Smart people saying smart things

Smart people saying smart things March 3, 2013

Libby Anne: “On Chivalry, Opening Doors, and Basic Humanity”

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.

Sorabji Swaraj: “Confessions of an ‘Undocumented Immigrant'”

Recently, I came across a video in which pastors from influential churches read the passage Matthew 25:31-46. They were part of an initiative called the “I Was a Stranger” Challenge. I’ve got to say that evangelicals were the last people I thought would fight for undocumented immigrants like me.

The Evangelicals I knew were über conservative, legalistic and strongly believed that all “illegals” were parasitic rats who needed to deport themselves at their earliest convenience. With the urging of population control groups like FAIR and NumbersUSA, evangelicals were instrumental in stopping the DREAM Act and President George W. Bush’s reform plan in their tracks. As I watched the video, I was overwhelmed with joy because my Christian brothers and sisters were finally doing what Jesus would do. They were fighting for the least of these; they were fighting for undocumented immigrants.

Dean Baker: “Fix the Economy, Not the Deficit”

The reason that the deficit suddenly exploded in 2008 and 2009 was that the economy collapsed. This led to a plunge in tax revenue and an increase in payments for programs like unemployment insurance. We deliberately added more to the deficit with the stimulus. This was done in a context where demand in the private sector was not sufficient to support the economy.

Rather than being a bad thing, the deficit is providing a needed boost to the economy. There is no plausible story whereby private-sector demand will fill the gap created by a smaller deficit. Whether they know it or not, those pushing for smaller deficits are promoting less growth and more unemployment.

Matt Yglesias: “Steven Brill’s Opus on Health Care”

I can see two reasonable policy conclusions to draw from this, neither of which Brill embraces. One is that Medicare should cover everyone, just as Canadian Medicare does. Taxes would be higher, but overall health care spending would be much lower since universal Medicare could push the unit cost of services way down. The other would be to adopt all-payer rate setting rules — aka price controls — keeping the insurance market largely private, but simply pushing the prices down. Most European countries aren’t single-payer, but do use price controls. Even Singapore, which is often touted by U.S. conservatives as a market-oriented forced-savings alternative to a universal health insurance system, relies heavily on price controls to keep costs down.

Jessica Mason Pieklo: “Latest Seventh Circuit Decision on Birth Control Benefit Paves Another Path to SCOTUS”

What’s noteworthy about the decision in this case is not the outcome, but the detailed and well-reasoned dissent crafted by Circuit Judge Ilana Rovner. In examining the question of what it means for the Grotes to run a for-profit business to run according to the precepts of their faith, Rovner first points out that the business itself has “œstated no religious goals as part of its mission, it does not elect its employees, vendors, or customers on the basis of their religious beliefs, and it does not require its employees to conform their behavior to any particular religious precepts.” Because, Circuit Judge Rovner reasons, there is simply nothing from the perspective of the company that demonstrates any religious beliefs, let alone sincerely-held ones that belong to the company, it is impossible to imagine the company, as distinct from its owners the Grotes, has any religious interests or rights to assert at all.

Breaking down the distinction between the owners and the company even more, Circuit Judge Rovner states what should be obvious: the owners do not provide the contraception coverage, the company does. Even in self-funded health plans like the ones offered by Grote Industries, those premium payments come out of the company’™s bank account and not the owners. The Grotes are simply not at liberty to “œtreat the company’s bank accounts as their own” unless they are also comfortable waiving the personal liability protections afforded to them under corporate law as well. The Grotes, Circuit Judge Rovner points out, are not in any way personally compelled to engage in any activity they disapprove of, they do not have to approve or endorse contraceptive use, and can even actively discourage the use of contraception by others.

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  • AnonymousSam

    Ah, chivalry. That’s the name of the problem I’m writing about right now (28K words, sixth chapter, page 50 in Wordpad…!) . Our chief protagonist Lindsay has just been asked by her boyfriend to sit out a battle with a large pack of raiders who’ve come to pillage their home. Being the next best mage behind him and just as much at risk whether she remains in hiding or fights, she has a thousand and one reasons why that’s a terrible idea — but his only reason boils down to “Because I would feel very bad if you got hurt and therefore I am going to force you to let me fight on your behalf.”

