Should Schools Teach Our Boys to Be Chivalrous?


One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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136 Responses

  1. Guy says:

    I’m inclined to agree with you about chivalry; I’m not entirely comfortable with it. I do think it’s a (relatively) minor thing – ultimately, you are teaching the kid to be nice. As long as nobody separates gentlemanliness from general kindness, I find it hard to object strenuously. Certainly I would view it much more kindly than a dress code with plainly gender-targetted provisions.Report

    • Guy in reply to Guy says:

      Note that I feel the dress code is less objectionable on sexism grounds than different uniforms, though I object to uniforms more generally. I’m not sure why I feel this way though, and I can’t justify it to myself. Perhaps my broader objections to the uniforms overwhelm my response to the sexism.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Guy says:


        I object to uniforms generally but don’t see them as inherently wrong. Sex-specific ones are another matter.

        I’ll also say that this teacher’s particular comment was one of the more innocuous ones related to chivalry. I have also heard teacher explicitly say, “Boys, let the girls go first,” or things of that nature. To me, that isn’t doing anything related to kindness.

        I used the example I did here because it was fresh in the mind.Report

      • Guy in reply to Guy says:

        That is significantly more objectionable.Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to Guy says:

        ” I have also heard teacher explicitly say, “Boys, let the girls go first,” or things of that nature. To me, that isn’t doing anything related to kindness.”

        Isn’t it pushing back against the unconscious assumptions of a privileged gender, though?Report

      • Kim in reply to Guy says:

        nice point. a bit thorny and prickly, but, a very nice point.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Guy says:


        It depends on the circumstances. Saying, “Boys don’t always get to go first,” is different than saying, “Let the girls go first.” How about, “Sex will not determine who goes first,” as a general rule unless/until there are reasons why one sex might need to go first.Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to Guy says:

        I am really, really glad I never went to a school with a dress code. I hated skirts when I was a teenager, and never wore them. Having to wear them to school every day would have be awful.

        A school uniform that was made up of pants and a shirt, for everyone, would have been a comparatively minor hassle.Report

  2. James Hanley says:

    If chivalry and/or gentlemanliness are defined strictly as a “men taking care of women” thing, I’m fully in agreement. If it’s more broadly defined and understood to mean being considerate to others, then it ends in in the range of what you prefer.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

      Interesting comment, @james-hanley . I edited out a section where I discuss my sometimes-use of the phrase, “Be a man,” or derivations there of. I explained how I use this phrase not to separate man-ness from woman-ness but man-ness from boy-ness. Essentially, when I use it, I’m saying, “Be a grown up.” Which itself should be interpreted to mean, “Be mature. Be responsible. Be accountable. Etc.” In fact, I most often use it in relation to myself. “I need to step up and be a man about this.” For whatever reason, I opt for the sex-specific term; I think because it just flows better than, “I need to step up and be a grown up about this.” But the characteristics I am espousing or seeking in myself are not limited to a specific sex.

      OT being OT, we’ve had similar discussions here in recent years: Does “gentlemen” refer specifically to “men” or is it now a catchall for a particular way of being that is accessible and available to all?

      So I agree that gentlemanliness or chivalry as a proxy for universal kindness is not objectionable. I just wonder if A) the teacher meant it as such and B) more importantly, if the children will understand it as such.

      As the father of daughters, I’m curious what you have taught them and what they have come to understand about expectations of chivalry and related behavior. Do they expect men to hold the door open for them? To let them go first? To open car doors for them? To pick up the tab at dinner? If their understanding differs from what you and Johanna have attempted to teach them, how did this come about, how do you feel about it, and what, if anything, have you done about it?Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

        I just wonder if A) the teacher meant it as such and B) more importantly, if the children will understand it as such.

        Right. I’m on the same page there.

        I don’t think we’ve consciously taught them much of anything along those lines. I make a habit of holding the door for them because I generally do that for everyone, and I think they’ve picked up the habit. We’ve never talked with them about who picks up the tab for dinner–in their eyes I think the answer is “parents”!Report

    • Mike Dwyer in reply to James Hanley says:

      I agree with Hanley. Being a ‘gentleman’ is really just about good manners. My nephews (5 and 6) will tell you, “We say please and thank you because we are gentlemen.” My daughters were raised to be ladies. Clearly my family still promotes outdated ideas if this post reflects accurate modern sensibilities. Or is this a regional thing? In the South manners are a big deal. And chivalry is alive and well. I think we’re better for it and I’m really finding it hard to see the downside of promoting ‘gentlemen-ness’. In 2014 it has absolutely nothing to do with the frailty of women and everything to do with simple decency.Report

      • Kim in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        Simple decency isn’t treating someone differently because of their gender, though. There’s no call for that, and I’ll hold the door for a guy just as much as I’ll hold the door for a woman. However, if I’m in high heels, the “unsafe at any speed” rule apples, and please hold the door for me! (I’ll oblige likewise if you’re carrying a heavy box or otherwise encumbered).

        I don’t feel like guys ought to mind their language in front of women (in front of children is a different matter of course…).

        But, in general, being a gentleman? That’s not objectionable.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        If both ladies and gentlemen have identical expectations on their behavior, that’s fine in theory. The problem is that sometime it drifts a bit.

        It’s somewhat easier to be gender-neutral if you do something like assign the word ‘kind’ to that behavior. I.e., both gentlemen and ladies are nice, and here is the definition of ‘kind’ that applies to everyone. Men who are kind are gentlemen, women who are kind are ladies, but there is no difference in ‘kind’.

        Or assign a bunch of words to different aspect. People who say please and thank are courteous. People who hold doors for people are helpful. If you’re all those things, you’re a gentlemen or a lady.

        In fact, just steal the entire Boy Scout law if you want. ‘trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent(1)’

        It’s actually a pretty good code for ‘niceness’ for kids. (Well, except maybe the ‘cheerful’ thing, that’s a bit silly.) Adults, not so much, but for kids it works okay.

        1) Don’t let the Mormons that have taken over the Boy Scouts try to trip you up with that ‘reverent’ stuff. I’ve seen them say it means ‘religious’. However, when *I* was in the Boy Scouts in the 90s, ‘reverent’ meant respecting people’s religious customs…bow or cover your head, be solemn, etc, even if you weren’t a believer.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mike Dwyer says:


        ‘reverent’ meant respecting people’s religious customs…bow or cover your head, be solemn, etc, even if you weren’t a believer.

