Tuesday, February 23, 2010

If feminism killed chivalry, then chivalry kills common courtesy

An argument that those who pine for the days of unrepentant misogyny are fond of repeating is the idea that gender equality has eroded traditional ideas of chivalry that actually benefit women, e.g. holding the door and letting women go first, etcetera. I don't expect that any readers of this blog will harbor sympathy for that argument, so I won't spend time pointing out the flaws.

I do want to make an observation, though, in regards to the way the lack of gender symmetry in these traditional "chivalrous" ideals can wind up making people just plain rude. Now, I have to be careful here, because I'm making a little bit of a generalization based on anecdotal observation, so just keep in mind that I don't mean this as absolute, and it's quite possible I'm just wrong on this one. With that in mind, here we go...

If someone is five steps in front of me, it is their call if they want to hold the door. I usually will hold the door for people in that circumstance, but if I'm in a hurry I might just pretend I don't see them. When someone is that far behind, it requires one to stop and wait, and while it's certainly courteous to do so, I don't think it's compulsory. But if somebody is just one or two steps behind you, it just seems like basic common decency to, if not actually hold the door for the next person, at least give it a little shove so they can catch it as they reach the doorway, rather than making them lean in to open it again after you just opened it a second and a half ago.

And yet, every now and then, someone who clearly knew I was there (this morning I even made eye contact with the person as we were approaching the door from different directions) just lets the door close immediately behind their ass -- something I find pretty rude. It's a dis. An unnecessary door-in-the-face, that the person could have prevented with a little push.

And here comes the dangerous generalization: It seems to me, in my experience, that the people most likely to do this are older women. Sometimes a younger woman will do it, and I've even had a man do it to me on a few occasions. But I suspect this has something to do with this outdated notion of "chivalry". I suspect that, to some women, men hold the door for them, but they do not hold the door for men.

Like I say, that's fine if the person is five steps behind you. But to not even give the door a "push" so someone a step behind you can catch it? Please. That's so fucking rude. And I blame chivalry for it. Screw that.


  1. I haven't noticed a particular gender-specificity to the door droppers, but indeed, I do try to hold doors open under most circumstances and secretly mutter at those who don't. It's a conservation-of-energy thing, I figure.

    The one place I particularly notice it is the men's room door nearest the labs. It's a heavy door, it's on a maladjusted autocloser that could launch spacecraft, and it's in a tight space. Oh, and people randomly entering the bathroom usually throw it open so hard my ears pop.

    Opening it is a PITA, especially when I'm employing the paper-towel-on-the-handle trick(*). I don't know if it's the male bathroom rules or whatnot, but hey, maybe you could hold it open just a bit if I'm right behind you.

    (*) I never used to do that, but... well, is it uncool to wash your hands after using the toilet? Seriously. Come on, people.

  2. It's interesting that you notice older women not holding/pushing open doors when you're directly behind them... for me it's fairly random across the board..

    I think some people do it because they're absentminded, others do it because they're in a hurry (or imagine they are, even when they're not), some genuinely don't realize they should, and others are just plain dicks.

    If my memory serves me correct, though, I find that younger people of both genders are the most likely to do the "courtesy push." I think this could have something to do with being in school and having to do it most days while going in/out classrooms and up/down stairwells.

    The distance thing seems to fuck up a lot of people. I've had individuals hold doors for me when I was a good ten steps back or so, which resulted in me having to awkwardly run to the door so they wouldn't be holding it too long. I've also done that myself. The door slamming in the face is clearly much worse, but I think these two missteps may be related.

    We need a National Manners Guidebook, updated annually.

  3. If my memory serves me correct, though, I find that younger people of both genders are the most likely to do the "courtesy push.

    Maybe I'm just noticing that aspect, and it really has nothing to do with gender. The fact that two people have already said they don't notice any correlation makes me wonder if my vague generalization is indeed completely wrong :)

    It's also conceivable that it's just one person at my job who is really really awful about it, and I just haven't noticed that it's the same person each time :D

  4. This somewhat older woman is not holding the door for anyone these days since I pulled something in my shoulder, and I am very thankful when one of the men I work with remembers my current shoulder problem and holds the door for me.

    Before my shoulder injury I would give the door a little extra push so that the person behind me could get it if they were close enough. If I noticed they were carrying a lot (a big if -- I tend to be distracted) I would hold it for them.

    The people who always annoyed me the most were those who would make a big thing of holding the door but stand so that they were actually in my way, thus making me take longer to get through the door than if they had just let it shut behind them.