Chivalry Is Dead. Excuse Me While I Dance on Its Grave.
When my friend from Baltimore visited last January, he spent the first few days of his visit bolting ahead of me in public places, racing me so that he could hold the door open. Instead of the coquettish thanks such action might have garnered from someone else, I always frowned and asked, “What the hell are you doing?”
It turns out his previous girlfriend had broken up with him in part because she felt he wasn’t chivalrous enough. She had been raised with good, old-fashioned family values (whatever that vague definition encompasses) and wanted to be treated like a lady.
She expected her man to act as if he belonged at King Arthur’s Round Table (general fictiveness of said table notwithstanding) and do things like open doors for her, pull chairs out, give her his jacket when it was cold even if she should have known enough to bring her own damn coat in the middle of Midwestern winter, etc. And since he hadn’t managed to pull that off for her, he was testing this supposedly attractive routine on the only guinea pig he happened to know in Denver.
I frowned some more as I plopped down in a seat I’d pulled out myself and reached for one of the toothpicks on the dinner table so I could work a nagging piece of greenery out of my molars. One can’t enjoy a new meal with remnants of the old one still around. “Well, I’m not her,” was what I finally said, after making enough headway on the vegetation to thoroughly delight the waitress.
It’s not that I mind, as a general principle, when someone who is slightly ahead of me getting into a building continues to hold the door until I reach it. In fact, I’d be a bit offended if they did see me coming and slammed the door in my face. But I’d apply that principle to anyone, male or female, just as I would hold the door myself for anyone, male or female, entering the building a short distance behind me.
Hell, in my job as a ski instructor at an upscale resort, I routinely rush ahead of my (again, both male and female) guests in order to hold doors for them. It’s an unspoken requirement in my job description that I am to kiss ass as much as possible, and my guests, male and female, appreciate getting their money’s worth of brown-nosing.
But it unsettles me when a man holds a door open for me just because he’s a man and I’m a woman. Same with men pulling out my chair, unfolding my napkin, or standing up when I get up to go to the bathroom–heaven help him if he does the last one, because Type I diabetes has enough of an effect on the bladder sometimes that he could be unwittingly signing himself up for an impromptu aerobics class.
And it’s not so much the acts themselves that grate on me, although I can’t help but be annoyed that a guy might think I’m such a delicate flower that having to pick up a napkin would send me into hysterical paroxysms leading to a dainty faint.
It’s what they apparently represent in the eye of the actor. A man who believes women should be cared for and treated “respectfully” (need for quotation marks hopefully obvious as the rant continues) tends to also believe that the relationship between women and men is inherently unequal. That women shouldn’t do certain things, especially those involving the potential for sweat, because that’s not their place. That women, by extension, should be at home eating bon-bons and occasionally snapping at the housekeeper and nanny all day because the working world is no place for an otherwise delicate constitution.
To paraphrase Dave Barry, I realize I am generalizing here. But as is often the case, I don’t actually give a fuck (guess which part wasn’t a direct quote?). And I think there are enough examples on the internet to bear fruit, although I add my usual disclaimer that anecdotes, even collected in large quantities and humorously presented, do not constitute a data set.
But if you go to the Google archive for the sadly defunct Nice Guys of OKC, you’ll find a suspicious number of “gentlemen” who complain about being friend-zoned, plead that they and they alone know how to treat a woman like a lady, and also disproportionately answer “Yes” to questions like, “Do you believe men should be the heads of their households?” and, “Do women have an obligation to shave their legs?”
But what’s a few cuts and scrapes with a razor as well as the loss of your career when you could be with a winner like this?
I’m sorry too, dude. I’m sorry you’ve let your sense of entitlement get so out of control. I’m sorry you don’t realize that graciously allowing a woman to puke in your car after you’ve opened the passenger door for her doesn’t make up for a personality so sour I can smell it over the internet. I’m sorry you don’t realize that this is America, goldurnit, and that a lot of women here have the can-do attitude that comes from having no nobility and, therefore, no actual ladies to emulate.
And I’m sorry (oh, fuck that. I’m actually not sorry, and unlike your sorry excuse for a profile, I’m not going to apologize for that) that your attitude wouldn’t even work across the Pond these days. Remember Margaret Thatcher? Lady Margaret Thatcher? The woman who, raise your eyebrows however high you want at her politics because I sure do, wasn’t called the Iron Lady for nothing?
Yeah. I’m NOT sorry about all the real women who don’t need your manly opposable thumbs to operate a door handle. I’m NOT sorry that I’m capable of making my own money and then spending it however I want. I’m also NOT sorry about how hairy my legs are. Saves me money on sunscreen.
So you go right on ahead and keep standing up for me every time I use the bathroom, Nice Guys (TM) of the world. Maybe getting those leg muscles in action again will mean you can almost keep up with me on the slopes this winter.