...and that makes him a sexist? I recently ran across a comment on the Internet to the effect that a guy who holds doors open for women is a sexist-not on the same level as the guy who wants to keep women barefoot and pregnant, but sexist. This door-holding guy would be horrified if he was told that he's being sexist-he's just being polite, but he's really a bigot. Not that telling him he's wrong to hold the door open will change him, he'll go on doing it because he fervently believes he's a nice guy, doing a nice thing, and any woman who has an issue with him is in the wrong, but a woman sick of being patronised sees it in the correct light.
So this was the gist of the comment, and I'm seeing some questions that beg to be asked. For one thing, what if the guy holds the door open for everybody? Men as well as women? Is he still a sexist? Should he hold the door for men, but not women, just to avoid misunderstandings with women who judge by gender? I mean, it's hard for me to picture the most ardent feminist having a problem with a woman holding a door open for her. It's possible the woman who holds the door for another woman has other issues. Maybe that woman only holds the door open for young pretty women. Maybe she only holds the door for older feeble women, or women carrying groceries, or maybe a baby has to be around for her to hold the door open. So many preconceptions over a simple act of courtesy! Getting back to the man, if it's acceptable for him to hold the door for a woman as long as he holds it for men as well, how the heck does the feminist know when she's being patronised by a sexist who only holds the door for women, or being given the same courtesy as a man by a man who holds the door for everybody?
Confused now. I know that my son has been yelled at, and even cursed at, by women who have assumed that he's a sexist patronising man who holds doors for women. Doesn't bother him-he says he's going to act like a gentleman even if the woman he holds the door for is not a lady. He also offers his seat on the bus if he sees a woman who has no seat-he says a gentleman doesn't sit while a lady stands. Shame on me-I'm the woman who raised him to respect my sex, to treat women with courtesy and respect, to watch his language and behavior around women and be polite and kind and considerate. What was I thinking?
Another question that comes to my mind as I sit here mulling this over is why the feminist with the preconceived notions about men holding doors has a valid point of view, while the man who is trying to be courteous is considered a bigot. Don't the man's feelings count just as much as hers? All right, I see a fundamental difference here-the woman doesn't want a man holding a door for her unless he holds the door for everyone. The man wants to be courteous. Let's say for the sake of the argument that he only holds the door for women. Is that really such a terrible thing, to offer a small courtesy to a woman because she is a woman? There are women being beaten and raped and stoned and denied education around the world, by men who don't respect women at all and wouldn't offer a courtesy to a woman unless you held a gun to their head. Somehow I just can't see that holding a door for a woman is some awful thing that patronises and degrades and slights women. And if a woman does feel that way, I can't see that it is going to hurt her to accept the courtesy without being nasty about it. Or even decline the courtesy, if that's how she feels, without being nasty about it. Do feminists honestly believe that the occasional man holding a door for them is going to turn back the clock, and women won't be able to vote, have access to abortion rights, be able to leave the house and work and live their lives the way they want to? That's an awful lot to put on a door.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that when a person tries to be kind, I think it's best to give that person the benefit of the doubt and assume that all they're trying to do is show a little kindness to a fellow human being, even if the person offering the kindness is a man, and the person he's offering the kindness to is a woman. I remember a bumper sticker I used to see a lot. "Practice random acts of kindness." I haven't seen that bumper sticker for a while. I'm starting to wonder if the random acts of kindess have been killed by political correctness.