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February 04, 2005



I understand the function of things like door-holding -- it saves the other person some work. But what is the function of standing when someone enters or leaves the room?


Stentor: I think the function of standing up when someone enters the room is to show respect. If I am plopped down on the couch when my grandmother walks in and I just sit there, it seems as though I am taking for granted the fact that this elderly woman has gone through the trouble of coming to see me or talk to me. Traditionally a lot of rules of how to treat older people (stand when they come into the room, hold doors, offer your seat on the train, wait for the older person to initiate the handshake) also apply to how men were supposed to treat women.


I have some hypotheses about chivalry. Untested, undocumented, unresearched and only based on observation.

I think that chivalry -- as it became adopted by an emerging middle class to become ubiquitous is more or less (and this is the armchair analysis of an anthro minor) ritualized recognition of the usual size differential between men and women.

The acts of things like opening a door for a woman are often interpreted as a belief that they somehow can't do it for themselves, when it instead could be somewhat more like a symbolic reaffirmation by the man that he will use his size advantage to her benefit rather than to simply coerce her.

And on the flipside of that -- the old fashioned curtsie or bow by the woman is somewhat of an affirmation of respect for his restraint.


As a woman, small chivalrous gestures don't mean much to me but my rule of thumb is to politely accept them when offered. I think men are in a tough spot where they've been taught to open doors (for example) but some women find it upsettting while other women still insist on it.

Where I find small chivalrous gestures troubling is in the following situations:

1) It can be problematic in a professional setting. If I am the only woman attorney in a conference room full of men, I feel singled out for reasons unrelated to my professional ability when they simultaneously rise as I enter the room. Or I feel downright undermined in a jury trial when opposing counsel makes a big show of helping me with my bag in front of the jury.

2) Some men make far too big a deal out of the fact that they open doors, etc. Those can be nice gestures but they aren't the "be all and end all." In my experience, excessive courtliness often correlates with a condescending attitude towards women ("I am a de facto gentleman because I open doors so she should have no complaints if I show no respect for her ideas, feelings, etc.")

3) I do feel strongly that men should be willing to allow women to pay for dates. Before I got married, I never hesitated to ask men on dates, and when I did the inviting, I always paid. To me a man who insists on ALWAYS paying is essentially saying that I as a woman cannot take the initiative in dating. I understand that some men may feel uncomfortable allowing the woman to pay, but it would be mortifying for me to invite someone out and then have the invitee pay for dinner!

Bottom line, both men and women need to be respectful to others' adherence to symbolic traditions but flexible at the same time!



So I think what I'm pointing to and maybe you are too is that though chivalry today is perceived of as a male activity, historically and in reality it is a mutual undertaking. But since in many ways, women have cast off their role what we have then is not chivalry, but something else entirely.

Like your story about the opposing counsel. That guy isn't chivalrous in the true sense of the term -- what he's really doing is trying to undermine his opponent. If chivalry is a show of mutual respect, that one doesn't really stand the test.

One of the problems I have with conteporary relationships is that there no longer seems to be any respect for men's restraint. It's expected sure, but not respected. I've known so many women and watched so many relationships of friends where the women think nothing of whacking or smacking the guy over some slight disagreement. She knows she can do this because his restraint is expected. But the fact of her doing it to me is a huge disrespect to the man's restraint.

It's remarkable how much you see this dynamic in movies and television -- I'm thinking things like "Anchorman" or "Just Married" where there is pretty serious female on male violence going on. It's either viewed as funny or used as a means to show female power. But say 20 or 30 years ago I don't think an audience would have found it funny because they would have seen it sort of as someone being beaten who has their arms held behind their backs -- since he's living up to his social contract to use restraint whereas she is not living up to her end to respect that restraint. See what I mean?