    She doesn’t take this well. She also breaks her promise, fights anyway and kindly informs him what he can do with himself if he doesn’t like it. He forgives her later on — but it takes her a lot longer to forgive him because he’s the one who was in the bloody wrong. It’ll take him awhile before that sinks in.

    As her friend winds up saying, “This would be so cute if there wasn’t so much damned drama.”

  • reynard61

    “Whether they know it or not, those pushing for smaller deficits are promoting less growth and more unemployment.”

    They most certainly *do* know it! The reason that they keep *pushing* for smaller deficits is that their “We want to watch the World burn” ideology tells them that they have to “win” (for the “We want to watch the World burn” value of “winning”, of course) at *ALL* costs, even if they themselves wind up immolated in the process. Most of these Jokers may never have attended a performance of Richard Wagner’s Götterdämmerung in their lives (or even have heard of the Opera except through an old Bugs Bunny cartoon), but they seem to be hell-bent on playing out the script (and destroying our Economy in the process) to the bitter, flaming end.

  • AnonaMiss

    I’m a Yank, but my boyfriend’s mother is from the South. We had a bit of a conversation after we rode in a car together for the first time. Apparently his chivalry-education had included opening and closing car doors for a lady, which I found intensely uncomfortable. It felt like I was being shut in and let out, you know? Like a prisoner in the back of a police car, or a little kid with the child safety locks on.

    Obviously since he’s still my boyfriend I got him to cut it out with no argument (and a short-lived game of “race each other to the door”), but it was a bit of an eye-opener for me, since I had previously found all the chivalrous customs I had heard of harmless-to-charmingly-quaint.

  • B

    I must say that after 4 years of going to college in Houston, where I think I got more doors opened for me in one semester than I did in all my previous years growing up in Denver, I kind of just learned to accept the opening-the-door-thing, thank the guy, and move on.  What else was there to do except to have a discussion  gender relations with every guy in the South?

    (I once managed to walk all the way across campus with another student through about 5 buildings without ever opening a door… he managed to accelerate past me and reach the door first every time, I think without actually giving it any conscious thought.)

  • Rae

    Yeah, that’s generally super uncomfortable, but then it used to get kind of awkward trying to balance it with the fact that if I’m wearing a short skirt, and especially if I’m wearing heels (because I’ve got long legs to start with), I’m probably not going to be able to get out of a vehicle on my own without either risking falling on my butt or flashing my panties to the world. 

    So right now, my current tactic is to open my own door, and then ask for some assistance “because I’m wearing heels right now.” Because that frames it as an issue of safety and practicality, not really a “men should do X for women” thing.

  • Fusina

    Had a convo last night with neocon sis regarding Obamacare. She still thinks it is the worst thing that could ever happen to health care. She has a bad back, and worries about when she will cease being covered by Obamacare. Um. I have friends in Great Britain, and got to go there for a government project a couple decades ago. So I have been educated on socialized medical care. And I am for it. I mean, I scraped my knee when I was there, and was informed that I should keep an eye on it and if it looked like it was getting infected, I should go to hospital and get it treated–at No Charge to Me. Even though I wasn’t British. I was there, they would treat. Um, it didn’t, I didn’t, they didn’t, but damn, I like that concept.

    Truly I hate insurance companies. Between them and the stock market, I think they have made life horrid for far too many people. I don’t think we can blame the insurance companies for all the increases in medical care costs, but I suspect they have a fairly large hand in the pot.

  • banancat

    Ok wow, there are so many reasons why it’s sometimes wrong to hold a door open for someone. I’ll elaborate later when I have a real keyboard, but for now it will have to suffice that if someone turns down your offer to “help”, you should respect them and move on with your life.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Looking forward to the elaboration. My understanding is that it’s rude to let a door shut in somebody’s face, no matter who the somebody is.

