Recently, there has been quite a bit of discussion around my home as to the nature of sexism. Though there was a general consensus that sexism had much more to do with the intentions of the person than the actual actions, we started looking at some of the things we did and actually questioning why it is we do those things. After all, we should analyze our subconscious motives as much as are active ones if we want to all reach that shiny utopia promised to us by Gene Roddenberry.
That’s why I decided to try looking at some of the most basic rules of Gentlemanly etiquette and see if the old-time rules stand up to modern equality.
The Gentleman Always Pays
In times past, the idea was that men worked and women stayed home and took care of the house and babies. If you took that at face value, then it meant that a man always had to pay because the woman didn’t really have any money of her own. In the modern world where women work and earn their own money, then it seems to me like an antiquated idea for men to pay for everything.
This one seems like an easy one to solve, though. In the modern world, etiquette dictates that whoever invited the other person out should pay. This covers every possible combination of gender available for dating.
Open The Door For Her and Pull Out Her Chair
If you look at it on the one side, it could be mistaken as being a bit sexist in its nature. The act of opening a door or helping her with her chair might seem like you’re insisting that she’s weaker than you. Of course, men are generally okay with woman believing this, because our giant raging egos want them to think we’re sexy strong men. The truth is, these basic courtesies serve a much more devious function for us.
It gives me a chance to look down your shirt.
I’m not proud of that fact, but the truth is, guys like to look at boobs, and when I am hovering over you to open the door for you or leaning over you to push in your chair, I can get a pretty good look at your cleavage. I know… I’m a horrible pig.
But aren’t I polite for doing it?
Help Her Put on Her Coat
Okay. This has no inherent sexism to it. People should just help each other put on their coats. It’s easier, and it helps avoid crinkling your jacket. It just seems like good common sense.
Of course, if also denies you the opportunity to do the awesome thing where you put on your jacket while you walk with a purpose. I’d never deny someone that act, but if you’re just going to get some chinese food or something, you might as well give each other a hand.
Give Up Your Seat
I don’t think there is a particular level of sexism to this one either. Standing is good for you. Look at it as an opportunity to prove that you’re not a big lazy jerk. Actually, depending on the situation you should offer your seat to anybody. If you’re on the bus, just give it up and stand. It’s more fun to ride the bus while standing anyway, especially if you’re listening to your mp3 player with some awesome Flobots grooves pumping through your body. Bus dancing is an awesome way to make friends with everyone around you.*
Stand Up When She Enters or Leaves the Room
I was raised that it was considered common courtesy to do this for anyone. That way you’re already in the prime position to shake hands with new people. I feel, though, that in the interest of full disclosure that I should share with you nefarious secret of being a man #2. We are looking at the booty.
That’s right. A long time ago a genius man realized that if he stood up when a woman was walking past him, he could get a better look at her without her noticing.
Give Her Your Arm
Once again, I think this is not necessarily a sexist act. I’m not offering you my arm because I don’t think you’re capable of walking under your own strength. It serves several practical functions. One, it helps us pace ourselves so we both stroll together at the same rate, which facilitates conversation. Two, it shows people at a party that we know each other, and thus can count on each other for introductions. Three, it’s fun to skip arm in arm down the lane like The Monkees.
Ask If She Needs Anything
People need stuff, it’s nice to help them get it. Do that, and don’t think about gender.
Carry Her Packages
Maybe it says more about me that my first response was, “You mean push the shopping cart?” Then I remembered that there are places called “malls” in cities that aren’t Kansas City, and that not everyone has wheeled baskets to haul their stuff straight up to their car trunk.
So, here’s my question, why do people carry all this crap around all the time? Where do you shop that you have to carry packages, and if you can afford to shop at these magic places why don’t you have your butler carry them for you?
Ok. Maybe I’m not the best one to answer on that one, but, in the minute amount of experience I’ve had where I was carrying stuff for someone while shopping it was because I had free hands and they were pulling things off rack after rack. Having free hands sucks.
So is Chivalry Dead?
I don’t think so. I think everyone feels good when we’re polite and nice to each other. I don’t think there is anything inherently sexist about showing that we respect one another, and the world could easily benefit from everyone being a little more polite. I know I never go out into the world and think, “Damn, I wish people were meaner to me.”
*This is not an awesome way to make friends with everyone around you.