Last comment for the time being, I promise:

Craichead's hypothesis is similar to what I have always thought. A man could easily just knock a woman out of the way and barge in front of her. Chivalry teaches men that there is honor and pride to be had in self-restraint. (I remember once in college struggling to put my suitcase on the overhead compartment on a train and not wanting to bother anyone for help; when I finally did ask a man for assistance, his eyes lit up and it was clear that I made his day in giving him the opportunity to use his masculine strength for an honorable purpose.)

Nonetheless, as a woman, I am ambivalent about daily chivalrous gestures because I don't especially like being reminded of what I consider a most unpleasant fact of life-- my smaller stature and relative physical weakness compared to men. I remind myself daily as my male colleagues always open doors for me not to take it too literally (while also doing as many bench presses as I can in my spare time).


Craichead --

Just saw your last post and I think you are on target!

I don't what significance this has but I just saw the movie "Anchorman" five days ago and I don't even remember any female-on-male violence. Apparntly it didn't even register with me!


Well I think it's time for a new take on chivalry for modern times. I guess really it has no place at work since it doesn't take a lot of bench presses to be able to simply open a door. In terms of things like that, men and women should do it for each other mostly determined by who gets to the door first -- or who's in the biggest rush to kiss the boss' ass.

But it does truly have a place in intimate relationships.

If you read back through some of my other postings you'll see I have a little bit of an obsession with the modern paradigm of "everything's a paradigm of class oppression." And this is one of them. When men and women are considered mainly to be distinct social classes and men are determined to be the powered class, it leaves no room for an alternative explanation to chivalry as a putdown to women.

But the paradigm of stewardship -- that greater power imparts a duty to greater service -- has truly been the dominant pardigm throughout most of western history.


"I don't what significance this has but I just saw the movie "Anchorman" five days ago and I don't even remember any female-on-male violence. Apparntly it didn't even register with me!"

I didn't see it either, but I saw a scene in the trailer where the female character smashes a typewriter or something over the male character's head.


Oh yeah -- the typewriter scene in Anchorman. That might have been self-defense but I can't remember . . .

Craichead, you may be right that chivalry can still have a place in intimate relationships depending on the people involved. I don't think it is per se a bad thing, but I cringe when I meet women (and men) who insist on small formalities while losing sight of whether the man truly respects them.

(Oh, the bench presses are just because it makes me feel better to not be quite so puny, not because I can't open the door! :))


cmc's comment about men always wanting to pay reminded me of a situation that happened when my boyfriend and I were first together. We'd been 'seeing eachother' for about a month, but it was still in that awkward, not-acknowledged stage. I always split everything with him to that point because I'm not really used to a guy paying for things for me. So one night, obviously uncomfortable, he asked me 'so...are we...like...a something? or together? you know...' so I said I didn't know, and he went on to say 'because I don't know if I should be paying for things...' which just cracked me up, because he was so obviously uncomfortable bringing this up, and it was such a non-issue to me (though him bringing up whether we were exclusive was something I'd been meaning to do). I think beyond being a funny memory of my boyfriend, this situation kind of highlights the problems that people of our age group (early 20s) face in trying to navigate social situations that had set rules a generation ago. Depending on the girl he could have gotten very different responses from 'of course you aren't supposed to pay for everything' to 'how dare you even ask, I was outraged that you weren't doing it already!' and so I can see where his nervousness came from. My response was the first, and we still split everything, and on the occassion that one or the other of us pays the full bill its usually a special occassion, or someone forgot their wallet...it works really well for us, especially being college students who don't have much money. He has said that he probably wouldn't be able to spend as much time with me as he does if he was expected to spend money on me every time he saw me.
We also had a similar situation with holding doors and pulling out chairs, etc., because he didn't want to upset me but was raised to be polite. I don't care either way, so its kind of entertainingly worked out to where if I'm in a dress he kind of does it subconciously but if I'm in jeans it doesn't really happen. My dad still holds doors for every woman he is in that situation with, and though he's been yelled at before, he's pretty much decided that at 65, no one can honestly fault him for being old fashioned.


Men should just let doors slam in women's faces when women are coming to enter them behind the men. Women don't hold doors open for men, so why should men hold them open for women?

