Ramblings of a fledgling feminist
Over the past 27 years, I’ve had a niggling feeling that gender equality is still a long way off. After a lot of reading and a lot of thinking back over my life experience, I want to start articulating some of my ideas – to share them, if nothing else.
A conversation I had on Twitter today started me thinking about the concept of ‘gentlemen’. I have a tough time reconciling the idea, as it feels like an outdated concept.
Before I started to label my desire for gender equality this way, I think my drive to be taken seriously as a woman has led me to shy away from special treatment based on my gender. Let me cite some small, yet pervasive examples. As a disclaimer – I know to some of you – these examples sound petty and I will address that shortly.
Always 50/50 in relationships
A particular bug-bear of mine is a door-situation where a man, in his eagerness to be ‘gentlemanly’, will insist of letting me, a woman; go through it first, even if it would be significantly easier for both of us if the man had gone through first.
A second example involves the few occasions I’ve been offered a seat on the tube/bus/train by a man, despite his being at the seat first and being equally deserving of it (I am a woman, not disabled.) I never take the seat.
Another (silly) example is my boyfriend, who always insists on taking the curb side of the pavement to shield me from ‘splashes and dangerous drivers’ etc (he explains that’s what they did in the old days, when they had horses and carts). Frankly, I’m significantly less clumsy than him and therefore a much safer bet for the curb-side, but he simply won’t have it.
I can imagine droves of commenters (perhaps unlikely considering the average of 8 hits a day my blog receives) posting that I should appreciate this attitude from men when I’m exposed to it – but my reasoning is this: if I want to be treated equally to men, how can I accept (and appreciate) special treatment that I don’t deserve simply because I’m a woman?
I believe we should treat everyone we meet as we’d like to be treated. I know it’s an old adage, but wouldn’t the world be a better place if we treated each other with a little more respect and consideration?
I have difficultly reconciling these concepts because it sounds like I’m encouraging men to be less pleasant to women (I’m not – see above). But on a very subliminal level, I feel that the special treatment aimed at me as a result of my sex disempowers me. It implies that, as a woman, I’m not able to stand, walk through a door or protect myself from horses and carts as capably as a man.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure most men only have positive intentions – so this isn’t a dig at them. And I know that the notion of being a gentleman is positively reaffirmed constantly by our society and that, in fact, many women love a ‘gentleman’ type.
But do any of my examples or feelings resonate with you – both men and women? Could gentlemanly behaviour ever be considered subversive (even on the deepest, most unconscious levels) or should we be grateful for all politeness?
Filed under: Feminism | 6 Comments
Tags: feminism, gentleman, gentlemen