Friday, July 15, 2011

On Holding Doors Open for Women, and Other Chivalrous Nonsense

Men holding doors open for me makes me irrationally angry.  It's not because I hate the implication that I can't -- or shouldn't -- open the damn thing myself (although that is irritating), but rather because it makes me feel incredibly awkward.  It's not even that I'm mad at the guy himself.  There just comes a point when chivalrous behaviors like holding open doors and letting women exit elevators first stops being courteous and starts being a senseless and completely ass-backwards tradition that people insist on holding onto for reasons no one can convincingly explain.

Notice the comic to the left, which I found here.  It perfectly describes exactly the problem I am faced with on a near daily basis.  When a man walks toward a door, looks behind him out of habit, sees me many, many feet away, smiles, makes eye contact, and holds it open for me, what do I do?  Do I keep walking with my normal, comfortable pace?  Of course not.  I jog to the damn door that's being held open for me for no apparent reason other than the fact that I happen to be both walking toward it and female.  What else can I do?  Notice he's holding the door, and keep my leisurely pace?  No.  Because that would be rude, because he's obviously standing there, smiling expectantly as he waits for me to graciously stroll through a door that, because of him, I had the amazing luxury of not having to swing open for myself.

Chivalry needs to die.  I know some people think it's already dead (and for some unfathomable reason, mourn its loss), but I think it needs to die a little harder, and faster.  About a year ago, I was in the elevator after getting off work, headed out and to the bus stop.  The elevator was jam-packed at 5:00, as you can imagine, and I got in on the top floor with my mostly-female coworkers, so we stood in the back.  This means that there were another 16 floors to stop at and let more people on.  Once we reached the bottom level, the two or three men lining the front stayed put, looking nervously behind them at all the women, apparently completely physically unable to exit the elevator before all of us women, who were crammed in like sardines behind them.  What was the result of this misplaced courtesy?  The fucking elevator doors started to close, and there was mass confusion in the elevator, as all of us were wondering why in the hell these men would not just get off of the damn thing so we could all board our collective busses and get the hell out of there.

See, I can't handle social norms like this.  All I think about is whether or not these men who hold doors or let me exit first think that I expect them to do so, or whether or not I am displaying an appropriate amount of gratitude for their "kindness," or whether they may actually resent the fact that they've been taught to hold doors open for women and wish that I hadn't been walking behind them so that they didn't have to think about it.  And that's the thing about so-called chivalrous behavior like door-holding, or even the expectation that men pay on dates, although men buying stuff for women has implications beyond chivalry.  Maybe it's just the demographic of fellow broke-ass hipster folks with whom I tend to surround myself, but I've luckily never really had to deal with the awkwardness of men insisting on paying for things for me simply because they're men.  Usually in my dating life, it worked out like: we split it, or whoever had more money would pay.  The idea of being in a relationship with a guy who made a significantly larger amount of money than me always made me nervous.  I always figured that at least a teeny little part of him would assume I was only with him for access to his money, or because I thought he might buy me stuff.  Money makes me uncomfortable in general, and I hate dealing with it in any capacity.  Add the social and sexist connotations that money brings with it, and I'm just a money mess.  We can talk about why I keep working for banks another time.

Speaking of my new job, there is a revolving door in front of the building, and I could not be happier.  Of course, this doesn't stop men from trying to let me use it first... but I can handle that a lot better than running toward a door I never intended to run toward simply because some guy is holding it open for me for some inexplicable and entirely unnecessary reason, though.  I can also handle it better than the guys who bewilderingly refuse to exit an elevator before me.  Thank FSM for revolving doors.

Ultimately, I don't understand why it's so difficult to simply hold doors open for people who clearly need doors held open for them, regardless of their gender.  Or why the person closest to the door can't just get the hell out of the elevator first.  Or why men complain that women don't like this, because seriously, it's stupid.  It's just very stupid.