisters marriage. But in many marriages, I do believe this to bethe incredibly, overwhelmingly unfair deal.

  • saramaimon

    chivalry, in contrast with real help, means offering a service that is unneeded, whose entire point is symbolic. does a woman really need a man to open a car door for her???

    • BringTheNoise

      Excellent point. I’ll open a car door for my grandmother, because she’s in her 90s and the door is actually quite heavy for her, but virtually every other woman I know can do it just fine.

    • Elise

      “chivalry, in contrast with real help, means offering a service that is unneeded, whose entire point is symbolic.”

      I don’t believe in the necessity of a door being opened. But, for precisely that reason, I truly appreciate the symbolic gesture when it is made. It doesn’t matter if a who holds the door for whom, but I do appreciate the politeness of someone offering a service that is unneeded. Serving one another is a fantastic way to brighten someone’s day, and holding a door is a simple way to do that.

      Now, my appreciation of the purely symbolic gestures of politeness/kindess of some chivalrous actions doesn’t preclude an appreciation of people who offer “legitimate help” … if someone is holding 13 packages and trying to get into an office complex, I think it’s rude *not* to hold the door for them, regardless of whether they have lady bits or not.

      I would love to see a society in which chivalry is alive and well regardless of gender. It’s polite for a driver to open the car door for a passenger, but not required, and is kind even if the driver is a woman and the passenger a man.

      • Steve

        I think there is a difference between doing something if you just happen to be standing there or going out of your way to be “helpful”. If he walks ahead and opens the door, fine. No problem. But he shouldn’t make a show of racing to the front or walking around the car just to open a door.

  • Giliell

    I’m a big fan of holding doors. Holding doors is one of my ultimate “make life nicer easily” things. I hold doors all the time. I alos live in a house with 78 flats so that it’s a fairly frequent occurence. And lots of things go into my calculation: How far away is the other person, how able-bodied are they, do they carry something? How’s the weather, do I know them, am I in a hurry? Sex or gender don’t enter and AFAIKT people are pretty happy with that.
    Many of the so-called “chivalrous” activities are perfectly in order if, and only if the person you’re doing them to/for actually could do with your help.
    So it’s very nice of my husband to open the car door when I’m balancing a cake on my knees. And very kind of him when he held my coat after I’d torn a muscle in my shoulder. That’s called “being nice” and I do the same for him.

  • http://itsbetterthanyours.blogspot.com AndersH

    Thank you, Libby Anne. Chivalry isn’t even about promoting being nice and polite, it’s about limiting being nice and polite to certain groups based on social hierarchies and stereotypes.

    • http://ripeningreason.com/ Rachel Marcy (Bix)

      Exactly. And for anyone who feels unsure about basic politeness, I suggest taking the path of least awkwardness. Holding the door for someone with whom you’re walking is polite; running ahead to open doors for someone perfectly capable of doing so is awkward.

    • Michael Cule

      To speak in favour of chivalry for a moment, I’d like to point you at the original meaning. The manners, code of behaviour and ethics expected of a ‘horseman’, a ‘chevalier’ or knight. It meant a code by which those with the most power in a society were supposed to dedicate their power to helping those with less power than them. Not to go gallumphing around the countryside in full plate robbing people and bashing all about them but to be ready to aid ‘women, widows, children’. It was an ideal and more honoured in the breach than the observance but it was manufactured to restrain evil.

      It degraded and became an instrument of oppression because people are jerks and because it couldn’t change to admit that the formerly and institutionally helpless had managed to acquire some power of their own but as a set of rules if you can manage to get past the inaccurate assumptions and accretions of the centuries it isn’t bad. “Noblesse oblige” translates nowadays to Spiderman’s “with great power comes great responsibility” and quite right too.

      • Malitia

        I just want to point out that:
        Everybody who wants to use Spiderman and his “with great power…” line as an example… you shouldn’t as it didn’t work out too well for the poor guy.
        He has longest “loved one’s lost because superheroing” list in all comicbook history, in both the permanent and the temporal death department. Those who don’t die become supervillains, (Except Aunt May, that woman is indestructible.) He can’t have a girlfriend/wife (lost more than 5 in the course of his story). He can’t keep a job despite being a genius scientist (he is a half gadget based superhero, the web-shooter is a gadget for example, inventing his own stuff and building it from… well a freelancer journalist’s wage on it’s better days). etc..

      • http://ripeningreason.com/ Rachel Marcy (Bix)

        Chivalry was an ideology designed to support the state’s system of vassalage and growing monopoly on the use of force. The Church supported it because they didn’t want their wealthy properties getting sacked. It didn’t restrain violence so much as channel it (sometimes unsuccessfully) away from the State and the Church. The European knightly class had more in common with each other than with peasants in their own countries, and most warfare was conducted via chevauchees, whereby knights rampaged through the countryside killing peasants and destroying crops (and the enemy king’s tax base) and then the rival kings/princes would sit down and have a fairly chummy chat because their nobility mattered more than their nationality. Noblewomen were considered property to be bought or won; peasant girls were considered free for the raping. In one chivalric romance, King Arthur himself rapes a young peasant girl, and her father says that he hopes she got pregnant. Le Morte d’Arthur is basically a chronicle of knights behaving badly–Arthur kills a bunch of baby boys, brothers kill each other, a husband beheads his wife, people use deceit and manipulation all the time, and poor Lancelot runs around trying to clean up everyone’s mess and adhere to some semblance of an ethical code. Then Lancelot kills a bunch of people while rescuing Guinevere from being burnt at the stake. Oh, and Arthur is conceived when Uther functionally rapes Igraine via deception. This is all very interesting to study, but I don’t think it forms a solid basis for a system of ethics. Chivalry enabled the exertion of power more than it restrained it.