        That jives with what I remember from the 80’s as well. Religious faith was never a large part of anything we did.Report

  3. Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    English really needs some more gender neutral terms. Perhaps we can appropriate them from other languages?Report

  4. Saul Degraw says:

    I don’t think jousting is really that useful a skill in today’s modern economy.Report

  5. Pinky says:

    Couldn’t disagree more. Men and women are different. We can aim for equality of treatment, but if we don’t err on the side of respect for women, we’ll end up with disrespect for women. This could actually turn out to be one of those “Haidt-purity things that we realize was right” like we were talking about recently, but we might have to wade through another few decades of rap videos before we make that realization.Report

    • Reformed Republican in reply to Pinky says:

      >We can aim for equality of treatment, but if we don’t err on the side of respect for women, we’ll end up with disrespect for women.

      I think the goal should be respect for everyone.Report

  6. zic says:

    @kazzy kudos for tilting at the windmills of gender trope; these subtle messages really do make a difference in how children view themselves as they turn into adults; they’re part and parcel of how gender roles (and more) are baked into our culture. With your particular example, the goal here would seem, to me, to teach good manners and consideration — it’s polite to hold the door for others behind you, instead of letting it begin closing in their face. But this has more to do with who is at the door first then the gender of the person at the door first. (My town’s post office has a really odd door setup, one that lends itself to doors being shut in someone’s face, and the dance of door-holding there is probably the number one cause of people actually talking to each other; it’s fascinating to watch.)

    There are a lot of questions we ask children, things we hold children, that merit consideration because of the built-in expectations. I gave up asking teenage boys if they have a girlfriend, asking girls if they have a boyfriend some time ago. It’s such a normal-seeming question, I hear it all the time. But it’s got a baked in presumption that the person you’re asking is straight; too. Instead, if I have some reason to make this inquiry (which most of the time, I don’t,) I’ll ask if they’re dating somebody. I like this, too, because it turns the question into an active thing they’re doing (dating) instead of a question of ownership (having).

    And as to gender-neutral pronouns, I’m all for the singular ‘they,’ as I used in the previous sentence. Grammarians be damned; it’s more comfortable than a new pronoun.Report

    • Gabriel Conroy in reply to zic says:

      I gave up asking teenage boys if they have a girlfriend, asking girls if they have a boyfriend some time ago. It’s such a normal-seeming question, I hear it all the time. But it’s got a baked in presumption that the person you’re asking is straight; too. Instead, if I have some reason to make this inquiry (which most of the time, I don’t,) I’ll ask if they’re dating somebody. I like this, too, because it turns the question into an active thing they’re doing (dating) instead of a question of ownership (having).

      That’s a good reason not to ask the question, Zic. Another reason is that it’s had to know how sensitive people are about dating or not dating someone. (And I realize you say that most of the time, you don’t ask because you don’t have a reason to. And I can think of good reasons why it might be someone else’s business to ask.)

      And as to gender-neutral pronouns, I’m all for the singular ‘they,’ as I used in the previous sentence. Grammarians be damned; it’s more comfortable than a new pronoun.

      I (along with Megan McCardle, among others) am beginning to agree. I used to be very adamant that “they” should refer only to plurals. But I used to be equally adamant that sexist language is bad, so I’d resort to the awkward he or she or he/she formulations, and sometimes to the even more awkward s/he (or worse, s/him) formulations. So I used to try to formulate sentences so that the people I refer to in the first place were plurals, but that can get awkward, too.

      So yeah, I’m beginning just to use “they,” and I like it.Report

      • zic in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        I think ‘they’ is plural in the sense that gender is plural; it allows for an individual to be, regardless of gender, because that potential gender is a plural; there is more than one option. And it’s far less insulting than it, the singular neutral pronoun, I don’t quite know why, but ‘it’ suggests lack of humanity and feels very rude.Report

      • I agree +1000 times with “it” not being the solution. I’m also wary of the use of “ou” for two reasons. First, pronouns are hard to change. Second, “ou” especially just doesn’t roll off the tongue, at least not for me. It needs to be more emphatic, more like “me” and less like “I.”

        Slightly (or more than slightly) off topic but a pet peeve: I occasionally hear people say that German “das” (the neuter “the”) is a solution, but they don’t realize that it’s just another way of saying “it,” but relative to an article and not a pronoun.Report

      • kenB in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Hearing or seeing “they” in that context still makes me cringe a little, and so I generally avoid it one way or the other (either with s/he and such or by just composing the sentence differently), but I understand that it’s a valid usage now. I do sort of wish we had a national language standards board that could make the pronouncement that it’s 100% OK to do that and no one is allowed to think the less of you for it — that might be enough to get me to feel comfortable using it myself.Report

      • KenB,

        Truth be told, even though I wrote above that I’m coming to accept it, it does make me cringe a little bit, too.Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        I love the notion of an officially-recognized national standards board for language. It makes me feel double plus good.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to zic says:

      Besides a preference for specificity, my main objection to “they” is that it has a distant feel. It would be nice to have something to refer to an unborn child or someone sitting in front of you of uncertain gender that doesn’t feel as cold as “they.”Report

  7. Murali says:

    Suppose guys grow up opening doors for girls but not for other guys (or at least less often for guys), is that so terrible a thing? Is such a person more likely to have sexist attitudes or beliefs about women? Or can we just treat it as a harmless remnant of a more sexist past? Or we so caught up in what it symbolises that it cannot be anything but another insidious obstacle to full equality with women?Report

    • zic in reply to Murali says:

      @murali I often open doors for men. Sometimes, there’s a weird dance, as the go to reach ahead of me to open the door for me; I’m supposed to step aside to allow that; and their reaching, if I do not step aside, will put our bodies into the physical space I’m in. The same would happen if it was two guys, and the second in line lunged ahead to open the door for the first as he was going to open it for himself.

      And how rude would it be, if some random man I didn’t know was behind me, for me to simply step aside and wait for him to open the door for me?

      Saying, symbolises that it cannot be anything but another insidious obstacle to full equality with women? sort of, again, goes to the radical extreme — insidious obstacle to full equality — it’s about revamping the rules of politeness to, you know, actually make it easy for people to move through public spaces respectfully of one another.

      If there is some reason you cannot open the door, and hold it for the person behind you, no matter if your male or female, it’s good to step aside. Maybe you’ve got your arms full of stuff. Maybe you’ve got a child’s hand and stroller. Maybe you just grabbed a hot pan, and have a severe burn on your hand. Maybe you’re like me, and have problems with your shoulders and neck, and some doors are difficult to open and hold. Maybe you’re on crutches or use a cane or walker. If you’re able, and there’s someone behind you, open the door, and let them through; if there’s a 3rd person, and they’re able, they take the door and let you through and the person behind them; and then the next person steps forward to take the door.