Also, when men drive down the highway during a raging thunderstorm and see some woman out there changing a flat tire, the man should just make sure his windows are rolled up, turn up the heater and the radio and keep right on driving (waving is optional).

Chivalry is providing respect to women. Since American women deserve no such respect but scorn instead, chivalry is something best reserved for females that are foreigners. Foreign women deserve chivalry, not American women.



I'v always considered manners (good ones anyway) as a matter of appropriate decorum and an accepted style to avoid unintended offense.
Chivalry is a far greater entity of which manners is a mere constituant.

I, for one, am willing to reestablish appropriate manners for those who wish to pick and chose which apply to them. I'll happily let a heavy, spring loaded door at the market close on anyone that takes offense at my (now almost an instinctive afterthought)nature.

So while the "rules" are being changed I call for a new distinction to be made between
Of course, rules mean nothing unless they are exemplified by example.I urge all to be careful what they ask for, and expect no more than the golden rule.


I didn't see it either, but I saw a scene in the trailer where the female character smashes a typewriter or something over the male character's head.

That is why there is an epidemic of anti-male domestic violence in the United States. Violence against men by women is a silent epidemic.



exemplified by example? -

exemplified by personal practice



"Since American women deserve no such respect but scorn instead"

You had me until that point. I am all for crashing the Chivalry party - or at least removing gender from the equation - having a daughter myself, who aspires to become an "American Woman", and as someone who respects the 90% of American Women who are not raving gender warriors (including such people as my mother, my fiance, and many of my professional colleagues)... I find your comment about American Women deserving scorn... well... deserving of scorn.

Lay off the coffee, man. I am sure you mean well, but have some perspective.


As with so many other things, the intent and manner in which a behavior occurs makes all the differnece. so, a man standing up or opening a door because he's polite is different than a man making a production to show up his opposing counsel. A woman going through the held door with a smile is different than a woman barging through like it's her due (or because she's ungrateful).

I don't think feminism should be about denying the differences between men and women (and long may they reign). It should be celebrating them while recognizing one sex or the other isn't "better", and also recognizing when the differences are relevant, and when they are not.

In a professional setting, I expect to be judged as a professional. The fact I wear a bra is irrelevant. So I can see that in some professional settings, the door-opening might not be appropriate, but again it comes down to the intent involved.

some of the men who post here seem to be so angry at women. It puzzles and saddens me. They are so different from my many wonderful men friends, who enjoy being men the way I enjoy being a woman, and who can find a balance between recognizing the differences between us while realizing that professional ability isn't one of them.

some men are threatened by women. Others are not. I think it's healthier for men to welcome women than try to exclude them. I think it's healthier for women to join men than try to avoid them. One of the best things is to have friends (platonically, I mean) of the opposite sex.

I also think that in a world of double-incomes, women should pay their way or take turns picking up the tab!


In response to Obstetor's comments (which I suspect aren't entirely serious?):

Surely there are certain basic aspects of common decency that are gender neutral. I may be ambivalent about men treating me differently because of my gender (rising when I enter the room, etc.). But feminism doesn't mean men should knock women aside, slam doors in their faces, or not offer to help someone who is obviously struggling with something.

Similarly, as a woman I would never push my way in front of a man and I would always stop to help a stranger in trouble unless I thought that doing so would be unsafe (i.e. I might hesitate to stop and get out of my car to help a man in a broken down car on a deserted road, but I have stopped to help an elderly man or woman up the steps in a public area or called for help for a man suffering an epileptic seizure in a train station). And for the record, I often see women holding doors for men.

Asking people to be flexible about traditional courtesies does NOT mean basic courtesy and decency should be thrown out the window.


Women don't hold doors open for men, so why should men hold them open for women?

In my experience, they do.

Women don't hold doors open for men, so why should men hold them open for women?

In my experience, they do. Whoever gets to the door first holds it open so that it doesn't close in the other person's face.