  • Christine

    It’s probably only because I’m one of those evil man-hating feminists that this bothers me. Once I was holding the door for someone on campus. He refused to walk through the door while I was holding it. I was furious. This was made worse by the fact that the bridge we were about to walk though had doors at each end. I dragged my feet so that I was only halfway across by the time he was through, so that we could go through the door separately. And he still held it for me. It was very tempting to pull the same BS he did. (I wanted nothing to do with him at that point.)

    I must say though – it was a very odd thing to have to adjust to, when I broke my foot, to have people cheerfully holding doors for me, even picking up their pace so they could get there first. (I was due in January, so by the time my pregnancy showed it was hidden under my coat, so I never had to deal with people opening doors for me, and I didn’t need to take the bus much, I just walked, so no seats were offered at any point.)

    • Noelle

      If someone doesn’t want to walk through a door I’m holding, I do that thing where I pull back so he or she can take the door themselves. And then I walk on. If they aren’t getting the message, I’ll say “go on, I got it”, or “door’s heavy, don’t want to close it on you”.

      These are basic human politeness things for teaching children of all ages.

    • http://noadi.etsy.com Noadi

      Oh yes, this happens to me on a regular basis because I’m a helpful person and if there are people behind me I will always hold the door for them. It’s almost always elderly men who do this and it really annoys me but I chalk it up to being a different generation and just say something to the effect of “I’m good, go on through” and don’t budge until they walk through, they usually get the hint. Younger men who do this completely infuriate me, I’ve let doors close right in their faces (I have my moments of not being very nice and that sort of blatant sexism tends to bring it out).

  • Stony

    I used to work in a manufacturing environment and had this argument so often I finally called it the Empty Box Problem. I asked my coworkers if they saw a guy carrying a box across the plant floor, would they offer to carry it for him? Answer: no. If they saw a woman carrying the same box, even though she appeared perfectly capable and in no distress, would they offer to carry it for her? Answer: OF COURSE, she’s a woman, it’s how we were raised!!! I tried to explain that especially in a work environment, that kind of knee-jerk chivalry, even though it’s how your mama raised you, is disruptive. It kind of assumes that I’m too stupid to know my own limits, or know when to go get a handtruck, etc etc. And it singles me out as someone that requires “looking after”, when in fact I hold the same job title as they. They never got it. Never. They just labeled me a man-hating feminist and went about their way.

    • Uly

      Every time you saw them holding a box, you should’ve offered oh so kindly to get that for them. Practical examples work best.

    • Randomosity

      That reminds me of a funny story at my work a couple decades ago. I’m small but strong for my size. I was having no trouble pushing a cart loaded with 300 pounds of computer equipment to shipping, as I did every day at that job. One of the men from tech support who was there approving a rebuild for a customer saw me, raced toward me yelling “Need my help?”
      I said, “Nope, I got it. I do this every day.”
      He grabbed the cart and caused several boxes to fall over and spill their contents. I said, “Your mess.” Then I went to the ladies room and took my sweet time about coming out.

  • http://sylvia-rachel.livejournal.com sylvia_rachel

    I like it when people hold the door for me, rather than letting it slam in my face — especially when I’m carrying something awkward or heavy. I like it when I’m in a position to hold the door for someone else; it seems like a friendly, helpful thing to do. I think the world would be a better place if more people held doors for each other on a regular basis. OTOH, I do not need to have the car door opened for me by someone who is then going to have to run around the other side of the car to get into the driver’s seat. What a waste of time!

    When I was enormously pregnant and riding the bus in 30-degree heat, I appreciated it very much when someone offered me their seat; OTOH, on the rare occasion when a guy offers to give up his seat for me apparently just because I’m female — not because I’m wrangling four bags of groceries or something — it feels awkward and weird and I tend to pretend I’m getting off at the next stop and don’t need a seat.

    I’m not a bodybuilder or anything, but I’m not weak. I’m not sure why it should make me feel feminine and pretty for a guy to act like I’m not even capable of opening a door for myself. I think the door-opening rules should be very simple: If you get to the door first, hold it so it doesn’t whap the next person on the nose.

  • Ann

    It is vexing when courtesy becomes a power play, although I think it’s spot on to refer to such things as chivalry. Chivalry isn’t about treating your fellow humans well, it’s about rank-based conduct. Chivalry allowed rape. Manners are about treating each other well, and that involves accurately assessing what is needed and desired. If you are opening doors based on arbitrary distinctions instead of need, it may be out of the best intent but it reduces people to those arbitrary things. That’s fine if you care about rank, but if you care about people, manners are better.

  • http://theotherweirdo.wordpress.com The Other Weirdo

    My attitude as a man is that I’ll hold the door open for you if not holding it open means you’d walk straight into it. I won’t hold it open if you’re more than 5 steps behind me. I won’t hold it open if you’ve got a coffee in one hand and a cell phone in the other. I will hold it open longer if you’re elderly or pushing a baby stroller or carrying a load.

