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Benevolent sexism - should men hold doors open?!

(139 Posts)
RedHotPokers Wed 15-Jun-11 17:52:14

Just heard an interesting discussion on R4 about 'benevolent sexism'. Did a quick search and foundthis article which is rather less measured than the R4 discussion.

Interested to know what people think.
First post on Feminism topic so hope I haven't repeated a previous topic or put my foot in it!

RedHotPokers Wed 15-Jun-11 17:53:17

Btw my 'doors open' comment was meant to be tongue in cheek and relates to article!!!!

PrinceHumperdink Wed 15-Jun-11 18:07:17

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PurpleStrawberry Wed 15-Jun-11 18:09:57

I agree with the journalist, there are bigger issues at stake.

I also agree with her, that it's the context that these 'benevolent sexist' things are done in, or how they're done.

If a man holds a door open out of politeness, I see no problem. However, I was coming out of a store once, and a man who had just walked in saw me, hopped back to the door and opened it saying, "I'll get for you, it's quite a heavy door." (The door was quite a sturdy door, that did require a bit of 'oomph' to open, but I was more then capable of opening it myself!) Now that was sexist, as he clearly assumed that I, as a woman, would struggle to open the door.

PrinceHumperdink Wed 15-Jun-11 18:15:25

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

joaninha Wed 15-Jun-11 18:20:24

Interesting discussion!

I've had quite a few men say something along the lines of "The problem is that women want equal rights but they still want men to hold the door open for them", as if exposing a great hypocrisy of feminism.

So if you refuse benevolent sexism you look like a right old moaning minnie, but if you accept it you come off all hypocritical. Can't win.

AyeRobot Wed 15-Jun-11 18:27:36

Ooohh, looking forward to seeing where the WomanWhoSlamsDoorsInTheFacesOfMen has been lately.

Agree with PH. I actually think the little things matter. And, funnily enough, I can think about little stuff and big stuff within the space of mere minutes.

I don't make a big song and dance about the little stuff, though. I notice, might make a wry joke, take the piss, raise my eybrows, whatever. I do judge, though, and make a mental note if people I have to work or socialise with do the little things. Because it's taking notice of signs like that have taught me who may well turn that benevolent sexism into more harmful sexism, particularly at work.

smashinghairday Wed 15-Jun-11 18:46:47

I love it when men hold doors open. When we go out to dinner the men in our social circle always stand behind the women's chairs while they sit and then sit themselves and serve them wine first. If we are mingling the men always get up and move seats rather than the women, too.

Despite being a bunch of tough old birds, we do like being treated like ladies by gentlemen once in a while.

cakeretention Wed 15-Jun-11 23:30:10

What is sad/frustrating is that when a women comments on the thread and says:

"Actually yes, things such as holding doors are important because they reinforce in subtle ways the subconscious message that women are "beneath" men and there to be looked after - and that such thoughts permeate every area of our lives"

... the commentators immediately resort to both ridicule and bullying - which is almost unanimously supported. sad

PrinceHumperdink Wed 15-Jun-11 23:45:52

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PrinceHumperdink Wed 15-Jun-11 23:46:52

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

nooka Thu 16-Jun-11 06:32:41

I thought that the article was very lightweight, and the writer clearly didn't want to engage with the research piece. Which may or may not have been interesting or worth while (not all research is very useful after all, and some of it is very poor quality).

The comments currently showing below are just fairly extraordinary - there is someone who appears to think that violence towards women didn't use to exist (because women were 'sacred') and was caused by feminists who 'eroded chivalry'. What a truly bizarre idea, still as it's followed by claims about evolutionary biology perhaps not too surprising.

I think of opening doors as something that everyone should do for each other as basic courtesy. I got very uncomfortable the other day when I was doing a tour of a building (with a lot of doors) with a group of men who obviously felt obliged not only to open the door, but to make let me go first all the time. I felt that my bottom was very on display (in fact I wondered if this was a part of the underlying reason for the habit) and it was really dumb because I was taking the lead but had no idea where I was going. Unfortunately I couldn't do what I woudl usually do, which is slightly ostentatiously open as many doors as possible for them as all the doors were card controlled. They are a lovely group of men, and always very appreciative of my professional help, but I wonder if it's something that police life has instilled in them (they are all retired cops).

Tortoiseonthehalfshell Thu 16-Jun-11 06:35:26

When men stop raping us, I'll start worrying about who's opening the doors for whom, frankly.

smashinghairday Thu 16-Jun-11 08:19:15

If you were walking beside the Queen for example, would it be expected that someone would hold the door open for her and let her go first?

Is that because the queen is beneath you? Or is it because of respect.

Holding a door open for someone is respectful and can denote a sense that the person you are holding it for is ABOVE you, not beneath you.

I love how a simple act of deference and respect to women is seen as those pesky bastard men thinking they are above us, again! grin

If I were a man I don't know whether I'd laugh or cry at some of the stuff written on here.

