One frustrating things about isms is how pernicious and pervasive they are. In addition, people will make constant excuses why what they do isn’t sexism or is somehow benevolent or benign. (Speaking specifically of sexism. When it’s racism, it’s usually how they didn’t mean it that way or they didn’t mean you. Also irritating and exhausting, but in a different way.)
I remember reading a comment section at Slate before I self-banned myself from reading the comments on that site. It was about sexism and there was a guy who said that he held the door open for his female friends, and he was not sorry about it. Now, presumably, if they’re his friends, they don’t mind (though perhaps they just don’t want to make a fuss. If it were me and it was just a casual friend–liek a friend of a friend situation, I would internally roll my eyes and ignore him). But if he’s doing this for random people or people at work (and I think this was a letter about the latter? I don’t remember. Wait. Was it Ask A Manager? I don’t think so. Not that it matters).
He could not be talked out of his position that this was a nice tihng he was doing for these women. No matter how much he was grilled on it by the other commenters, he doubled down on it being respectful. I think he even said that was how he was raised. When it was pointed out to him that there were many women who were pointing out that they didn’t find it respectful and would not want him to do it, he kept repeating that he was doing it to be respectful.
He could not get it in his head that if the recipient of his gesture did not find it respectful, then it wasn’t, indeed, respectful. It’s surprising how many people don’t get that. Personally, I hold the door for anyone who is within five feet of the door when I get there. I don’t care about their gender. It’s just polite. But if someone were to make a big fuss about it because they were male and perceived me to be female, well ,then we would have an issue.
With this guy I mentioned (I’ll call him Eric because that’s the name he used), he made it clear that he did not do this for his male friends. In addition to being old-fashioned, it’s just weird if you’re in a group of friends and you only hold the door for some of the people and not the rest. Would he do that for, say, black people and not white? Highly doubt it. The excuse that it was considered respectful fifty years ago doesn’t hold water at any rate beacuse things change. Customs change. Would he also not give a job to a woman because she is supposed to be at home taking care of her children?
And what if he doesn’t know the gender of one of his friends? Does he ask them? Or just assume? I would be annoyed as hell about it. Like I said, if he was an acquaintance and it was a one-time thing, I probably wouldn’t say anything. But I would definitely demote him in my mind.
He kept repeating that he was being courteous and gentlemanly (or something like that). Which showed that he was more wedded to the idea of looking good than actually being good. Not that he would look good these days for that kind of behavior–at least not like it was viewed fifty years ago. But how very white male of him. what he thought as a man about how he terated women was more important than how actual women told it made them feel. He didn’t care if it was actually respectful of the women he was purportedly saying he was treating with respect.
I think a lot of the unthinking behaviors that people claim to be respectful would be exposed for the bullshit that it is if you took gender out of it. Like the door thing. Why is that respectful? If you would not do it for a man on the regular. I know the counter is thatmen know that women are not sitting around waiting for a man to open the door fro them, which is true.
It’s hard to explain why this one is particluarly annoying, especially if it’s in front of a whole group of people. Here’s my best go at it. Ther eare very few reasons to single someone out based on their gender in day-to-day experiences. It can be othering, especially if they are one of the only ones in that group. And in my case, not caring about my gender makes it even more awkward. Treating me like a fragile woman is not going to get on my good side. I’m not fragile–at least not physically. I can probably beat the shit out of the average guy if I put my mind to it (I don’t play fair or nice).
I stride as I walk. I have a very deep voice. There is nothing stereotypically feminine about me. This is not something I did on purpose. This is who I am. I am, for the first time, comfortable in my skin. I like myself, and fuck anyone who doesn’t agree. I don’t want doors opened for me that aren’t opened for everyone. Literally and metaphorically.
Part of the reason I recoil at acts of chivalry is because they were predicated on the belief that women were lesser than men. That ‘ladies’ had to be protected and that their delicate constitutions couldn’t handle lfting anything heavier than a teacup. It was about keeping women in their place, which was barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen. Women were to be seen and not heard, and, yes, that’s what we say to children.
What if, and hear me out, men treated women with the same respect that they treat men? Listened to them like they listened to men? I’m not even mentioning people of other genders here, even though I am one of them. Even with just the binary, guys need to come correct. Or, we could just expand it to men should ttreat people of other genders as if they were equals, regardless of gender. How about that?
I am so fucking old and tired of this shit. I honestly don’t understand why people cling to their gender biases so dearly. I’m not talking just men, but they are the ones who have an outsized influence in this world, unfortunately. Treating women and people of other genders as if they were lesser (which is what opening a door for a woman is, regardless of how you try to pretty it up) has a deletorious effect on the woman in general, especially if it’s in a professional setting.
I don’t know where I’m going with this. In fact, I’m done.