    • Steve

      Now that I think about it I can think of one exception to that distance rule. I used to work in a place where there were basically two stair cases on either side of the building and a long corridor running through each floor in the middle. The doors to those corridors were locked so that not just anyone could walk in. So you needed to get out your key to unlock it. Which was a hassle until they eventually installed RFID locks. Anyways, it was customary to hold open the door if someone else was approaching so they didn’t have to unlock it. Even if they were quite a distance away. But almost everyone did it for everyone. Even many of the superiors held open the doors.

  • KristinMH

    Seriously, what is wrong with people? It’s just good manners to hold a door open for the person behind you regardless of gender. My mother drilled this into my head from an early age and I consider it quite offensive when someone knows I’m right behind them and just lets the door slam in my face.

    I hold doors open for dudes all the time and I’ve never had a single one react to it badly. But maybe men holding doors for women isn’t as much of a thing here (Toronto)? It also seems to vary across the US from what I’ve read.

    • Steve

      If you walk in front of someone, then holding the door open is good of course. But it’s beyond silly to run to the front just to open it. That’s only a good idea if the person is carrying something and can’t open it themselves.

    • Kodie

      You know what I notice though. Just sort of thinking about things and reading these comments.

      Fire codes on most places have the door opening toward the outside of the building, first of all. In most public places. In houses, they open inward, I think because popping the hinges would be trivial from the outside to break in (at least that makes some sense to me, if that’s why it is that way). Holding the door and then deciding who should go first is an awkward rule because of which way you are passing through a door. If you are holding the door toward you when you open it, it is awkward to continue holding it if you pass first. But if the door opens away from you, you should enter first and hold the door from the other side. It is tough to hold the door for people and let them go ahead of you if the door opens away from you.

      I usually hold the door open if someone is coming in or out within 10 feet. 15-20 feet is the awkward part where you are close enough to make eye contact and notice them closing in, but where you might make them have the awkward reaction of hurrying up to accommodate your kind gesture (which I find not everyone appreciates). I also don’t like it if people do not say thank you like you’re a doorman or something – one family and then by the time they are all through, another group comes along and walks right by, etc. Or if they are right beside you, walk through the door and don’t at least make the human connection of seeing that you caught the door, i.e. pass the door holding obligation to the next person. Does that make sense? I feel bad when I don’t see someone and let the door close on them, even if they do catch it while it’s closing, I say “oops, I’m sorry I did not notice you”. Is that the wrong thing to say? This is not a distance of that 10 feet behind them, but right next to them with no decisive order of who arrived at the door first – we’re all there, someone grabs the door and just walks through without ensuring that I have the door for myself. It could have slammed in my face for all they care. The polite thing if you’re not officially holding the door for someone else is to pass the open door to the person following. I guess if I am having a bad day, and I have to be out in public, I appreciate some acknowledgment that people are at least somewhat courteous and decent to one another in small human ways. Holding doors used to be an official code of behavior that people learned how to do for each other, so I find it strange that the other end of the spectrum includes people who are afraid of what might happen if they are nicer than they officially have to be.

    • http://sylvia-rachel.livejournal.com sylvia_rachel

      Yeah, I hold doors for dudes all the time (also in Toronto) and I don’t think I’ve ever heard any objections! I spend a lot of time going in and out of bus bay doors and appreciating when the person in front of me doesn’t let the door slam in my face, or being annoyed when they do. Gender just doesn’t even register, you know?

      I’ll hustle in front of someone at work to open a “pull” door when they’ve got their hands full and are clearly going to have trouble. We all do it. Again, gender’s not even on the radar when making that decision.

  • Miranda

    Hey Libby,
    Just wanted you to know that I really, REALLY appreciate your blog. I’ve been reading it for a while now, and sharing as I go with friends. It’s made a big difference to have someone to “go” to, in a sense, since I’m stuck in the Bible belt.
    I recently “came out” to my parents about my atheism, and it’s been an incredibly painful struggle. They’re lashing out, and I’m often in tears because I feel so alone and I’m mortified that I have hurt them. Your blog is an often-sought solace for me. Thanks for writing. Please keep it up!

    • Generally Speaking

      Just a quick note from a closet-dwelling atheist – I applaud your courage, and am so sorry for the pain you’re experiencing.

      • Miranda

        Thank you! I was terrified that he’d tell me I wasn’t worthy to be his daughter or something anymore, but even though he seemed very hurt and let down, he wasn’t all fire-and-brimstone-y or anything. It’s nice to know that I’m not being completely cut off. Maybe he’ll be open enough one day to read some of the arguments and books that brought me to where I am. Blogs like this definitely strengthen my resolve!

  • Alan

    Why get offended when a man opens the door for a woman? There are plenty of things that men do for women that they don’t do for other men. Most guys have no problem giving a woman a hug even if they have only just met. Giving another guy a hug, a lot of guys aren’t all that comfortable with that.
    Ff its not out of the way or terribly inconvenient, I will hold the door for a man just as I would for a woman, but there are certain things men just don’t usually do for other men. Its not that we think women are inferior or need somebody to hold the door for them.
    I’ve never really understood the some of the current generation’s anger at having a gentleman open the door for them. If I opened the door for somebody of my mother’s generation (50s-60s) even if they are perfectly able to open it themselves, its considered good manners. If I do the same thing for a younger woman (20s-40s) I have to worry about being a male chauvinist with a woman limiting mindset.
    @Christine, the guy in your comment is going a bit over the top, but guys do that to each other sometimes too. It may be because you’re a woman, but then the guy might just be a bit over the top in his door opening tenancies.
    @sylvia_rachel – opening doors is not about need. Don’t get offended when people try to be nice. You don’t need a cupcake, but they’re nice. I don’t need a nice leather man bag, but its nice. I don’t need somebody to offer to open the door for me, but its nice. There is already a lack of “nice” in the world. Don’t confuse the poor guy who is trying to be nice by opening the door or giving up his seat to you and make him question his niceness. Just say thank you and let him be happy in his niceness. The world will be a better place if more people are nice.
    @KristinMH, I think you’re absolutely right, its just good manners. The problem I see is that a lot of people might learn how to show good manners to others, but not how to accept good manners from others. Somebody opens a door for me, male or female, I walk through and say thank you.

