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 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.