Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fuck Chivalry

To be clear, the strict denotation and most common connotation of chivalry is treating women a certain way because they are women. It is a problematic code that teaches men to go out of their way to treat women differently rather than treat all people politely regardless of appearance. This outdated code of behaviors ought to be formally abolished.

Image of Facebook status update, text reads: I fucking hate chivalry and want to kick in its teeth. Today the man ahead of me was halfway through the door when he noticed I was carrying a few things and literally stepped back INTO me to hold the door open for me. Hello, Monday.
This recent status update triggered a 150+ comment fight about how I have no right to feel angry about men's well-intentioned actions or to gripe about it on my own wall and how I should just be thankful they pay me any attention at all. Of course it was all men growing upset and spewing vitriolic insults and gendered slurs on this thread when women tried to explain why I was upset about being rudely jostled (such that I very nearly dropped a quart of chili on the floor) instead of let through the door.

It's a common pain in my ass that businessmen in my office building go out of their way to treat women differently for the sake of "chivalry," which frequently results in awkward inconveniences rather than actual courtesy. If you hold the door for any people regardless of gender appearance because it's the nice thing to do, good on ya; this post is not about you. This goes way beyond bitching about door-holding.

Let me paint for you some vignettes that happen several times a week here.

A man (or men) standing directly in front of the elevator door when it opens while I am standing 10 feet further away do not get on the elevator but gesture that I should board first. I was waiting for the people closest to the door to get on first because fucking duh but am instead given mere seconds to scramble aboard before the door closes and to juggle whatever I'm carrying so I may press the button to hold open the door for the people who were there first.

These men have been taught to let women go first in the name of courtesy but do it at the expense of courtesy and their actions are downright rude, their intentions negated by the inconvenience they cause us all.

Or, not infrequently, if I am standing closest to the elevator door, a man behind me will cut me off and jump in or out ahead of me so that he can hold the door open for me, making me brush past and navigate around him. Seriously, what the fuck?

More than once in a full elevator, men nearest the door have refused to exit on the first floor until making all the women behind them push out past them first. What the hell kind of courtesy is that? Besides which, it's infuriatingly inefficient.

Though we could try to blame a handful (or a dozen) men for their awkward ineptitude instead of the system that taught them to do this, but there are thousands of instances of frustration caused by outward appearances of so-called chivalry that ultimately make life more difficult.

Jumping in someone's way to open a car door for them is still getting in someone's way, and worse, doing it based on sexist ideas of what constitutes polite behavior. Ostentatious displays intended to prove one's "gentlemanliness" are self-defeating. Genuine politeness is not an act committed to solicit gratitude or prove anything.

Holding doors for people nearby can be polite. Holding a door for someone far away, though and as often happens, makes them feel obligated to rush, possibly in high heels or on slick ground or with an injury or soreness from working out the day before, thereby negating any iota of help that might have been given or intended. Causing people frustration because you insist on treating them differently due to their gender expression is not polite or gentlemanly.

I am not wrong for feeling upset at being jostled, cut off, blocked, rushed, or held up because some man insisted on treating me a certain way. These are all perfectly reasonable reasons to be miffed, nothing radical about it. The fact that these things happen on a regular basis is endlessly irritating, and not for any fault in me, with or without consideration for ideas on what men think of women when they think they ought to perform mundane tasks for them which they are perfectly capable of accomplishing for themselves. I could (and may) write a whole other post about the underlying assumptions about women's physical capabilities that motivate "chivalrous" actions, but that's not what this is about.

Intentions aren't worth shit when they translate to rude actions that make other people's lives harder. And more than the actions themselves, the explanations and imperatives that I ought to smile and say, "Thank you" in order to accommodate men's feelings and make them feel good at the expense of my own genuine happiness and ease in the world REALLY piss me off. Fuck your chivalry and your insistence that it's so great and I ought to be thankful for men who care enough to make my life more difficult.


  1. http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/family/etiquette/elevator-etiquette-peggy-feb05

    "1. Whether you're entering or exiting, whoever's in front goes first. Move to the back to make room for more people."

  2. Heh, tell me about it. I wouldn't blame this entirely on chivalry or on men.

    I'm a woman in a powered wheelchair. I can't tell you the number of helpful people of all genders who think they need to leap to open a door for me (even when I'm already more than halfway through all on my own), thereby partially blocking the doorway, endangering their own feet and making me nervous about hitting them. Sometimes, they block the door entirely. Ummm, thanks?

    I always thank them, though. Someday I may genuinely need the help. Their motivation is generally positive, and that must be encouraged. I think.