  • Carstonio

    Libby Anne is exactly right. Everything I’ve read about chivalry harkens back to the old idea of women as property, lumping them in with children as weak creatures in need of defending.

    One rationalization I’ve encountered is that men are inherently brutish and violent, and chivalry’s purpose is allegedly the management of those impulses.  Sounds like rape culture masquerading as a gentleman.

  • AnonymousSam

    I’m generally in favor of higher taxes, but a Republican representative of my state has just crossed the line with sheer stupidity. He has proposed a tax on bicycles… because bicycles, he argues, produce more CO2 emissions than cars.

  • “Reached for comment, Orcutt told Seattle Bike Blog that “you would be giving off more CO2 if you are riding a bike than driving in a car,” although he admitted to having no evidence to back the claim.”

    Who needs evidence? He’s Righteously Indignant! *facepalm*

  • LL

    Just for the record, I don’t mind men holding doors open for me, in general. It doesn’t diminish me as a person. What I do mind (though I haven’t said anything so far) is when they hold the door open while I’m still 20 ft. away, making me feel I should hurry. Maybe I don’t want to hurry, but now I feel like I have to so I don’t look like a selfish asshole who expects everybody with a penis to be my personal doorman. Or when they rush ahead of me, sometimes cutting me off to get to the door first. That’s annoying as well. 

    The problem is, a lot of women (not just older ones, though I think it is more common in those age groups) think all this is swell. They have been told (or convinced themselves) that never opening a door for themselves is some kind of birthright, so when it doesn’t happen, they get all offended and bitchy. Usually just bitchy looks, but occasionally they’ll say things, too. As if chastising another grownup in public for not conforming to your particular idea of social niceties is not unpardonably rude. 

    I hold open doors for those who need it: women with kids (or families, actually, often there’s a dad with hands full, he could use the help, too), people who look like they’re having trouble (whether visibly impaired or not), a person carrying a large item, small children, etc. If I’m first to the door, I hold it open as I walk through so it doesn’t close in the face of the person right behind, whether male or female. 

  • Hth

    Piggybacking on LL’s comment, I agree that I don’t in principle mind the holding of doors, but the execution often lack something.  Here in the South, you still get a lot of (almost always youngish) men looking to demonstrate their chivalry who will, no kidding, *sprint* ahead of you, practically shouldering you out of the way, so they can get to the door before you do and grandly hold it open.

    I try to be really nice about it, because I know they are obeying their mother’s voice in their head (I’ve also been the practice object for many a small boy: “Jimmy, hold the door for the lady.”)   But honestly, come on.  Please hold the door for me *only if you were legitimately going through the door in front of me.*


    someone’s back of the envelope calculation suggests that for every liter of gasoline used up in a car, on average the car gulps in 2000 liters of oxygen (and since the partial pressure of oxygen is ~20% this means a car inhales 10000 liters of air per liter of gasoline.

    That’s, frankly, a shitload more air moved through a car than a human being could EVER hope to transpire in the same time interval.

  •  You found that weird? I was married two years before i was allowed to not get the car door.

  • AnonaMiss

    When were you married?

  • Three years ago.

  • AnonaMiss

    I suspect I and Mrs. Ross would not get along very well.

  • EllieMurasaki

    So–just for clarity–if one is passing through a door and one holds it open for someone behind one long enough that they can grab the door themselves, then one continues through the door ahead of the person, that’s fine regardless?

  • banancat

    Ok, here are some reasons why presuming to open doors and other kinds of help are actually not helpful at all.  These are mostly accounts that I have read from people online, and sometimes experienced myself.

    1) People with disabilities.  It might seem obvious that someone using a wheelchair or with some other noticeable aspect of a physical disability would want your help, but that is not always the case.  Many people who have had a disability long term have figured out ways to do things themselves, including opening doors.  If you rush in to help, you might actually get in their way and hinder them.  Certainly some people may also appreciate your help.  There’s a really simple way to tell the difference: ask them if they would like your help, and then respect their answer either way.