      It’s kinda like cars merging on the highway. Doesn’t matter if the driver is male or female; it matters if it happens smoothly, with everybody giving a little room and without hesitating too much to take your place in the flow.Report

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to zic says:

        One of my problems is when there are two sets of doors, one after the other, and I open the first set for the person behind me, and then the person who enters and I have to decide who opens the next set of doors. It all gets very confusing.Report

      • zic in reply to zic says:

        @gabriel-conroy You’re first to the first set of doors, so you open it. The person behind you goes through. The person you let through is now first to the next set of doors. It would be their job to open that door. If there’s nobody behind you, you would go through the door your holding, and they’d hold the next for you, returning the line to it’s original order.

        If there’s someone behind, They would take the door your holding, allowing you through; and you’ll pass through both doors. They also allow the next person through, who takes the 2nd door, allowing it’s holder and the person who held the 1st door for them through. Repeat to the end of the line. It works out to it’s original order of getting to the door, too.Report

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to zic says:

        That’s good in theory, but in practice things tend to get jammed up. I suppose there are different approaches:

        Conservative: let they guy hold open all the doors for the women, the young for the elder, the able-bodied for those with a visible disability. Compliment every door opening with being “a good Christian.”

        Liberal: Follow your ordering of who gets there first, but be willing to compromise provided more than 63% of the time, the outcome is equitable in favor of your reordering, wherein the 63% is calculated by someone with at least an Ed.D and preferably someone with an Ed.D and tenure at a tier 1 university. Call a police officer to enforce these rules, if necessary.

        Libertarian: Shoot the door open with an assault rifle and use funds from a private door charity to fix the lock.

        Leftist: Create a community organization guard each door 24/7 to oversee door-opening protocol and redistribute door opening duties so that the most advantaged always have to open the doors for the lesser advantage. A people’s council will be on call to adjudicate any disputes over who is more or less privileged.

        Anarchist: call anyone who opens a door for anyone else a racist murderer in league with Amerikkka’s police state.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to zic says:

        Privatize the doors!Report

      • zic in reply to zic says:

        Technologist: just make doors that don’t need to be opened by humans. If you’ve got the right rfid tag, the door will open. If you don’t got no tag, they’ll get cheap enough for you to get one that opens some doors some day.

        That was awesome, @gabriel-conroy, thank you.Report

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to zic says:

        Thanks, Zic. Actually, one thing I didn’t think of, but your “technologist” example reminded me of, was just to use automatic doors. But I suppose that would put paid door openers out of business.Report

      • Kim in reply to zic says:

        with my work, it’s automatic “ring you in” doors. One person swipes, the next person grabs the door and holds it while the swiper goes in. Sometimes guys look a little… flattered/flustered/amused with me holding the door,but I don’t care.Report

      • Citizen in reply to zic says:

        Automatic doors lend themselves to anarchy, you just have to let go of the concept of controlling knobs and handles…..maybe somedayReport

      • DavidTC in reply to zic says:

        And a pessimist sees the doors half closed.

        Wait, wrong joke.Report

    • Chris in reply to Murali says:

      I wonder how related benevolent sexism is to the other kind.Report

  8. kenB says:

    I think there are a couple of different questions here:

    1) Are our “chivalry-lite” cultural rules desirable in a society that generally aims for gender equality?

    2) If not, is it better to teach kids the rules of society as it is (to the extent that these are the rules), or to teach them the rules as we’d like them to be?

    Re #1, I’d just point out that I know a number of women who believe strongly in gender equality but who still expect to guys hold doors for them, especially their husband. I can certainly see the possibility that it conveys a subtle message, but at the same time it could be seen as just an arbitrary social rule — we probably overestimate the import of these things.

    Re #2, this is a difficult one as a general question — teaching kids what you want the rules to be instead of what they actually are has some drawbacks, if that makes it more difficult for them to navigate the society they’ll be living in.Report

    • Gabriel Conroy in reply to kenB says:


      I see it pretty much as you do. Although perhaps I’m a little more on the side of “it’s better to teach the rules as we’d like them to be,” I do think we need to teach the rules as they are.

      I’ll add my usual caveat here and say I’m not a parent and have never taught very young kids. But I’m thinking of Zic’s and my comments above about using “they” and how I used to teach (much older students) when it came to writing essays and how I probably would teach if I taught again. I would prefer my students to use what is commonly accepted standard, formal English, not because I believe it’s more right than others, but because they’ll probably be held to that standard. Therefore, I would want them not to use “they” to refer to singular antecedents, or end sentences with a preposition, or split infinitives. I wouldn’t rake them over the coals (especially on split infinitives), but I would want to remind them that they’ll be judged based on their adherence to certain formal rules and it’s often (but not always) better to play it safe. All that is hard to convey in practice, however.Report

    • zic in reply to kenB says:

      I know a number of women who believe strongly in gender equality but who still expect to guys hold doors for them, especially their husband.

      I sorta hate saying this, but a big part of this routine is the crap for shoes that women wear. It’s a fashion failure; which makes women vulnerable on all sorts of levels. I don’t get why women wear shoes that make them unbalanced and distort their spines and stress their hips. I just don’t get it.Report

      • Murali in reply to zic says:

        Because it caters to the heterosexual male (and lesbian) gaze. Or, to put it more crudely, a woman in heels is supposed to be hot. Corporations, which are often run by said males then put pressure on women to wear said heels via dress-codes and company policies.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to zic says:

        Just as an aside, do lesbians find high heels as sexy as heterosexual men do? Actual lesbian couples that I know all seem to wear flats or athletic shoes. This seems to hold true even when the couple in question otherwise appears to adhere to the “butch/femme” trope; even the woman who patterns her dress and personal comportment after more traditional feminine styles mostly seem to eschew high heel shoes. (Not that I blame them.)Report

      • Pinky in reply to zic says:

        As a guy, I don’t find stupidity sexy. High heels are stupid.Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to zic says:


        “I know, we can’t use the word ‘dyke.’ You can’t even say ‘lesbian’, it’s ‘women in comfortable shoes.'”

        –Adrian Cronauer, Good Morning, VIetnamReport

      • zic in reply to zic says:

        Women find them sexy. Many women like sexy; after all, they’re human, and so sexual beings.

        Putting this on the male gaze is really, really missing the boat.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to zic says:


        So are you saying that in most cases when women appreciate men holding doors for them they really only appreciate it for the actual physical aid component of the gesture, which helps them negotiate the physically confining positions that social expectations place on women through fashion, etc.? I.e., very few able-bodied women wearing functional clothing ever appreciate having the door held b/c of chivalry or however you want to put it?Report

      • Murali in reply to zic says:


        I just don’t get it.

        Women find them sexy. Many women like sexy; after all, they’re human, and so sexual beings.

