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.