    • BringTheNoise

      People are getting offended because they are being treated differently on the basis of gender. I’ll happily hold a door open for a woman or a man, but only if it’s reasonable to do so – Other Weirdo’s five steps rule seems about right.

      But I’m not going to hang around waiting at a door to hold it for a woman at the other end of the corridor, or refuse to go through first if we both arrive at the same*. It’s belittling for the woman, because it assumes she can’t do it herself, and a waste of time for me. To use your cupcake example – it’s the difference between being offered a cupcake and someone forcing me to take one, even after I say that I don’t want one.

      * My rule works on the same principle described on the TVTropes page for British Pubs: “Sometimes someone who is in the queue ahead of you will offer to let you go in front of him, especially if you both reached the bar simultaneously. The only correct response to this is “no, it’s okay, you go ahead”. If he accepts, then wait your turn. If he insists you go ahead then go for it. Don’t keep bouncing polite offers to each other, though; that’s just embarrassing”. Applied equally to men and women, of course.

      • Alan

        Holding the door for somebody, anybody, who is perfectly ambulatory and capable at the other end of the corridor is just awkward for everybody involved, so lets stop using ridiculous examples that everybody agrees are over the top.

        If men open the door for a woman, I think its usually the woman who only feels that its belittling them. I would posit that most men are thinking, “I’ll be nice and open the door.” They’re not thinking, “women can’t open doors, I must open it for her.” Some men are creeps, some men are chauvinists, some men are people who are just nice.

        As to your bar example, lets take the exact same situation, but two people get to a door at approximately the same time. One person opens the door and steps aside to let the other through. Which is more awkward, 1. say no, its okay, you go ahead” and wait for the person who has open the door and stepped aside to let you through, or 2. just walk through and say “thank you.”

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        If, as you say, everybody agrees that holding the door for a perfectly ambulatory person at the other end of a corridor is ridiculous, then why does it happen to me, a perfectly ambulatory woman all the time? Your whole attitude is incredibly dismissive of women’s experiences and feelings. I mean c’mon, the woman “only feels that it’s belittling to them?” If a woman feels belittled, that’s something you should care about and maybe listent to the reason. Or do you think women should just wait around for men to tell them how they ought to feel about everything men do?

        Yes, I agree that plenty of men who open doors for women are not consciously thinking “women are weaklings who can’t do things for themselves.” They are, as you say, being nice according to what they’ve been taught. If that is the vibe I get from a guy, I simply say thank you because I don’t believe in berating people for well-meaning gestures even if they are misguided. But the definition of “nice”–the chivalric definition–that these guys are adhering to is shaped by sexist beliefs about men and women. I blame the system, not the men. Yes, some men are creeps, some men are chauvinists, and some men are people who are just nice. And some men are people who are just nice according to standards that are ultimately creepy and chauvinistic. Just because I don’t blame every man who doesn’t make that connection doesn’t mean I have to like it.

        Also, dude, let’s just ditch the pretense that this is something that men do for women, okay? Because, it’s pretty clear that you see it as something that men do for themselves. Let him “be happy in his niceness?” Really? In other words, you’re asking women to do something for men, which is to stuff their discomfort and allow these poor browbeaten nice guys to keenly feel just how darn nice they are for a minute. See, doing something for somebody else kind of implies that you are putting that person first, not your need to feel “nice.” This is not about us, it’s about you. And I think it’s that attitude that a lot of people are objecting to here.

    • tsara

      Did you not read the post? Most people don’t get offended at men holding doors open for women. It’s only when the man makes it obvious that he’s doing a favour for the woman because she’s a woman that it can become a problem. And that’s mostly a problem because it tends to be done obnoxiously, in a way that puts the woman on the spot and emphasizes the man’s dominant social position while the woman’s options become, basically, to submit, to ignore it and hope the man doesn’t react badly (and they do fairly often — I was just herded into a corner and shouted at last week for not noticing a guy who held the door open for me), or to object and be labelled a man-hating feminazi.

      And about the things that men do for women that they don’t do for other men, how is that fair? If hugs from people you just met are an awesome thing, why can’t men enjoy them with each other, too? (Presuming heterosexuals all around and hugging without sexual connotations.) If hugs from people you just met are uncomfortable, why force them on women?
      (I’d like to point out that I know a few men who love hugs from very nearly everyone, and a great many women who really don’t like hugs from people they don’t know very well.)(My friends group has a bit of a skewed gender ratio.)