        Putting this on the male gaze is really, really missing the boat.

        Something doesn’t computeReport

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to zic says:

        re: high heels

        I confess, I find women in high heels attractive. But I also realize they take a toll on comfort and can be limiting, so I would support a work environment or social norms that don’t make the de facto mandatory for women. Not that they are mandatory, but there seems to be a non-zero expectation that women wear them. How big “non-zero” is, is probably open for debate and probably depends on context.Report

      • zic in reply to zic says:

        @michael-drew no, I am not saying that at all. I’ve been pretty clear — most people appreciate having a door held open for them, no matter if their male or female; it’s a courtesy. It’s the #1 cause of people making eye contact and saying ‘thank you’ I’ve witnessed in public.

        But I am saying that we see some of the ‘chivalry’ door opening on the part of husbands because they are chivalrous, they understand the costs their wives bear in dressing up beautifully. They hear her bitch about her sore feet from those damned heels at the end of the night. The chivalry here is not just one of ‘men open doors for women,’ but ‘this woman I love is paying some price to look as she does right now.’Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to zic says:


        You, know, I missed in the line you quoted the “especially their husband” bit. Maybe I’m dumb on the point, but I guess I think of husbands helping their wives with doors and so both as pretty much a different thing from the debate about men holding doors for women being charged with sexual implications, sexism, and the like. I guess I just assume that husbands and wives help each other out as a matter of course. I don’t think of chivalry literally any time I see a man who is pretty obviously a woman’s husband opening a door for her, whereas I do if I get the ensue they’re on a date, a working lunch, are strangers, etc.Report

      • Pinky in reply to zic says:

        So, women like to look sexy for themselves even if it hurts them, and men should respect that by opening doors for them? That’s crazy. You could justify footbinding the same way.

        I’ve never noticed the attire of a woman before holding a door for her. I’m a big guy. I’ll hold a door open for a woman any time, and for a guy if he’s carrying something. I wouldn’t fail to open a door for a big woman, because that’s just rude. I’d be iffy about holding open a door for a small guy for the same reason.Report

      • Kim in reply to zic says:

        far better to hold the door for someone — be they on crutches, using a cane, or in high heels, rather than have to deal with broken glass. (Yes, high heels are stupid).

        I err on the side of “hold the door open for the next person, no matter what”. I take it you think that a short guy might find having the door held for him by you might be a tad emasculating?Report

      • DavidTC in reply to zic says:

        Least people forget, at various times in history men have worn high heels also. And let’s also not forget that *men* want to look sexy also.

        Lifting up the heel that way cause the calf muscles to look tighter (Something that the west currently values as attractive in both men and women), and causes them to be taller (Also attractive for both genders).

        So why don’t men wear heels? I don’t mean why don’t they wear ‘women’s heels’, I mean, why do they not wear shoes with slanted soles? Oxford’s *do* exist, but the heels are really short compared to women’s heels, or the heels that men have worn throughout history.

        They don’t because of the third thing that heels do: Causes people to automatically sway their hips as they walk. People can fix their gait (The shorter the heel the easier to counter), but it’s easier not to.

        And, yes, men’s pumps cause hip sway also, despite not coming to a point. It’s the imbalance between the front and back of the foot, and the added height, that causes sway…the tiny point of the heel is just what results in that swaying sometimes toppling women over. People wearing wedge pumps will sway their hips back and forth as much. Probably more, since they’re less likely to fall over.

        Why is it expected for women to wear these, while the few men shoes styles that do have heels get shorter and shorter?

        Because you are supposed to look at women’s hips, or, more bluntly, their asses. You are not supposed to look at the same on men. And by ‘you’, I mean *society*. And that is exactly what the ‘male gaze’ concept is about. Society wants to focus on women’s sexual features. And not on men’s. (Because, of course, society is entirely made up of straight men.)

        So women are expected to dress to draw focus there. Plenty of them end up walking that way even *not in heels*. No, this isn’t explained by their slightly wider hips.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to zic says:

        I watched Project Runway this season. There wasn’t a single hetero male (nor any married ones) in front of the camera, contestant or judge.Report

      • zic in reply to zic says:

        @kolohe but in other super-dee-duper exciting news, men now make up 20% of the purchases in yarn shops. Go men!Report

      • Kim in reply to zic says:

        or to be more accurate, it’s not allowed for people to look at men’s bums in formal situations. Society is getting better about the whole “women like to look too”… but that’s more in soccer than on the dance floor.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to zic says:

        Kim, ‘the male gaze’ is not talking about what ‘people sometimes do’, or what setting they do it in. It is about what *society* focuses on, what the media focuses on, where everyone’s eye is drawn to *by design*.

        And I must point out, people wear smaller amounts of clothing while playing sports for practical reasons, not to look more attractive.

        People looking at people is not what the male gaze is about. It is about how female attractiveness is hyperfocused on their sexual attributes, on certain specific areas. While male attractiveness is not. The question is not if individuals or even groups look at various parts of men like that…the fact is society does not. ‘Society’ sits around designing how to emphasized parts of women’s bodies, and not men’s. (And in media, will emphasize those things. Cameras do not plan lovingly past men’s asses.)

        Yes, I’m aware that there is female-oriented things, like a romance novel where a shirt-less man in tight pants graces the cover. Or male strippers. But those are off in their own little thing.

        Or, to put it another way, society seems to create men and women’s clothing as if a horny straight guy was standing there asking himself what he’d like to look at.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to kenB says:


      The “Should we prepare children for the world as it is or as we hope it to be” is an ongoing question in education circles. The best answer I’ve seen — with the question phrased slightly differently — came from Lisa Delpit which I’ll summarize thusly: Absolutely give kids the skills they need to be successful in the world as it is. But let them know how the world came to work this way, that it doesn’t need to work this way, and how they can change it. Essentially, give them the skills to get inside the machine and the knowledge and empowerment to change it from within.

      Obviously, that is aimed at older students (high school aged). I don’t yet know how to replicate or scale that down for four-year-olds.Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to Kazzy says:

        But that’s ignoring a central question:

        Is Chivalry a skill that boys or girls might need to understand to be successful?

        I’d venture that the answer is no, and that learning a gender-neutral politeness will be more useful for students even when one puts aside the politics of the thing.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:


        If chilvary doesn’t ‘help them succeed’ is that a net bad? I’m just struggling to see the harm in good manners.Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to Kazzy says:

        @mike-dwyer , my reference to success ties back into Kazzy’s statement that we should “give kids the skills they need to be successful in the world as it is” rather than preparing them for the world as we would like it to be.

        My point is that I don’t think we’re doing Kazzy’s students any harm when we avoid teaching them semi-antiquated patterns of gender-focused politeness rather than a gender neutral version of same.