    2) Some survivors of sexual assault.  One online friend explained to me that after being sexually assaulted, it can be quite triggering for a man in front of her to open a door in a way that ends up with him behind her, especially if he does it awkwardly so she has to walk underneath his arm or brush against him.  Once again, the simple solution is to ask someone if they want your help, and then respect their answer either way.

    3) Less serious than the first two but still a big deal, this can create so many awkward situations.  By doing a favor for someone, socially you make them feel indebted to you.  I am just so sick of hurrying and rushing to return the social favor to that man who did something for me that I never wanted to.  If I’m too tired to rush up those last few stairs, then I have to smile apologetically for making them wait while holding the door, when in fact I would rather they just move on and let me open the door myself.  In other cases  men have made such an effort to hold doors open for me that it takes 5 minutes to get inside a Wawa instead of just 30 seconds.  In that particular case I actually frowned at them because I was sick and just didn’t feel like reassuring them of their specialness.  In another case a man on the bus offered me his seat, I refused, he stood up anyway, I continued standing, and then we both awkwardly tried to avoid eye contact for the rest of the ride.  Recently I was super busy at work and a bit frazzled and frustrated and angry.  A man held a door for me, I refused to rush, and then he followed it up by commanding me to smile, presumably because I didn’t drop my own concerns long enough to be sufficiently grateful of his favor.  I can think of only a handful of times when someone opening a door for me was more helpful than if they just hadn’t, and in every case it was because I was carrying something or otherwise didn’t have a free hand.

    My last point also brings up the issue that chivalry is almost exclusively about gaining social standing in public.  Nobody is opening the doors for me in my own home.  That one guy at work didn’t do anything to solve the problems that were putting me in a bad mood.  They only do favors in a public way that social rules dictate indebts us to them while requiring minimal effort on their parts.

  • AnonymousSam

    This is making me want to pursue more of this in the story. Too bad post-apocalypse Spokane doesn’t actually have many doors, or seats that a man can slide in after a woman has sat in them  (I’ve never seen that go nearly as smoothly as fiction says it should — the chair always skids on the floor and makes a horrifying noise, or else he can’t get the chair to move at all and has to decide whether it means he’s too weak or she’s too heavy, neither of which are palatable).

    Besides door opening/holding, has anyone experienced other forms of this behavior from well-meaning-but-demeaning men, something they wouldn’t mind being adapted to a story? I believe I may have Lindsay inform this poor sod that he’s actually been doing several things that she doesn’t much appreciate. It’s an opportunity to hammer home the idea that this behavior isn’t always appreciated, especially if it’s forced upon someone.

    (I’m much looking forward to writing this scene. It also involves a bit of intentionally phallic imagery subversion in the form of her blowing up a cannon, resulting in this:

    Er, the cannon, not the cat. Although perhaps there’s an innuendo there.)

  • EllieMurasaki

    If the person has to take more than a few steps to reach the door, the door isn’t shutting in their face even if it’s closed when they get there. So it’s not a scenario I’m talking about, though I know I didn’t make that clear.

  • banancat

     If the person has to take more than a few steps, it’s actually worse for them because rushing to meet you is generally a higher burden than re-opening the door, and people will inevitably feel the need to rush, no matter how patient you seem.

  • Hmm. Some other “helping but not helping” acts might be lifting things for someone without being explicitly asked. It can seem patronizing, particularly if a woman has the strength to do the lifting even if she doesn’t look it.

  • christopher_y

    What I do mind (though I haven’t said anything so far) is when they hold the door open while I’m still 20 ft. away, making me feel I should hurry.

    And can I put in a word for people who do this to disabled people. I get around very slowly, and if I’m forced to hurry I have this tendency to fall over. On the other hand, I know how to open a door. So thanks for the kind thought, person holding a door open while I’m still 20 metres away, but next time, please think a little harder.

    ETA … And bananacat got there first. I should read the thread before I comment.

