independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Ian O'Doherty: Ladies, please don't take offence at my outdated acts of chivalry

I know I briefly touched on this the other day, but it's a topic that has been preying on my mind all week, so please indulge me: Is chivalry dead?

Well, according to a survey, if it ain't dead it's undoubtedly lying on a hospital bed, on a ventilator somewhere, with a Do Not Resuscitate sign around its neck.

How did things get so bad?

At what point did men stop being courteous and at what point did women want them to stop being courteous?

The findings of the survey are interesting and rather disappointing.

Apparently, many young women in the modern world resent the very idea of a man holding open a door for them, or offering them their seat on a bus or offering to carry their bags.

Now, the last one I can understand.

After all, there are a lot of scoundrels out there and I wouldn't want my wife or sister to freely give up their bag.

A sad state of affairs, I know, but you have to see the world as it is, not how you would like it to be and being reluctant to give control of your belongings, no matter how heavy, to a stranger is simple prudence and common sense.

But doors? Seats?

On top of this apparent reluctance by women to accept such small gestures lies a confusion felt by many men. Will they receive a smile and a thank you for offering their seat?

Or will they simply be the recipient of a scowl and a terse "I'm fine, thank you very much"?

What we're witnessing is the end result of the rise of militant feminism from the 1960s and '70s.

This was an ideology that painted men and women as equal in every measure and therefore an act of chivalry by a man wasn't a small act of kindness and consideration.

No, it was in fact an act of oppression – an opportunity for the man to remind the woman that they were essentially weak and needed protection.

Now, I never thought that my holding a door open for a woman was an act of phallocentric oppression designed to remind the person that they were weak and needed protecting.

And the irony, and indeed fallacy, of that argument is that the kind of idiot who thinks like that is exactly the kind of idiot who would never in a million years bother opening a door for a member of the opposite sex.

The problem with this argument is that while obviously men and women are equal – I think we established that quite some time ago, don't you? – we are not the same.

That's not to say that I advocate going back to some mythical 1950s social construct where we all, men and women, behave like we're characters from Mad Men.

But I refuse to accept that me or any man holding a door open is anything other than a minor act of courtesy.

However, that's not the way some women I have known down the years see it.

I once dated a girl who used to go quiet every time I held a door open for her.

It irked me that she didn't acknowledge it but she was pretty hot so I let it go until one day she exploded and snarled: "I, I'm perfectly capable of opening a door for myself so I don't need you to do it for me, thank you very much."

This left me baffled as much as anything else and, as you can imagine, the relationship didn't last for much longer. Frankly, looking back at that time, I've no idea how we ever got together in the first place – imagine being an 18-year-old red-blooded male dating someone who wants to do women's studies in UCD – it just won't end well.

But most women I know appreciate small gestures and they certainly don't see it as act of oppression.

Let's put it this way, anyone who knows my wife or indeed my other female friends or my sister, will know that I'm hardly in a position to oppress any of them, even if I wanted to. Which, I can assure you, I don't.

I like my teeth where they are, thank you very much.

Is anyone genuinely upset or offended when someone holds open a door for them?

I actually reckon it's their way of trying to make themselves seem more interesting than they actually are – I am a strong, independent woman and I don't need any male help.

And as I mentioned in the piece the other day, it shouldn't matter to a man if a woman is rude when they offer their seat or hold open a door, because that merely displays their bad manners and lack of grace and you shouldn't allow their rude behaviour to affect how you conduct yourself.

So I shall continue to offer up my seat and hold doors open, I shall continue to use slightly more temperate language when I'm around a woman than when I'm just with my male mates and I shall continue to insist on walking on the outside of the path while walking alongside a female friend.

I still don't know why I do it, if I'm honest (it has something to do with knights or something, I'm not sure – if anyone does know where that tradition comes from, I'd love to hear from you) but it's what my father taught me and it stuck with me, as indeed it did with my brother.

So if I have one message for you today it's – lads, hold the bloody door open, will you?

And laydeez – just give him a smile, it doesn't cost and it doesn't hurt.

Honestly, we've come to a sad state of affairs when it's yours truly giving lectures on manners and proper behaviour . . .

Irish Independent

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