        A student taught that it’s polite to hold the door open for someone following closely behind them, regardless of gender, isn’t going to suffer because they weren’t taught that boys are supposed to open doors for girls.

        The harm in good manners is that sometimes, those manners reinforce poisonous social structures. Chivalry is a code of manners that asks men to treat women with deferential politeness, but there’s also an implicit promise that the politeness will be rewarded with romantic attention–an attitude that’s apparent in everything from Le Morte d’Arthur to the modern-day “nice guy” phenomenon.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:


        I think we’re talking past each other and that’s because I wasn’t more clear in my first statement. While I am willing to admit we shouldn’t use outdated rules of chivalry to promote an ideal of helplessness among women, I do think there are less harmful aspects of chivalry that are still okay. For example, guys paying for dinner on a first date. It’s a harmless tradition IMO but I’m sure some people think it is sexist.

        And while yes, good manners (chivalry) might be the first step to a romantic relationship, a true gentleman behaves that way because it’s just the right way to act. I hold the door for all sorts of women I have no romantic interest in (read: everyone that isn’t my wife). Is that re-enforcing ‘poisonous social structures’? I just think this is one of those situations where we are over-thinking an institution that is generally much more good than bad and highlighting the small % of potential problems that can come from it instead of appreciating all the good.Report

      • zic in reply to Kazzy says:

        For example, guys paying for dinner on a first date. It’s a harmless tradition IMO but I’m sure some people think it is sexist.

        There’s some subset of men who think paying for dinner = entitlement to sex; which is where the whole ‘pay your own’ stuff comes from. Personally, my approach would be whomever’s more financially capable for paying for dinner; in our modern world for young dating folk, that may well be the woman, not the man. The man paying is a holdover from the day when women did not have economic independence; and I would never hold it as an expected modern rule because it does, for some small segment of men, create a feeling of entitlement that causes harm.

        And holding doors for others, be they man or woman, does not create poisonous social structure. But I’ve gotta tell you the truth; I’ve long been a door opener/holder for others. in the ’80’s and ’90’s (less so now) I’d frequently get comments like, “Well aren’t you the little women’s libber,” always from men. Not, “thank you,” but this overt insult that I’ve impinged on their privilege. That is toxic.Report

  9. LeeEsq says:

    I’m with @saul-degraw, knighthood and its accompaniments have no use in modern society except in the Renaissance Faire circuit and a small amount of movies and television shows. Although, the idea of a rock lute is an interesting one.

    On a more serious note, most humans aren’t really comfortable with taking gender equality to its logical limits. We, overall, might not mourn the negative aspects of the pre-feminist past, like widespread housewifery. However, people have been complaining about the disappearance of chivalry for ages. Women might not like the sexual and other restrictions placed on them in pre-modern society but many of them seem to enjoy the more elaborate courtship rituals of the past if anything can be gained from online dating profiles.Report

    • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Electric violins are the most awesomest instrument ever!

      Of course a ton of women don’t like equality, a ton of men don’t either. Twilight is a GREAT example — Look at me, I’m the blah girl, who is boring! But everyone’s going to fight over me, anyway, because… i dunno?Report

  10. Rufus F. says:

    Ya know, I was raised with a lot of this stuff by my grandparents, so I’m probably biased, but I’m having a hard time imagining the problematic future scenario. So, the boy grows up to be a man who thinks he should be especially courteous to women… Given the amount of young men who instead receive the ‘ya ‘diss em, then fuck em, then forget em’!’ “player” crapola about young women, I’m okay with young men erring on the side of decency.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Rufus F. says:

      I’ll agree with this as far as it goes. I’m aware of the extension of the “boys owe special courtesy to girls” idea in that it ultimately suggests a lack of self-sufficiency on the part of the women in question and then we’re back in other kinds of gender trouble.

      The problem is not that we lack cultural markers of good behavior on the part of men. The two problems are that 1) those cultural markers of good male behavior or engineered as checks against seemingly instinctual bad male behavior; and that 2) there are no countervailing markers of good female behavior. In chivalry, a lady is supposed to be pretty, chaste, and demure. At most, she may be moderately well educated and witty. But she isn’t really supposed to do anything more than obey her father, her king, or her husband.

      So if we are going to teach chivalry to our boys as a way of inspiring them to behave well towards women later in life, I propose that we also engineer a model of behavior that girls can follow to encourage good moral behavior and lives full of action that better the community as a whole.

      If nothing else, perhaps we can take heart from the fact that in current iterations of popular fiction, we are seeing more and more strong female characters. Strong male characters still dominate, and strong female characters still seem to be required to possess the attribute of sex appeal, but it’s still at least a little bit better than it was a generation ago.Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I really like your second point, Burt. I feel like chivalry can potentially be useful, in cultures that are accustomed to it, as a means of training young men away from crass and disrespectful behaviours, but a more active model of what it means to be “ladylike” should be a necessary counterpart.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Rufus F. says:

      Chivalry came with its own baggage in that a lot of men expected women to return the favor of courtesy in some way.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

        After all, isn’t the complaint of the proverbial nice guy that women aren’t returning his courtesy?Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Which is a fair point, LeeEsq.
        I just don’t see how we can expect complete gender neutrality anyway, given that sexuality is not gender neutral. In ten years, he’s going to have hormonal urges pushing him to mate with females, males, or both- and most likely females. So, even if it’s only at a subconscious level, he will be responding differently to strangers depending on gender. I’d rather channel that drive in the direction of politesse than crudeness.

        Now, as far as the expectations, that seems to be what we need to focus on. Heterosexual males will try to win the favors of young women and vice-versa, but they need to understand that it’s not a barter system.Report

    • zic in reply to Rufus F. says:

      @rufus-f it would help if men listened to the kinds of help woman want. It would help a great deal. We want men to do things like disapprove of their bros when the yell how sexy we are on the street. We want you to say, “hey, she’s too drunk to give consent, this would be rape.”

      We’d actually really, really like it if men acted decently, chivalrously or chivalrous sexism, if you will, in these ways where women are particularly harmed by men. I think some men’s lack of restraint is really damaging the attachment potential of men who do treat women decently. Certainly, catcalling a 12-year-old on her way to school (lots of 12 year old girls have breasts, but they’re still only 12) isn’t going to pave the way for her to have confident sexual relations when she’s 18; it creates a burden of baggage on women, but men pay the price.

      When it comes to punishment, the notion of making catcalling illegal, for instance, if men get that yeah, this is not something respectful to do and stop, instead of making excuses for their behavior, then there would be no need to criminalize cat calling. And if they cannot stop without that legal restraint, I don’t think any woman — most particularly the women who bear the heaviest burden of harassment — want to see more incarceration. I rather think they’d tell you that the current high rates of incarceration are one of the problems causing street harassment.