  • syfr

    Ok, having a man move the chair  for a woman.  The woman is supposed to reach between her legs as she is being seated, and pull on the chair to guide it as he pushes.  She is then sitting with the chair in the right position. 

    She’s not supposed to sit down, then have him push the chair and her.

    One of those subtle things that may have been lost over the years.

  • christopher_y

    Unless she’s Queen Victoria, who apparently used to just sit down whenever she felt like it, on the assumption that somebody would make sure there was a chair there.


    So thanks for the kind thought, person holding a door open while I’m still 20 metres away, but next time, please think a little harder.

    When I was hobbling around on a cane after my stroke, lots of people
    held doors open for me and otherwise did things to spare me minor
    nuisances. Sometimes I accepted gratefully, sometimes I declined
    civilly, sometimes I accepted grudgingly, sometimes they created more of
    a nuisance than they resolved. 

    That said… well, my office door locks behind me. I frequently hold the door open if I see someone I know works here coming behind me, because having to unlock the door is a minor nuisance that I can keep them from having to deal with.

    Sometimes it takes them a while to get to the door; that’s fine. If I’m in too much of a hurry to wait an extra while, or if I just don’t feel like it, I don’t hold the door. They don’t have to rush, and if they seem to be rushing on my account I encourage them to take their time.

    Sometimes they wave me off, in which case I don’t hold the door. I don’t know why they’re waving me off in each case, nor do I need to know; I’ve civilly offered a minor service, they’ve civilly turned it down, that’s the end of the interaction. We don’t owe each other a thing.

    Some people rush anyway, or are otherwise visibly discomfited by my holding the door. I try to remember not to hold the door for them in the future. Again, I don’t know why, nor do I need to know. That said, I would have preferred it if they’d just declined the offer, or accepted and taken their time.

    I will admit, I am more comfortable doing all of this for visibly able-bodied white men, for whom there is minimal chance that I’ll be seen as challenging their autonomy or competence or social equality, and for small children, whose autonomy and competence and equality is socially acceptable to challenge, than for peers whose peerhood remains socially fraught.

  • Tricksterson

    Since by all accounts Mel Blanc and Chuck Jones were much nicer people than Richard Wagner I’ll take the first one please.

  • Tricksterson

    Is there any evidence that she would be less covered under Obamacare than whatever insurance she’s using now?

  • Tricksterson

    I’ll generally hold a door open for anyone immediately behind me or up to about 5 feet regardless of gender.

  • AnonymousSam

    *Snirk* Well, every time I’ve seen it, I don’t think the woman was expecting it and the man thought he was being suave by doing it out of the blue.

  • Lori

    I’m trying, and failing, to picture reaching between my legs for the edge of a chair being moved by someone else and retaining any personal dignity at all. I’d prefer to simply move the chair myself.

  • Boidster

    Related: I work in a building with elevators and I have been strongly socially conditioned to allow women out of the elevator first, unless the car is quite full and I’m standing directly in front of the door. I would add that most women (of any age) will move towards the door first, without waiting through the awkward pause of who’s-going-first? All others will go for the door after the pause. So the social conditioning seems to exist in both genders.

    I often also motion for male car-companions to go before me, either when the car is filled with men only, or after any women have left.

    It’s odd thinking about it, and a little odder that it is viewed as clearly a Wrong Thing to do. Probably I’m too old to completely wean myself from the behavior.

    One final note – in South Korea, pretty much nobody holds the door for anybody,  even in face-smashing circumstances. Americans can often get quizzical looks by holding a door open for men or women.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Compare and contrast the Feminist In the Conservatives’ Heads, who will actively snarl at any Chivalrious Male who DARES to be courteous to them.  :-P

  • AnonymousSam

    That’s a ridiculous caricature. Every good conservative knows that the
    feminist would actively snarl at any male, period, due to their undying
    hatred of men. In fact, it is a well documented fact that undead
    feminists won’t even consume the brains of men. Also, true feminists
    reproduce asexually by mitosis. This division of feminist atoms releases a burst
    of energy which fuels the homosexual agenda and ruins

    I’m sure can cite this if I can find my copy of the Limbaughpedia.