As far as chivalry goes, I think the problem is that "chivalry" (treating someone with respect because they're female) and "manners" (treating someone with respect because they're a fellow human being) get conflated. I don't mean that chivalrous people are disrespectful toward men, but that acts like the holding of a door, standing to acknowledge someone's presence, etc., become gender-based.

There's also the fact that a lot of "chivalrous" behavior gets tied up with flirting, especially if there's no obvious basis for the behavior apart from gender (e.g., age, youth, disability, obvious need). This can be problematic both because it can blur the line between respect and unwanted attention, and because it can be selectively applied, giving the "most feminine" women the most attention.

The corollary to that, I decided, was that if what you think is polite is making someone else uncomfortable, stop it.

This, I believe, is the bottom line. Whether you think the "Doras" of the world are right or not, they have the right to their reactions, and if "manners" ignore that then they're disrespectful.


Much like your experience, I was taught by family (in particular my grandfather) the exercises of manners in the presence of ladies. Many, many years later the two of us were on a subway, when he rose to give up his seat a lady that had just boarded. She snapped at him that he needn't give up his seat because she was a woman. He simply replied, "I didn't offer my seat because you were a lady, but because I'm a gentleman." nuff' said


Regarding the "holding doors" thing, don't we hold doors for everyone, both men and women? The norm, as I've experienced it across the US, is that when two people arrive at a door almost simultaneously, the one who grabs the handle first holds it open for the other. Since I try to always grab the handle first (a control thing; what can I say?) it so happens that I do hold the door for female companions, although gender is not really a factor.

As a tangential note, I was struck by how so much of what you've said here, Hugo, also applies to teaching good liturgy. As an interim, one of my minor tasks is to "clean up" any liturgical idiosycrasies before the arrival of the new priest. It really does boil down to good manners.


I cringe at:

-- women who take gender-based courtesies as their due
-- women who are rude to men who extend gender-based courtesies in good faith
-- men who think that their exercise of gender-based courtesies excuses them from respecting a woman's opinion or doing their fair share of the housework
-- men who think that feminism means they don't have to be polite to women

I once a truly awful episode of I Love Lucy in which Ethel and Lucy decided they wanted the privileges of male autonomy- going out, working, getting a paycheck etc. So to teach them a lesson Fred and Ricky promised them they could be equal, and then proceeded to slam doors in their faces, sit down without pulling out chairs for the women, etc. Lucy and Ethel decided they didn't like autonomy so much after all, and sheepishly returned to the status quo.


Lay off the coffee, man. I am sure you mean well, but have some perspective.

In Nazi Germany in 1943, I am sure there were a handful of good Germans. All of the Germans who lived in the Nazi state probably weren't evil.

But did we dismiss the evil of Nazism by claiming there was a few 'good Nazis' in 1943 Germany? No, we did not.

Its funny how men like to dismiss human rights abuses against men in America via the 'there are a few good women' argument.



Is it time to cite Godwin's law here?


Asking people to be flexible about traditional courtesies does NOT mean basic courtesy and decency should be thrown out the window.

Basic decency went out the window when women conned America into believing they are a minority, when women are clearly the majority population.

This entire War on Terrorism (that men are dying for, not women) was started by the same totalitarian aspects of American feminism that have preyed upon American men for decades.

It went something like this: "By the Goddess! We have to kill all of those evil Islamic men for doing genital mutilations on women and making them wear veils! Those Islamic men must all die! Die! Die!"

That is why the feminist war against Islam is putting bullets inside the men in Islamic countries now. Feminism would also kill American men in the same way if American men weren't weak and have not already surrendered to feminist evil.

But the Islamists are fighting back against the feminist totalitarian takeover of their countries.

Yesterday I was reading a news article where a US Marine General said: "It is fun to shoot people that make women wear veils."

God (a male) help the world now. Only nuclear weapons may stop the world from falling to feminist totalitarian evil. I don't know what it will take, but now we are seeing men genocided around the world to pave the way for radical global feminazism.


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