      So chivalry here; standing up for women so that they’re not intimidated to be out in the public sphere, is welcomed; at least my version of the feminist rule book. You don’t need to go intervene with a construction crew you don’t know; but if you’re a member of that crew? If they’re your drinking buddies? Say something.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to zic says:

        Oh I was definitely taught never to do those things. My family would have been horrified. I think that’s all within the realm of gentlemanly behavior not to harass people or take advantage of women who have been drinking. Sexual harassment is loutish in general. I suspect being raised to be horrified by those kinds of people is why I haven’t been in an environment where people were catcalling and acting like louts any time that I can remember. It probably helps too that I’m 40 and at least 2/3rds of my drinking buddies are women. On the other hand, it might be that so many of my friends are women because of how I was raised!Report

  11. j r says:

    I guess if you get to them young enough, you can weed out of that nasty misogynistic, hetero-normative gender role stuff. And then we will be one step closer to our glorious androgynous utopian future where men and women wear nothing but drab, formless coveralls, sport androgynous pixie cuts, and all have names like Taylor and Aubrey. Then we will finally be equal!

    On a more serious note, I’m not the biggest fan of the sort of vulgar chivalry that calls for treating people as demographic first, individual human being second. That being said, there is nothing wrong with being a gentleman. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. I hold the door open for women. I help my wife on with her coat. Sometimes, I put my hand on her back and guide from where she is to where I want her to be. Yes, these are subtle cues of social dominance. And those are part of the reason why she is attracted to me. Of course, the other reasons why she is attracted to me is because, those behaviors aside, I am not the type of man who is really a chauvinist and is going to try and make major life decisions for her or try to constrain her to certain behaviors because she is a woman.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to j r says:

      Jr, just where are you getting this from? I’m not entirely in agreement with much of the talk about gender and gender relations that is occurring in the present but I know that none of them seriously advocate for “our glorious androgynous future.”Report

    • Kazzy in reply to j r says:


      I absolutely recognize and appreciate the differences that exist between the sexes (on a general level). My goal isn’t whatever you got at in the first paragraph.

      To be clear, I phrased the title of this post very purposefully. I am not questioning chivalry entirely. I’m questioning whether schools should be teaching boys to be chivalrous. How would you feel if your son came home and told you, “Mr. Kazzy told me to hold the door open for women”? What if your daughter came home and said, “Mr. Kazzy told me that boys should hold the door open for me”?Report

    • j r in reply to j r says:

      @kazzy and @leeesq

      The first paragraph was a joke, which is why I began the second sentence with the phrase “On a more serious note…”

      As I said, I’m not the biggest fan of the sort of vulgar form of chivalry to which you are referring, but I can’t say that I am all that worried about what schools teach, especially at that young of an age. Whatever schools decide to teach at that age is going to be in a fairly vulgar, rudimentary stage. I say that not as a reflection of teachers, but rather as a reflection of what children can absorb at that age. Plus, I am a fairly contrarian person, so I assume that whatever my kids are picking up at school, I’m going to want to offer my own nuances and refinements.

      Finally, I believe that my children, if I ever have any, will learn much more about what it means to be a gentleman from observing my own behavior than from any lessons that they learn in school. So, I think that I will be much more focused on being a good role model than in policing what teachers are doing. I am content to let teachers teach what they think is best and take it from there.Report

      • Kim in reply to j r says:

        American schools don’t have a Morals Time, like Japanese schools do. This is part of the reason I don’t think chivalry should be taught — it’s something we think parents ought to do with their kids.Report

  12. Kazzy says:

    I haven’t seen it discussed yet (though I might have missed it) but besides the message being sent to boys, what messages might we be sending to girls?Report

    • Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

      Open doors for people.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Chris says:

        But if the lesson we are offering is, “Boys should open doors for girls,” what then?

        I will also push back against the idea of always opening doors for people. I personally hate when someone 15 feet ahead of me hits the door and then holds it open for me. I feel like I need to hustle to get there or else I leave them awkwardly standing there for a few seconds waiting on me. Too much pressure. There should be a colored circle around every door: if people are inside it, hold it for them. If not, you’re free to let it close.Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Oh yeah, definitely teach them when opening doors is appropriate and when it’s not. My own view is that if the door is going to hit them as it closes, hold it open. If they’re too far away, don’t bother.

        Unless they might have trouble opening it for whatever reason.

        Also, look behind you before you let a door close.

        If you get the door and know there’s someone right behind you, let them go in first.

        If someone let’s you in first, and there’s a line, let them get in front of you.

        And always say thank you when someone holds the door for you.

        Boys shouldn’t hold doors open for girls, they should hold doors open for people. So should girls. It’s not chivalry, it’s manners.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Chris says:


        I agree with all this. Again, I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t praise/encourage kids to hold the door open for others and to engage in other forms of pro-social behavior.

        I’m wondering how folks would respond if I made the classroom “Door Holder” job one that only boys fulfilled because, hey, that’s not something girls can/should be doing. I’d be taken to task. Right..? If so, we should be wary of other, more implicit encouragement of the same mindset (with a full concession that what I witnessed very well might not have been that).Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Hell yes, we should. This is why I’m not even addressing the “gentleman” concept, because it’s unnecessarily gendered. There is nothing about gentlemanness that should be specific to men, but by making it gendered we necessarily set up a contrast. That’s just the way our mind’s work. Since there is no real corresponding “gentlewoman” concept, we have to contrast it with something else, like “lady,” which is a concept that created further distance between what we ask of girls and what we ask of boys.Report

    • Guy in reply to Kazzy says:

      I suppose I missed this in my initial comment, but one of the reasons the statement you called out doesn’t bug me is that it’s not (in isolation) saying anything to the girl, as far as I can see. It’s just tying a word to a behavior, and it doesn’t strike me as a particularly bad word for the behavior. The second statement you mentioned sends a much worse message, because it’s trying to force the kids into particular roles.Report

  13. Tod Kelly says:

    I’m not so sure about this, for a couple of reasons.

    1. I’m not convinced that being a gentleman implies sexism, or even interaction with people of different sexes. I have always assumed the label of gentleman to apply to men who are cultured, mannered and/or gracious. When I was growing up, my dad used to tell me a lot of things that I would be required to do if I wanted to be a gentleman, and almost none of them had to do with women. (e.g.: a gentleman always pays his debts)

    2. Holding the door open for someone is a pretty common courtesy that I think most people do for other people all the time. I’m not sure what’s to be gained by suddenly disapprovingly asking what the *real* motivation is for a person who’s being courteous to another.