    (Poe’s Law: No matter how ridiculous I make this post, I’m dead certain I could copy it to Facebook and get replies taking it seriously. PLEASE ONION PLEASE HIRE ME I AM A POOR AND HUNGRY SUPERGENIUS AND YOU WANT TO BEAR MY GIGGLECHILDREN.)

  • Carstonio

    That’s the classic self-centeredness known as Intent Is Fucking Magic. 

  • Fusina

     Thus far I haven’t seen any, but in spite of her saying she doesn’t watch FOX news, she parrots the party line pretty exactly.

    It is like when my Mum complains about the cost of an orthotic device for her feet (she is diabetic and has the neuropathy that leaves her feet numb and vulnerable to injury) for which her cost was around $300, with medicare picking up the rest. There was a lot of bitching on her part about having to pay the $300–in a “why didn’t medicare pick up the whole cost” sort of way. And yet she is against Obamacare. The irony of her position entirely escapes her.

  • Carstonio

    With only one or two exceptions, everyone I know in real life who opposes Obamacare believes that it’s nothing more than free health care for the “welfare class” at taxpayer expense. While I don’t know your mum, I would not be surprised if she held that belief.

  •  It’s only ironic if I believe that benefits to your mom are basically the same kind of thing as benefits to other people.

  • Fusina

     Ooookay, I am guessing that you were being sarcastic? On account of that is kind of what I believe. I think the most insidious lie being flogged around is that there is some kind of limit on the total amount of medical benefits available in the world, which is not true. Yeah, there are limits on what can be fully cured, and some things are still fatal, but the only limits I’ve seen on health care availability are those imposed by insurance companies.

  • syfr

    Yeah, it’s kind of hard to describe – I’m already almost seated, my bum is just above the chair, and a gentle pull between my knees is all that’s required.

    I should add, I put this in practice about once a year when the sweetheart and I are dressed to the nines and we are at the type of place where this performance is appropriate.

  • banancat

    I have noticed the same thing, that chivalry appears more frequently when dressed in formal wear, especially in a gender-appropriate way.  I get many more doors held open when I’m wearing a suit, and even more when wearing a dress other than a casual one.  Once again, it leads me to believe that chivalry is an act performed by a man to look good in a social situation, more than anything else.

  • stardreamer42

    Quite. I was going to ask about that — has any man here ever actually HAD that happen to him? I know a lot of men argue that it happens all the time, but I’ve never witnessed an occurrence, and from the descriptions it is not something that one could FAIL to notice if it happened anywhere nearby.

  • I don’t know if I was being sarcastic, exactly, but yes, my subtext was that benefits to your mom are basically the same kind of thing as benefits to other people, and that the “Keep Obamacare out of my Medicare” thing is deeply selfish where it is coherent at all.

  • Speaking of Medicare, are medicare supplemental insurers exempt from the Do Not Call list? Because frakking AARP mistook me for my dad and then sold my information to anyone who would take it, and I’ve gotten like 3 calls today from people assuring me that as a senior, I’m fully qualified for some or other thing.

    They won’t even take me off the list. When I Press 2 If You Are Not A Senior Or Would Like To Be Removed From Our List, I get an human marketer who makes it halfway through the sales pitch before I manage to tell them I’m 34, and then it’s an *instant* hangup.

    Just the sheer quantity of junk mail and telemarketing calls I get about this is borderline obscene

    (Did something change about the Do Not Call registry? I got very few marketing calls for the past 10 years, but the last six months, it’s consistently 2-3 every night)

  • Carstonio

    If it has happened, probably the man began the encounter acting like an colossal jerk, the woman rightly called him on it, and he convinced himself that he was the victim. Nice Guy Syndrome. Reminds me of the claims that Vietnam vets were spit on when they came home – it happened a few times, but the spitters were older veterans and not antiwar protesters.