      • Alan

        I would be one of those men who gives and accepts hug liberally. I also know men who are a bit uncomfortable with hugging another man. I also know men who just don’t hug. I’m not justifying their action, nor am I saying that it is fair, I am simply pointing out that it happens. Society (especially north american male society), for better or worse, still has a bit of a hang up on guys who are not family hugging (this excludes the ridiculous man hug http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=man%20hug).

        As for reading the article, I have read the article. There are a good number of comments, however, that allude to the idea that a gentleman that they have never met is opening the door or giving up a seat because they believe that women can’t open doors (the seat thing is kind of odd though, that much I’ll agree to).

      • http://theotherweirdo.wordpress.com The Other Weirdo

        I used to know a guy who was a hugger. It was never sexual, he was just very friendly. Can’t remember the exact number of times HR had to tell him to knock it off, but it was a lot.

    • Noelle

      I have never been offended by anyone of any age or gender opening a door for me. That would be stupid.

    • Niemand

      Why are you so offended if your efforts to be “nice” aren’t appreciated? So what if you hold the door for a woman and she doesn’t thank you? Or maybe even glares at you? She may be distracted or having a bad day or maybe your opening the door reminds her of her abusive boyfriend who used to knock her over to get past her to make sure he always opened the door and she doesn’t appreciate the memory, even if it’s done in all innocence.

      Your intent in opening the door may be nice and even non-sexist, but sometimes it’s not going to come off well. Sometimes it won’t be appreciated or even noticed. If you really mean to be nice, it’s best to just shrug those times off and move on with your life instead of getting embittered about “feminists” not appreciating “nice guys” enough.

      • http://theotherweirdo.wordpress.com The Other Weirdo

        Even if there is an alien invasion currently in progress and she is the only person in the world who can possibly resist their terrible, soul-sucking weapons and thereby save us all, there is still no excuse for a lack of common courtesy.

      • Kodie

        Yeah, people should say thank you. There are no strings attached. Why would someone not notice that someone was holding a door? I’m not doing things to get a thank you, but I’m not doing it to serve the entitled humans who take advantage of my kindness either. It’s hard to say what it is for. A thank you is an acknowledgment toward another human being who acknowledged you. Is that so tough? I like to see evidence that people acknowledge the little things people do to make their lives easier or a little more pleasant.

        I don’t know why holding doors got caught in the spotlight of things we never need to worry about anymore. I mean, even if an old-fashioned woman approached a door and just stood there, and had to prompt a man to open it for her because he wasn’t following the same rules, I think she would still say thank you. Maybe he would say to her, is your arm broken, woman? instead of open the door for her. Why is this always the woman’s fault for not letting men hold the door open anymore! Why does thanking people also go extinct? Why is everything a passive-aggressive expression, why do people read intentional slights into everyday interactions? It’s not like I always remember to say “thank you” and to some extent saying “thank you” is an indoctrinated phrase (don’t parents teach children to say “please” and “thank you” by rote?”) – so is it sincere or just useless anyway? I still think it’s verbalizing an acknowledgment to someone who acknowledged you and actively did something for you they did not have to do. You’re not saying it to ward off evil, you’re looking at a person who is there and saying you saw me and I see you. You saw that I was coming to the door behind you and I see that you held the door open for me. Without this grease, even being out among people is isolating. You fend for yourself and no one is there, no one sees you and there is no one to thank. When people close their eyes to humans moving around them, ignore and forget them, then that is sad. I think that’s when people stop holding doors for people. That’s a little symbolic, I think that’s when people stop caring about other people who aren’t them in general.

      • Niemand

        Why would someone not notice that someone was holding a door?

        Maybe this is atypical, but I regularly don’t have any particular memory of how I got from, for example, a meeting in one building to my office in another if I’m thinking about something else. It’s all autopilot. Did someone hold the door? What door?

        Also, for someone who is shy or Aspie, making walking in the door a social event causes them considerable stress. Maybe extroverts love it, but there are introverts in the world too and insisting that they thank people for causing them pain is a bit excessive.

        When people close their eyes to humans moving around them, ignore and forget them, then that is sad.

        In a large city, it’s survival. It’s not possible to socially acknowledge all 2 million people in Manhattan at once. Or even the few thousand you’re going to be sharing a subway or a sidewalk with. Minding your own business and not getting into each other’s faces is courtesy under crowded conditions. (And, yes, people do intervene in emergencies. The Kitty Genovese thing happened 40 years ago, in Queens, and the initial report was false anyway.)

      • Kodie

        I just think not acknowledging a person near you who acted upon your presence to aid you should be acknowledged with a thank you, and go about your day. I’m not talking about chatting with strangers who just want to read a book on the subway. We’re all in this together and when people stop appreciating people, people stop trying. That’s why city people have a reputation for being unfriendly. I live in a city too, but I guess I don’t learn from experience that I’m supposed to be too busy and I need to protect myself.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

      If it’s common courtesy, I don’t get offended at all. I open and hold doors for people all the time, too, when it makes sense. I usually thank people who hold doors for me for this reason.

      If I get a door opened by a guy who raced for it when he saw me coming, and he opens it obviously “because I’m a woman”, then I get upset. I don’t need your help; I’m perfectly capable of opening the door myself. I don’t owe you a smile or a ‘thank you’ or even eye contact, and I’d rather just scurry through the door and not deal with your bullshit right now. It’s uncomfortable because instead of being nice, he’s placing a social obligation on me to be nice to him and reminding me that he’s “better” than me.

      And yes, you can tell who’s doing it for what reason.