    3. This is less a concrete thing, but this feels like one of those conversations we wouldn’t be having if someone had praised a little girl for being courteous, or for being strong, or whatever. I think it’s important to raise boys so that they respect girls (and eventually women) as their equals, but I don’t know that I think it’s so wise to go out of our way to be second guessing the sexism inherent in being kind to someone, or for praising being kind.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      @tod-kelly, the key to being a gentleman during the 19th century was never pay your debts.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:


      The example I shared here is certainly not the best. You are right that there are far more innocuous interpretations of what I witnessed. But it got me thinking and served as the inspiration of the post. The fact is, I do see far more explicit teaching/praising of traditional chivalry. And that is what I want to consider here. I have heard teachers say, “Let the girls go first.” I can’t think of a way to justify that in a school setting in today’s day and age.

      Courteousness? Politeness? Kindness? I teach all these and more. But I teach them as desirable (if not expected) behavior by all and towards all. I do not put any extra onus on a subgroup of students or put any group in a quasi-preferred-but-perhaps-only-because-of-a-perception-of-inferiority position.Report

      • RTod in reply to Kazzy says:

        In that case, I think your argument would have been bolstered by the “let the girls go first” anecdote over the one you used, which relies pretty heavily on reading into things.Report

  14. ScarletNumbers says:

    when can’t I find a nit to pick?

    Never, as far as I can tell.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to ScarletNumbers says:


      You jest — sort of, I presume — but the nit I’d pick here is that when working with young children, some are very reticent to employ self-help skills. So while I love that kids are eager to help one another, you almost always have a kid who ends up doing nothing for himself because he lets the others do it for him. Not only does this deny him the opportunity to develop these very practical and necessary skills (e.g., putting on his shoes, zipping up his coat, opening his snacks), but it risks cultivating a sense of incompetency, poor work ethic, and other undesirable attitudes. So I often have to explain to the children that helping doesn’t necessarily mean doing something for someone else. Sometimes it means helping them learn to do it for themselves. This might mean working together with them and, sometimes, means leaving them to their own devices. It is not uncommon for me to say something like, “Jasmine, it’s great that you want to help Sam with his snack. But it’s important that he learns how to open it himself. Why don’t you show him wear the scissors are so he can try on his own.”Report

  15. Jaybird says:

    I’m pretty sure that it’s inappropriate to open the door for the ladies’ bathroom.Report

  16. LWA says:

    Chivalry of course comes loaded with its own history, loaded with examples both honorable and horrific.
    The original chivalry codes were devised precisely because no one acted chivalrously, and they were honored mostly at convenience.

    That is to say, chivalry is as often as not a case of men behaving towards women the way we believe makes sense, but is mostly grounded in our own self regard.
    For example- opening doors is a nice gesture- but when coupled with a disregard for what women want, or with attitudes that view women solely as the supplier of men’s desires, is an empty peacocking gesture, intended merely for public consumption.

    Women and men are vulnerable in different ways and capacities- women need protection in different ways than men do.

    Chivalry can be a powerfully constructive force, even or especially in our modern times. It just needs to be developed into something that is genuinely altruistic, rather than a ploy of convenience.Report

  17. Doctor Jay says:

    I do not support the use of the terminology “gentleman”. For one thing, it’s terribly laden with class distinction. What we’re praising is that someone is rich, and thus went to a school that trained etiquette. I appreciate that common usage does not carry this sense in conscious thought, but the association is still there.

    It turns out that lots of people of “gentle birth” were rapists, abusers and murderers. They just had high-born manners while doing it.

    Now, I’m all for helping people who need help. I think it’s praiseworthy, I think it should be taught. I don’t know that I’d reference gender at all when praising someone for being kind. I might say, “How thoughtful of you!” or “That was very kind!”

    I suspect that boys who are taught to be chivalrous “gentlemen” grow up to be men who are very unhappy and disappointed when their superior manners does not accord them any status. “Gentleman” is supposed to be a person with some status, some importance. And then they act from a usually unexamined resentment. You know, Nice Guys(tm).

    So no, I don’t support the teaching of “chivalry” in schools. But how to intervene?Report

  18. zic says:

    Just to put this out here:

    In my 40-or-so years of opening doors for others, I’ve mostly been greeted with, “thank you.”

    But not always. The outrage I’ve received comes from men, the most common variation being, “Aren’t you the little feminist.” This isn’s as common now as it once was, but still occasionally heard.

    So I think there’s much ado about nothing, at least the notion that women have a problem having doors opened for them. Some men, however, have lost some privilege (to open doors for chrissake,) and that a woman might open a door for them is some total assault on something they hold sacred.

    This whole notion of outrage over doors is a man problem.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to zic says:

      If you can deny that women have a problem having doors opened for them by men (obviously we’re not talking about a majority here, no one ever was – a significant group is all), I sure as hell can deny that any men take it as an all-out assault of any kind when a woman opens one for a man. Any. And I can also deny that a light quip of, “Aren’t you the little feminist” has anything to do with outrage of any kind.Report

      • zic in reply to Michael Drew says:

        As a general rule, when a male calls you a feminist in a public place, it’s a slight, not a compliment. So my point is that (in my experience) there’s this whole ‘women upset because men open doors for them’ that’s really men upset. Certainly if I said, “aren’t you the sexist pig,” back (which is, presumably the thing that’s caused men to feel woman don’t want doors opened,) it would be cause of outrage. The whole gender/feminism debate devolves to just these silly discussions because some woman, some where, insulted a man who opened a door for her.

        So no. I should be outraged at that insult; it’s rude. The appropriate response was always, “Thank you.” No matter who opens the door.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        It’s a slight, but if it’s said in humor, not that great a slight. And even if it’s not, it doesn’t indicate outrage. I said it has nothing to do with outrage, so you’re right to say that if it gives rise to outrage in others, then it does. My bad. It has nothing to do with outrage in that it doesn’t indicate outrage. If it outrages you if someone says it, fine. But it doesn’t give you cause to conclude they’re outraged that you held the door for them. They could be joking. And even if it’s clear they have a problem with it, that doesn’t mean they’re outraged about it.Report

      • zic in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I don’t recall a single incident of being told “aren’t you the little feminist” (or some variation of it) that felt humorous, included a chuckle or shrug. Not one; but that could be my pricklyness on the subject.

        But I do very clearly recall a tone of sarcasm; and I also recall that the word “little” was included (like 100% of the time); I wasn’t called ‘a feminist’ for opening a door for a man, I was sarcastically told, “Aren’t you the little feminist.”

        That’s what’s happened to me; not once, but repeatedly.

