On Chivalry, Opening Doors, and Basic Humanity

On Chivalry, Opening Doors, and Basic Humanity February 21, 2013

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.

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