    • Anne

      Alan, we’re not getting offended at someone opening door for us when it makes sense to do so. We’re just wishing guys wouldn’t force the issue when it doesn’t make sense. You may not do this but it does happen. I’ve certainly encountered men who make a show of it, complete with snide comments about feminists. That guy may be taking the same basic action as the genuinely courteous person holding the door open for the person behind them or with a package, but the intent is very different. I have a Jewish friend who is happy to hear “Merry Christmas” from people wishing him well, but it was a very different story when he was buying Hanukkah supplies and the clerk had a “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” pin and a tone that clearly showed that her intent, regardless of her words, was “this is a Christian country, get used to it.” Intent matters.

      Maybe there are women who object to doors being opened for them in any and all circumstances, but they aren’t here. OTOH, I (as a female) have held the door open for many people, men and women, and I’ve only had a nasty response from men. There have been some older gents who seemed a little surprised but accepted it with grace, and perhaps we should all take things with more grace, but I’d also think my intents were clearly generous. If I were rushing to get doors ahead of them and making a huge show of it I should not expect a positive response.

    • JJ

      I think the key is that when someone opens the door for you, you are gracious about it. I think that who ever is in front should be polite and hold the door for the person behind them, but I’ve had (male) friends, who when ever I was in front and held the door, would refuse to walk through. They would instead stand behind me, and place their hands above mine holding the door open and wait for me to walk through.

      These guys were taught that this kind of behaviour was curtious. It isn’t. It made me very uncomfotable, and feel singled out as a woman. It is frustrating to be expected to be gracious and greatful that the door was being held for me (and I would be considered very rude if I didn’t walk through the door) and yet it wasn’t rude for the man to refuse to enter a door I held. I don’t think these man thought I was too weak to hold a door, but it definitley felt like I was being told my place -that I am a woman first, and then a friend.

    • http://noadi.etsy.com Noadi

      Most guys have no problem giving a woman a hug even if they have only just met.

      That IS NOT okay. Period. I’m very protective of my personal space and having Aspergers I’m uncomfortable with casual touching, a stranger who’s just met me will not get a pleasant response if they give me a hug and that will immediately end any interaction between us. Ask before you give someone a hug.

      • ArachneS

        I was going to comment on that too.
        I don’t like people giving me hugs, so I have to be very intimate friends before I actually enjoy the hug. I hate new acquaintance hugs. I feel really uncomfortable and I just want to have some space.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Yeah, was gonna say, I would LOVE it if more men had a problem with hugging strange women. That would be called “respecting boundaries.”

    • OurSally

      I’m fine with holding doors, I do it for anyone and find it normal if someone does it for me. I don’t check for external genitals first. An much older colleague used to help me put on my coat, which I objected to at first, but he was just trying to be sweet. I retaliated by holding doors and so on very ostentatiously.

      But I do hate being hugged by strangers. In fact I hate being hugged by anyone I haven’t known for at least 20 years. If you tried to hug me by surprise I would probably push you away. There’s nothing chivalrous about unexpected hugging, quite the opposite, I experience it as assault.

    • http://sylvia-rachel.livejournal.com sylvia_rachel

      @Alan — I didn’t say I get offended. (I’m actually pretty difficult to offend; I live with a 10-year-old who really enjoys fart jokes and professional wrestling.) What I said is that I feel awkward and uncomfortable when someone insists I deserve a seat on the bus more than he does just because we have different genitalia. That’s all.

  • Edward Gemmer

    I always wait to get off the elevator until the women get off. My mom, a stern feminist, told me that was good manners, so that’s what I do.

    • Noelle

      But, why?

      • Merbie

        So if there is a gunman waiting on the destination floor, the woman can be the one to take the gunfire instead of the man. I’m not serious, but I did use to wonder at the “chivalry” of a man holding a door for a woman while she walks into a dark room or a room full of strangers or whatever other possibly uncomfortable situation he’s forcing her to face before he does–and that’s caring for someone? There isn’t always much logic behind traditionally chivalrous acts. If you’re really trying to be polite, the specific situation should be considered–not just the traditional way of dealing with something.

      • Rosie

        I had to explain to my husband that I don’t like being the first one into a situation I am unfamiliar with. He’d been taught to always make “ladies first”. To his credit, when I explained my discomfort and the reasons for it, he stopped doing what bothered me.

      • Niemand

        Maybe so that she doesn’t feel like he’s trying to trap her in the elevator. That actually would be courteous.

      • Edward Gemmer

        Good question. My answer is, that’s what my mother taught me to do, and now it is second nature. I can’t imagine any particularly good reason, but OTOH, who cares anyway? My mother, that’s who, and I’m a lot more likely to care about her opinion than anyone else’s.

      • Anat

        Edward, now that you see that not everyone feels comfortable with your ingrained habit, will you continue sticking to it without thinking? Not everyone is your mother, people have different preferences.

      • Edward Gemmer

        Probably. Everyone may not feel comfortable with it, but my mother sure does, and her feelings are a lot more important to me than most.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia Lucreza Borgia

        Your mother’s feelings are more important than anyone else’s? Have fun telling that to any future spouses.

      • Anat

        So being considerate of people who are there with you is less important than that if your mother were there she’d want a different treatment???? How does this even make sense?

        Apply the platinum rule – treat people the way they want to be treated.