Not all men are bastards.

AliceWhirled Thu 16-Jun-11 08:38:55

Of course 'benevolent sexism' matters, it's part of the continuum. I don't want to be constantly reminded that I live in a sexist culture.

Of course men should hold doors open for women, as they should for other men, and as women should for both men and women. Who are these men that open doors for women but slam them in the face of men? They sound fucking rude to me.

It reminds me of a paper I was reading yesterday, where the author had given the references to female academics first names when referring to them in the text to 'highlight the special contribution of women'. Fuck off. I don't need to be patronised and have my special little lady thoughts highlighted all speshially. If he wants to honour the contributions of female academics, treat them like you treat academics. People who aren't idiots, use first and second names of all academics, which makes sure a female voice without being so bloody patronising. (Can anyone tell what riled me yesterday grin)

Of course it's not as big a deal as other things, but my pretty little lady brain is quite capable of challenging several thing all at once! Remarkable I know. I never get why people switch their observance of sexism on and off like that.

Tortoiseonthehalfshell Thu 16-Jun-11 08:46:26

I don't want to be treated as above or beneath someone just because I'm female, thanks anyway smashing. And the Queen's a bit of a bad example, isn't she? She's not respected for who she is as an individual, but for what she represents; a figurehead, a symbol, and above all "ours". All of which means that she leads a very circumscribed life.

smashinghairday Thu 16-Jun-11 08:54:51

I did have money on a response like you have given me, tortoise grin.

It's about manners, opening a door for someone and allowing them to go first. Simple manners. I like it and appreciate even if you are quite happy to have a door slam in your face.

And after almost fifty years on the throne, I think you'll find the queen is very much respected for who she is as an individual by millions.

Tortoiseonthehalfshell Thu 16-Jun-11 08:58:43

You're not arguing with me, you're arguing with a made-up person in your head. I've not said I don't like doors opened for me.

I've said that having a door opened for me because of my gender is not about respect for me as an individual, and in fact now you're saying it's simple manners, which is not 'deference and respect', is it? So which is it, simple manners (which should apply to everyone irrespective of their gender), or 'deference and respect' due to me only because of my membership in a particular group?

AliceWhirled Thu 16-Jun-11 09:00:02

You're quite right Smashing, opening a door for someone is manners. So why would you only be polite on the basis of what genitalia someone has hmm

The idea that men open doors for women because women are above them is delightful. So let's ignore the pay gap, lack of representation and violence against women, because in the door stakes we've done it sisters!

dittany Thu 16-Jun-11 09:10:30

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

sparky246 Thu 16-Jun-11 09:25:02

well what happened to me yesterday was quite horrible.
i was in this building and a woman was trying to explain where i should be going.
a man then rushed up and loudly said"ill take her there"!
then as quick as lightening he held my hand!!!he actually had hes fingers right in mine aswell.![i jumped out of my skin-this was tottally unexpected]
i flung him off and he was put out by this.
somehow i dont think he would of done this to a fella.

ElephantsAndMiasmas Thu 16-Jun-11 10:13:56

I love the fact that she's mistaken one article in an academic journal for the entirety of modern feminism.

Holding doors open etc out of politeness is fine. Holding a door open for me because I am a woman, regardless of the common sense of the situation (e.g. I don't know which way we are going once through the door, I am at the door ahead of you, you are walking with a stick, you are carrying heavy things) is annoying.

Basically it's a bit like the way that having your weight talked about, even if in a supposedly flattering way ("you've lost weight!") makes you lose confidence because it focusses attention on your weight. Having something done for me because I'm a woman serves to point out my femaleness in a completely unnecessary way. If I asked my colleague "as a man, what do you think of X?" every time I spoke to him, it would be similar. Gender isn't usually relevant, why remind me of it every time we go through a door?

dittany Thu 16-Jun-11 10:19:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

VictorGollancz Thu 16-Jun-11 10:31:39

I have a male friend who goes so far as to walk on the outside of the pavement whenever we walk anywhere, presumably to protect my petticoats from dirty water and allow unfettered access to his sword-arm should ruffians accost us.

I felt like I'd really won a victory when I managed to get him to go through a door before me. We now have equal door-opening rights; whoever gets there first, opens it.

sunshineandbooks Thu 16-Jun-11 10:43:05

There was another article about this piece of research in the Daily Mail (know you're enemy and all that). Took pretty much the same stance as the Telegraph one.

I think both articles have purposely missed the point of the research (which is actually more possible to see in the Daily Mail article). From what I can see, the participants in the study had to record all their interactions with someone of the opposite gender over a period of days. Then they had to rank how sexist they felt that interaction was. The point was that many of them were in total shock at the amount of sexism they experienced on a daily basis. It took writing it down to see through the 'benevolent' cloak and realise that it all has a cumulative effect.

But of course that wouldn't be a good interpretation to make if you want to have a pop at feminists. hmm

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