Saturday, November 20, 2010

Chivalry is just another word for

Crossing the road to the bus stop one was thrilled to see that the local colour was out in force. Evening, one of them chirped enthusiastically, grinning to reveal all of his twelve teeth wreathed in tobacco smoke. To which one smiled politely in a non-committal response. His friends must have said something because he replied it doesn’t cost you anything to be polite and friendly. As we waited for the bus one pondered this. See from a bloke’s point of view being polite, like most acts of social pleasantry, doesn’t cost anything. It is an opening gambit; you might win, you might not. No hard feelings.

From a woman’s point of view it is much more complicated. If you reply it might be nothing or it might be taken as an opportunity for him to become the biggest pain in the arse, as one did witness on the bus the other day.  It is a bit like them smiling at you... just a smile or is he disarming your natural wariness? See our little simian cousins are much smarter, a smile is an aggressive act... everyone knows where they are. In humans we use it to convey a lot of things including I’m no threat... and believing that message has probably got a lot of women in deep shit over the years.

A simple act like opening a door for a woman might seem chivalrous, but it also creates a power imbalance as it manipulates their response. If you don’t believe this, try it and see how some women will speed up so they don’t inconvenience you. It also means you control their trajectory as they have to come past you. Harmless you are thinking? Think about the view the average bloke gets as he looks down your top as you go by... still contemplating? Then let us not forget if you really want to do someone some damage there is nothing like a nice big door or even a door frame... and you passing by so close.

Many of our social conventions or acts of chivalry instigate an unwitting power exchange, particularly from a woman’s point of view. It doesn’t matter whether it is opening a door for us or ordering a meal, on some level these things say let us take care/ control of you and in accepting that unwritten invitation, you have just handed over a smidge of your power without any thought about what you might be consenting to. Which does make one wonder why we always shoot you a grateful smile when you do these things for us... maybe we are closer to our simian cousins after all.


Norsehawk said...

You mean I could have been looking down their blouses these last 40 years of opening doors for women? Damn! Guess I've been too much of a gentleman to take advantage or even think of doing that.

(just discovered your blog and am looking through older posts)

Master's piece said...

LOL The world is full of missed opportunities :D

Norsehawk said...

I see it as a nice thing to do. Whoever gets to the door first holds it open for the next few people in line. I've held the door open for women and other men. I've even had women hold the door open for me on occasion. I usually make eye contact so that I know that they are coming, and if I'm thanked it's either 'my pleasure' or 'no problem' If someone happens to hold the door for me, they always get a 'Thank you'

I was raised to be polite, and I don't see it as sexist behavior. Kind of disconcerting that some women see it as such. It just seems incredibly rude to open a door, walk through and let it close in the next person's face.