      • Edward Gemmer

        I’m fairly certain my future spouse doesn’t care one whit about my elevator habits as long as I’m not trying to hook up with other women there. As far as the platinum rule, there isn’t any feasible way to figure out a random assortment of people on an elevator want, and it isn’t like there are any hard and fast rules for getting off an elevator other than the people in the way get off first. Other than that, I just wait and defer to women, because that’s what my mother taught me. My mother being more important to me than random strangers on the elevator who may disagree, she gets my vote.

    • Heather

      I’m curious, I’ve never heard of this one before.

    • Liriel

      Alabamian woman here, and many of the men do that (wait for the women to get off the elevator). Unless it’s very full and there isn’t room to move around, and then they do the logical thing and let the people in the front get off and then the people in the back. Also hold doors when it’s unnecessary/awkward (in front of me, holding the door open from the “inside” of the door so their arm is the doorway, and the opening is narrower). Frankly, it seems a bit awkward for me, but I just go along with it, because it’s not worth declining (particularly as it usually happens in the building I work in) and I know it’s considered normal and polite here, and it would be even *more* awkward to decline. But I was born here, and I’d still rather get my own doors and exit the elevator in the logical order. I’ve never seen anyone, male or female, refuse to walk through a door held open for them, though.

      • Noelle

        Maybe it’s a Southern thing? It’d be confusing for a visiting outsider who doesn’t know your customs. I can say I haven’t seen it as a Northerner.

      • http://allweathercyclist.blogspot.ca/ JethroElfman

        You’re right, if the person is coming the opposite way and pulled the door to their side, they are now blocking the opening while holding the door. I generally wave my hands to indicate that they have to give it up and clear the path before I can go through.

    • Emmers

      The people closest to the elevator door get off first. It’s super awkward to have to move past people who refuse to exit the elevator until I’ve done so.

      • Noelle

        Edward’s mother thinks everyone thinks like her, apparently, and does not care that the rest of the world outside of Alabama finds this random rule to not make any sense. Ergo, if Edward is in the elevator with you and you are a woman, you better get off first. If you are male, it shouldn’t matter. If you don’t know that it is Edward on the elevator with you, then I guess you’re stuck there. Because, ya know, mom.

        My mother believed in Creation, and I recognize the scientific validity of evolution. This does not diminish her memory or cherished spot in my childhood. She did all the cooking in the house, and now I am married to a man who does most of the cooking in our’s. This does not make me love her less. She wore her hair short, and I prefer mine long. It does not matter. We are not beholden to our parents’ whims and preferences for all of eternity.

  • Noelle

    The door thing’s a no-brainer, basic human decency and all. What I don’t understand is the standing up when I enter a room. I’m not royalty. You already had a seat, why get up. It makes me find a chair ASAP so everybody’s comfy again.

    The elevator thing makes no sense either. The people closest to the door should get out of the way first. Simple laws of physics right there. Those not getting off on that floor make room for others. Be careful to not squash little people. If someone’s struggling with a stroller, lend a hand. That’s just good manners.

  • smrnda

    People should hold doors for people, particularly when the person is going to have some trouble with the door – hands full, pushing a stroller, older, less mobile.

    The problem with ‘chivalry’ – and I feel like I can tell the difference between ‘chivalry’ and courtesy, is that chivalry is performative – it’s purpose isn’t to offer assistance, but to be theatrical and get noticed. When a guy *rushes* to get the door because he notices a (younger, attractive) woman heading towards it, he’s not out to be helpful, he’s out to get attention. The other problem is that men who behave ‘chivalrously’ can get pretty nasty attitudes of entitlement pretty fast. They invade your space to offer help you don’t need, and unless you practically beg them for their phone numbers they often call you a stuck up b* to your face.

    This is why chivalry can get on my nerves – it’s motivated by the idea that if a guy does X for me, then I owe them tons of appreciating and attention. I mean, I’ll say ‘thank you’ for a courtesy, but if you hold the door open for me when I go into a store, don’t be a creep and keep following me and asking what other courtesies you can offer me. The reason women get pissed off at ‘chivalry’ is that it isn’t just about being courteous but about how chivalrous men (to themselves) feel immensely entitled to attention for it. It’s not that men doing these things imply that I cannot do them, but that, if they do them, they’re entitled to some kind of attention from me.

    I can understand some men just want to be polite. But look at who they chose to be polite to – they’re holding doors for able-bodied women and ignoring a bunch of old men with canes and walkers when it comes to door holding much of the time. I haven’t done any systematic research here, but it just seems that, given the focus men point on being allegedly courteous to women, it seems more like a ‘let’s get some attention from women’ rather than ‘let’s be polite.’

    • Meli

      Thank you!!! I couldn’t agree more.

  • ganner

    I hold doors or defer walking through an open door or elevator door or something for elderly, disabled, pregnant women, children, or people carrying things. Among friends and family, male or female, if I’m the first to the door I hold it. If other people happen to be coming in/out at the same time, I continue to hold it. Always worked for me and can’t ever recall anybody ever being upset about it.

  • Shannon

    I work in a retail store where part of my job involves opening the door for customers as they enter and leave. Most customers really seem to appreciate it, a large minority hates it because they feel like they’re being ushered out the door, and a small minority of older men seem to feel really insulted by having the door held for them by a woman. The nicer of these customers will make some comment like, “You’re the woman! I should be holding the door for you!” The less-nice will say something like, “What, do I look so old or disabled I can’t open a door by myself?” At least this makes it pretty easy to tell who’s gonna be a misogynistic jerk to work with, so I can avoid them!

