Thursday, October 18, 2007

Chivalry and Feminism

I always have to sigh when discussions about feminism devolve to focusing on manners. Should men open doors for women? Who pays on a date? Should men feel obligated to censor their language in front of women in a manner they wouldn't in front of men?

C'mon people. The error I see in all the sexism vs. manners questions is the assumption that the issue is gender expectations. The point of feminism, as I see it, is not even feminism so much as it is humanism. Quit worrying about how you're supposed to treat a gender and start seeing people as people. If you go out of your way to treat everyone around you well, you'll probably feel better about yourself and be a happier person in general.

Doors - whoever gets there first opens it. It's nice and often helpful. I'm always pleasantly surprised when the person ahead of me holds the door for me. Sometimes a man will go to extra effort to reach the door first and then hold it for the people behind him. That's nice. The fact that he's male doesn't make it a chauvenistic gesture.

Dates - don't get me started. To cut a long rant short, I think people would be much better off focusing on activities that don't cost anything. Who decreed a high priced dinner and movie the default date? Wouldn't a hike (free) and picnic (nearly free) be better for getting to know a person? If either party is shelling out big bucks on a date, it sets up an imbalance. One of the habits I want to instill in my daughters is always bringing along money of her own and always at least offering to pay her way... and NOT thinking a guy is cheap if he accepts her offer.

Language - no-brainer... Speaker: If you wouldn't want your mom to hear you say it, then just don't say it at all. Listener: If someone is using coarse language and it's offending you, you can ask them to cool it or you can physically remove yourself. Either way, you aren't guaranteed a happy result, but I think it's unrealistic and unreasonable to expect everyone around you to bend over backwards to avoid offending you. Like every other reaction, offense is a choice. And usually not a very productive one.

I've involved myself in too many debates over the years, usually with resentful men and women... the feminist/manners issue has just been overdone...

But today and event brought it all up for me.

I did my Costco shopping, toddler in tow and increasingly large belly to add to the fun. They piled my stuff in huge boxes, so when I was in the parking lot, trying to wrestle my toddler into her carseat while loading about 120 pounds of bulky stuff into an already half-full Taurus trunk, I was getting very frustrated. My back was killing me. Finally, feeling very sorry for myself, I finished the task. Except that I hadn't gotten out of the house on time, so I missed the Executive Member hours and was shopping with the hoi polloi ( for those of you who don't know me well, yet, please understand I use that term with tongue-in-cheek). The parking lot was completely packed, so I'd parked far away from the cart return (new mommies, heed my advice: a parking space proximal to the store is not the goal - park as close as you can to the cart returns!). So the quandary: do I get the toddler out of the car seat and carry her with me to the cart return, and then have to go through the buckling-in mayhem all over again? Or do I lock the car doors and hurry the cart across the parking lot, leaving her there alone?

Before I could make my decision, the gentleman parked next to me finished unloading his merchandise. Immediately, he offered to take my cart back to the return. What a relief! I think he was a little surprised when I thanked him emphatically. For him, it probably wasn't a big deal, but - obviously - his kindness made my day.

Kindness transcends gender politics.

In my little corner of the world, anyway.


  1. A comment from one of the "hoi polloi" you spoke of (actually, I honestly don't even know what that word means, so I'm not offended one bit!)...I totally agree with you on parking close to the cart returns. I have opted before to lock the car and run as fast as I could to the nearest car return, which looks ridiculous, of course!

    But about your point of just treating others the way you'd like to be treated....The other day, I was at Target, wrangling my three squirly ones into their seats with my bags still in the cart behind my van. I saw a man picking up my bags and I'm ashamed to say my first thought was that he was stealing my diapers! But before I could get mad and chase after him, he handed me all the bags and took the cart for me and returned it. I thanked him, but I was in shock. Not at his chivalry, but that I can't remember the last time a man OR a woman did something like that for me. It made me realize that I needed to "pass it on", lest I become one of those "rude" people I complain about...

  2. Dude, I so totally ALWAYS pick the spot next to the cart return, not the spot closest to the entrance. You are so right!!! Oh, and if the cart return happens to have carts still IN IT, then BONUS, because I can load my kids into it immediately to wheel them into the store instead of trying to hold hands and prevent them from running off in traffic!

  3. You know I remember when we went out for one of the first times and I had the trade vouchers for that resturant in the mall. I was a bit aprehensive about using them and you said to me, "why?"
    Later I had some vouchers for this Itallian resturant and the waiter tried to put my napkin on my lap and I grabbed him by the neck. You laughed for like three days after that one....remember?
    Anyway, I digress...
    I know some girls that have told me that they want their dating lives to be like some sort of fairy tale. To be honest..I do not have the time or enegry for that kind of stuff. If you want to go out with a guy that will engage in some plesent conversation, will pay for dinner and will hold open the door for you I am your guy...hexk I might even bring flowers. However I will not be the guy eho spends all hours of the day and night mooning over a chick. I think I did buy a girl $50 worth of chocolate once who told me she was having a craving for some once...I dont know it was a long time ago.

  4. Unfortunately, Im one of the strange ones who parks as far away from the cart returns and the door, I just have to avoid those door dings. Back in my dating days I never expected a guy to pick up the tab, I always offered. When they guy insisted on paying I was always very appreciative and said thank you. I remember on my first date with my husband I thanked him for lunch and the wonderful conversation. He later told me he was so blown away by that because he had never had a girl thank him for the date. Amazing! I always try to hold doors for men and women, especially for mom's because I know that strollers and doors arent compatible. I try to let people in ahead of me in traffic when its safe to do so and when people do that for me, I always give a wave of thanks. And, can I just admit Im a big fan of the Liberty Mutual commercials? I really do believe it is the small kindnesses in life that would make us all happier.