Monday, 28 May 2012

Who is going to open the door?

I’m just a little tentative to address this subject. I have very strong feelings on the matter, but have been observing the dramatic changes in our society over the last forty years or so, and while twenty years ago I wouldn’t have had any qualms about saying it, now I’m just a little anxious about what response I might receive. So, here goes…

I like the old fashioned respect that men used to show women: opening the car door for them; carrying their bags; showing them respect and honour. I don’t think it means that women are stupid, weak or incapable necessarily. It just means that a man has a sense of honour and is willing to show that in acts of service and care. Is that so bad?
I have to admit that I cringed several times during uni lecture when a young man was scolded for being sexist. While delivering a practice lesson on using hand tools, he made the mistake of warning the girls to make sure their hair was tied back, and offered the assistance of the guys if they felt they weren’t strong enough to hold the block of wood in place. Personally, I didn’t even hear the comments, as it didn’t register to me as anything other than a sensible comment being made among other sensible comments, but he was told that it was offensive to women.
A couple of weeks later, I heard another student ask if the guys could move the tables ready for their practice lesson, and froze, waiting for someone to point out that this was sexist. And the thought crossed my mind. Wait a minute! What is wrong with guys being thoughtful, helpful and taking the weight? Could I move a table? Yes, and have done on many occasions, but if a man offers to move the table, change the tyre, carry the heavy bag of groceries, should I be offended that he has offered, or should I be grateful that he has had the thoughtfulness and decency to offer. I’m thinking the latter, and now I’m feeling grumpy with the whole feminist thing. No, I’m not stupid, fragile or helpless, but I do like to be cared for and honoured.
I’ve thought a lot about the feminist ideals: the original suffragette movement went to great pains to establish that women weren’t stupid, and that they were capable of doing just about anything a man could do, and the First World War gave them plenty of opportunity to prove that. They took persecution and ridicule to establish the right that women could speak into a political debate, and have their say right alongside their fathers, brothers and husbands. All good. They fought for equal pay for equal work. That seems sensible. But somewhere along the line, I feel we’ve gone past the sensible into the plain ludicrous. I look at the young men in the uni class (I’m a VERY mature aged student) and feel sorry for them. This study adds to that of watching my young adult sons and their friends try to negotiate the world of relating to young women. It seems an almost impossible task.
The young women are encouraged to dress provocatively, and when their sensual appearance does its job, the young men are hammered for being sleazy (not making excuses for sexual assault here, just making observations). If one talks about dressing modestly, we are restricting the woman’s right to dress how she likes. If young men act in a manner that would have been considered chivalrous in the past, they can very quickly be accused of being sexist, controlling and demanding. I feel quite dizzy trying to figure out how young people are supposed to conduct a relationship in this day and age. Some young women react strongly to the idea that they should have to cook, wash or clean their homes if they have a partner who could and probably should do it.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve encouraged my boys to learn how to cook, and to clean their own rooms. They can wash their own clothes, if it comes to that. I think that boys should be domestically capable, but I also think that girls should be domestically capable, and that it doesn’t hurt for domestic roles to be established when children arrive.
I don’t know – I need to summarise, but I simply don’t know what to say. Has feminism done good? In a lot of things, I think I’d have to say yes. Has it gone too far? Well that is the question for the day. All I can say is, I admire and appreciate a chivalrous gentleman, no matter his age, and I hope that we haven’t killed chivalry stone dead in this next generation.

Meredith Resce

Meredith has written and published 14 novels. Most of them are period drama romance, with an odd time travel adventure, murder mystery and contemporary drama romance thrown in.


  1. Agreed. I don't know what the solution is. But it's just plain crazy. Women were the driving force behind change. Perhaps we need to put a few things in reverse.

  2. Interesting post, but I dare not comment further.

  3. I agree Meredith. I think feminism, like a lot of things in modern society, can go to far and throw out the baby with the bath water. I think Phryne Fisher's character is a great example of how to have independence and respect without losing femininity, or refusing men's help and chivalry. While this series is set in the early 1900's I think she has a lot to teach us - and her clothes are divine!

  4. Yes, I find it very sad that when equal opportunity was introduced, chivalry seemed to walk out the door. It seems there are many who confuse politeness and attentiveness with hints of inferiority. When I look back at the horrors of a pure patriarchal society throughout history, I'm glad early feminists stood up for us, but has human nature gone too far.
    When my kids were little, I noticed on "Play School" that the female host always takes on the handy-man roles in stories while the man is the one trying to rock the baby to sleep. Seems there would be too much uproar otherwise.

  5. Very good post Meredith! Thanks for opening that door! :) I do agree that feminism has thrown the baby out with the bathwater. In moving forwards in many areas I think we in the modern world have also taken a 100 steps backward in some ways. Men and women's roles are not easy to define in this day and age I think. Not as simple as 50 years ago when men knew what was expected of them and so did women.

    Thanks for opening our eyes to it afresh!

  6. Meredith, I agree with you and what others have said and I also think the combination of feminism and postmodernism has made life very confusing. Traditional social roles are unclear because there's no absolute truth or agreed rules to follow like there was in the past.
    I do wonder if the rise in popularity of tv shows like Downton Abbey and historical and Amish fiction is partly due to people hankering for a simpler time when society was more orderly and everyone knew the 'rules'.

  7. For sure feminism is overboard. I think, also, that men like to be needed - to be able to help us girls sometimes. I don't think I've ever asked a bloke for help and received a 'no', but that's what a lot of women say when help is offered to them.
    I have a seven-year-old boy who (without being taught) will run around the car to hand me out of the car, open doors, pick flowers, give me a helping hand. He actually makes me feel very special and I hope he NEVER loses that part of his character.

  8. I just got out of hospital after receiving a stent. I'm so glad the nurses didn't tell doctors to get things themselves or refuse to do menial tasks! The whole idea of being politically correct is plain crazy and slowly I think a back lash is finally settling in, especially by opinions I've heard by some mature fellows on radio talk back. It's so unscriptural and mean and vulgar.

    Thanks Meredith. Yes please, bring back chivalry!

  9. Oh I'm so with you. I love a little chivalry, and lets face it so do a lot of other women (if not then who the heck is reading all those novels filled with the stuff!)

    But you are right, you just don't know what response you will get. My husband held open a door for a woman at church and she fairly bit his head off, ranting she could do it herself. Gee. And he was just being polite - in fact he said she was so close to him on approach to the door that if she had been a man he still would have held it open!! Can't win.

    I say let us honour one another and hopefully infect the world with a servant-hearted attitude towards ONE ANOTHER.

    Great post, thanks Lee.

  10. Thanks for raising the topic and making us think, Meredith. I know I can't change the way other people respond or react but if someone opens the door for me I'll honor that by accepting with a grateful smile (especially when I'm struggling with the pram and three bags of shopping) :)

  11. Good post, Meredith. I have a husband who still does all those gentlemanly things and I love that he does, but I have seen him get odd looks from some women when he's offered to help. I find it bizarre. That doesn't mean he won't still cook or vaccum or do things around the house either.And yes both our son and daughter had responsibilities at home that we not dictated to by their gender.