  • Sheena

    I’m another who tends to hold the door if someone is immediately behind me (because letting the door slam in someone’s face is rude) or if I see someone coming and they have their hands full. I don’t even notice the gender so much as “oh, someone’s behind me” or “they’re carrying boxes/pushing a cart” (or even “it’s raining and they don’t have an umbrella”). I don’t see it as a gender-related thing as much as being polite. And, really, if someone has an attitude of politeness rather than seeming like they’re making a point, I don’t mind the door being held open or an offer to help carry something. It’s when the approach seems showy or is accompanied with “here, MISS, let me help you” that I get frustrated.

  • Alanna

    Two experiences I’ve had stick out in my mind:
    In a small conservative town where I encountered sexism in more than a few other ways, there was a set of double doors, one of which said “Please use other door” very clearly. After going through the appropriate door, I held it open for the man who was behind me, carrying something. He SLAMMED the other door open, shaking his head, and stalked past me.

    Recently, I held a door open for a man because I was there first. He smiled and said, “ladies first” and I smiled back and said “ah, but I’m already holding the door,” and he nodded his head and went through without stopping his smile.

    Now, which one was being polite an courteous? The one who angrily refused to let a woman open the door for him, or the one who accepted it with grace (despite it “going against his upbringing”)?

  • Patricia

    My best friend is evangelical and homeschooled– just now coming out of a shell not too dissimilar to the one you seem to have been raised in. Anyway, I held the door for him the other day and he responded with a confused “Why thank you, sir?” I told him basically this exact same thing, and ever since then I’ve noticed him holding the door for everyone– not just women as he sometimes used to. I feel like maybe I did some good in his life and the world that day. (Also, as a double bass player, I REALLY appreciate people who hold doors. Nothing worse than awkwardly backing into a door with a very, very large instrument in your hands… I’ve gotten VERY sensitive about door-holding over the past few years because of this.)

  • Tyro

    I feel much the same way, LA :-)

  • Calico

    I work on a university campus in the mid-west and many of the buildings have two sets of doors (I think it is a heat-saving measure). The local custom is that you hold open the first set of doors for the person immediately behind you and then they hold the next set open for you. Everyone smiles and says “Thanks”. This works for me (female) ~98% of the time regardless of gender, the remaining 2% being much older men who stop in their tracks when I try to hold the door for them and make a polite gesture indicating that they really prefer I go first. Not worth my time to make a big deal of the 2%. The only time it is polite to rush ahead to hold a door open is if the person in front of you is carrying something bulky.

  • Sophie

    It’s rather a moot point for me as I am a wheelchair user and opening a door is challenging at best, I certainly can’t hold one. However before I was disabled I would hold the door for anyone who was behind me and I would give up my seat on the bus or tube for anyone pregnant, with a small child or elderly. And I would accept it graciously it anyone did the same for me.

    I was wondering what everyone thought the protocol should be with doors that require swipe card entry? I used to be a children’s nurse and therefore had a card that allowed me entry to a fairly sensitive environment. There were signs in every entry way saying to not hold the door for anyone even someone you knew. I always felt very awkward passing patient’s parents at the door and having to say “I’m sorry but I can’t let you onto the ward, you have to wait to be buzzed on”. Especially when often I would be the person to buzz them in when I reached the reception desk 10 metres away from the doors. But it was a necessary safety, often we were treating vulnerable children and the situation with the parents could change whilst you were on your coffee break. I had one case of head trauma where abuse was suspected but we had to wait the results of a scan. The parents were escorted off the hospital premises as soon as the scan results were in, but prior to that they had been caring for the child (although supervised). Another example of swipe card entry was my university accommodation and other buildings on the campus, we all had to swipe in individually in case of a fire. That way they knew who was meant to be in the building.

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  • Lee

    Y’know, there’s one thing I have to ask about here. I’m 56 years old and have been opening doors and having them opened for me all my adult life; I agree with Libby that door-opening knows no gender. And I keep hearing about these “women who scream abuse at a man for opening the door,” and I keep thinking, where ARE these women? Because I’ve never seen one, anywhere, any time — and from the descriptions, it would not be the sort of thing anyone within 100 feet would fail to notice!

    At this point, I’m about 98% convinced that the abuse-screaming manhatingfeministbitch is a mythical creation — a widespread FOAF urban legend. Every man knows this kind of thing happens all the time, and/or he knows someone who knows someone who had it happen to them, even though it’s never happened to HIM.

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  • Marikke

    I know exactly, what you mean. I am a german femal engineer, and spent two years in Moscow, Russia. Russian men never walked through the door before me, no matter how inconvenient that would be. They also never allowed me to carry a chair around the room. On the other hand, russian women pretended not being able to open a bottle of champaing or wine, while men were around, so that the men could do that.
    My problem was, that being a female engineer, I don’t like the feeling of being treated different from all my colleagues, just because of my gender. I just want to be treated as another engineer, but nobody seems to understand this.

    No matter, how many times I tried to explain, that I am able to open the door myself, that I can carry a chair, … nothing helped. The best results i got from telling them about a male colleague in Germany, also an engineer, who spent 9 months at home, taking care of his baby. The russian colleagues looked at me, like I had told them, that there is life on mars.

    After I came back to Germany, I enjoyed being allowed to open doors myself, and to hold it open for anybody behind me.


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