        Have you (or anyone) ever been called a sexist term for opening a door for someone? Has some woman ever called you a misogynistic name for that act of kindness? Because that’s the meme I hear; but I’ve never seen a woman do that, with one exception: the looker. That’s the dude walking behind you, staring at your ass, who uses the politeness of opening a door to check out your tits. It’s an excuse to gawk at your goods. (He never opens holds the door for the older woman or the fat girl after you; which is part of how you know his gig; plus where he’s looking. . .)

        I don’t want to go on with this, it sucks. It sucks to think back on all those episodes, and how there was this obvious attempt to put me in my place and insult me for being kind, and it sucks to think just how often pretend kindness was simply a ruse to satisfy the male gaze.

        All I’m saying is that the perceived outrage of feminists that men try to do nice things for them is, perhaps, a projection that because of feminism, women don’t want men to do nice things for them. Which is not true; it denies the basic humanity that people pretty much like it when others are nice.

        Going back to Kazzy’s original question; what is chivalry? Is it this set of rules about good manners and honorable behavior or a set of rules designed maintain status in a social interaction? If it’s the former, I’d say it’s a good thing. But if it’s about status, that’s not such a good thing. And the people who go about disrupting status-quo? They’re generally perceived as troublemakers, which is what I felt when I opened a door for some random man behind me.Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to Michael Drew says:

        The best way to turn a joke into an insult is to act like that’s what it was.

        The best way to turn an insult into a joke is to act like that’s what it was.Report

      • El Muneco in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Also, if the power relationship is asymmetric, humor only works if you’re punching up rather than punching down (not that it always works, but that it only ever works – piling misery on the downtrodden is just cruel).

        Or to put it another way, the rare woman who is sarcastic at having a door held for her has at least earned the right to do so through walking the walk (often literally viz. the catcalling video). Ofay middle-aged white dudes like the one I see in the shaving mirror every morning? Not so much.Report

    • DavidTC in reply to zic says:


      This explains what’s going on:

      But as the constraints on women have relaxed, it’s become ever clearer that subtractive masculinity is fragile and unstable. It’s fragile, because as women are seen doing more things, the set of safely-masculine activities or qualities keeps shrinking. And it’s unstable, because whether something is “masculine” or not is not actually based on male actions, it’s based on what women *don’t* do.

      Opening doors for women is something Men(TM) do. Start letting women do that, and how can we tell women apart from men?Report

      • zic in reply to DavidTC says:

        Pretty much.

        Which is a really, really weird thing. Define yourself by the negative space of what women do. Well, women give birth, they have periods, they lactate, and they go through the change. That’s the negative space.

        But to limit activities that you might enjoy because it’s woman stuff? That’s like total bs. I really like knitting with handspun yarn. Some of the most gifted spinners I know are men. They relax and listen to music or the birds or watch TV and spin beautiful, even yarn. Every time I’ve watched a little boy try to spin (they’re attracted to the mechanical wheels,) they love it. I’ve taught men to knit. Men bake bread and make pies and cook dinner. They even stay home and care for their families while their wives (or husbands) work.

        There is a negative space there; something only women can do. Men can’t. Why can’t we just leave it at that?Report

  19. Citizen says:

    Should it be taught in school?

    Can it be allowed as part of a local custom in earnest recognizing value in the respect of females? I often weigh how societies behave in the absence of such custom.

    We have taught the basics to my son, and the feed back from females in his life indicate earnest value in being treated in that regard.

    This aside from rare cultural crossroad anomalies that present themselves much akin to the video that Kohole linked.Report

  20. Boegiboe says:

    One of the things about the culture where I work is how, with the majority of the population, everyone just opens doors for everyone else. But the number of people who don’t habitually do this is large enough that confusion results often. E.g. I’m following a stranger fairly closely, and he opens the door very wide, and then we both try to go through the door together. So, this still happens, but less and less over time. I think those incidents are serving to make the “everyone helps everyone else” cultural aspect take over. It’s a meme that is communicated without words.

    For those of us who already open for everyone else, we all share a quiet smile and series of “thank yous” when we have multiple doors to open as we return from lunch, as one opens for those following, then the next opens for those now following, cycling through the line. It’s just a small aspect of my workplace that makes me happy to be there. My daughter went to the on-site daycare, and she soaked it up enough that she is trying to step forward and open doors for Jason and me.

    As for the main point of the post, as long as the girls are told “What a fine lady you are!” for the same behavior, I have no problem. If they aren’t, burn it to the ground.Report

  21. Glyph says:

    I have to admit, I haven’t read all of the comments, but here’s my two cents anyway.

    Praising — teaching! — chivalry seems to be teaching that females are deserving of a particular type of treatment because A) they are deserving of more respect for some inherent reason related to the presence of female reproductive organs, B) they require greater support because of inherent weaknesses related to the presence of female reproductive organs, or C) some bizarre combination of the two.

    I suspect (but don’t know) that the tradition of men holding doors for women dates back hundreds of years, when many of the doors in question weren’t the doors of today, but massive, heavy wooden things designed to keep out winter snows, wolves, and possibly white walkers.

    Women have, on average, less upper-body strength than men; they also (then, and now) may be more likely to have their hands full with supplies, or children (or heck, just a purse with all the stuff a woman needs, that a man doesn’t); their clothing/hair (then and now) may be more elaborate/trailing (so can get caught in the door); last but not at all least, the “presence of female reproductive organs” is not just a glib observation, it means that getting whacked in the stomach by a swinging door that someone carelessly let go, could have devastating consequences to a pregnant woman (and of course, that pregnancy may not be visible to observers).

    It’s not all that objectionable to me, to stress to young boys that holding a door for a woman is just a good “rule of thumb” – if we want to expand that and say “everybody”, or “everybody who looks like they might need help”, that’s fine; but the rule of thumb is there for the same reason that we stress to young boys, “you don’t EVER hit a girl.”

    Yes, ideally we want NO ONE getting hit (and on the other hand, as Chris Rock says, “ain’t nobody above an ass-whooping”); but the differential in upper-body strength (and therefore the differing potential for serious injury) between males and females simply makes internalizing this rule of thumb a good one.

    It’s an acknowledgement of a power differential in reality, and a small attempt to systematically compensate for that differential.

    (FTR, I generally hold doors for anybody, if they are close behind me; and hold them for women, children, the elderly, and people with visible difficulties/burdens if they are farther. But able-bodied men with their hands free are pretty much on their own unless they are right behind me.)Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to Glyph says:

      My understanding is it had to do with the sort of clothes that women wore, which were bulkier and more awkward- hoop skirts and things like that. So it would be helpful to have someone else hold the door.Report