So I work in a museum, and yesterday my position was to accompany people in the elevator from one floor to another and explain to them what their trajectory is.
I spend a long time there and I observe how people act and react since I have nothing better to do. Since this is an elevator I here a lot of 'ladies first', which I haven't made up my mind whether it is sexist or not. But yesterday, the conversation carried on between a little boy of around 9 and his mother. This was the situation:
The father said 'ladies first' and the mother went through along with the daughter and then the son and the father. The son then said 'that's so unfair, why is it that ladies go first?', to which the mother replied 'Listen, did you have to wait in the queue in the men's bathroom?'. He said 'No', and then she said 'There are benefits of being a woman and there are benefits of being a man, get over it.'
Now I'm not really sure what this means. The benefit of the man not having to wait in a queue is a purely physical one, men simply pee faster and have less to do in the bathroom. However, this 'benefit' of the woman, which to be honest I'm not sure is a benefit, is a purely social one. It is society which has basically brought up men to say 'ladies first'.
My question is, what do you think of this conversation? Do you think what the mother said is right? And, is this just a subtle form of sexism?
Of course it's sexism. They say 'ladies first' because that puts men less at risk. It sends women into an unknown room, unknown elevator, unknown car first. If there is trouble the woman is the first to be hurt but they are also shielding the man, allowing men an extra few seconds to evaluate the situation and decide to either run or fight.
But we don't mind. We are brave.
Something long forgotten it seems , There used to be an honor in treating women especially nice , open the door , let her go first , it's called being a gentleman . Today ,like all human behavior in America , there is a new selfishness in younger generations -Sad but true .
OK, but explain to me why should women be treated especially nice? Like why is being a gentleman treating a woman in a slightly more beneficial manner?
Old as the hills as part of a historical heritage of gallantry, an offshoot of the concept of patriarchy. As a former ' officer and gentleman' it was part of code the of conduct. This deferential aspect only appears to be a benefit for a woman living in a male dominated culture. For most women today, if I understand correctly, the concessions and trade offs are not worth the prospect of accepting life in a subordinate status.
Interesting inquiry, thanks.
Yes. But it isn't just ladies. Ladies open doors for old people and people with some physical handicap. When we walk through a door we hold it open for someone coming slowly behind us. It's always difficult to deal with those wondering why we be polite.
Yep. There's a difference between holding the door for anyone simply because we are well educated and out of respect, and holding the door for a girl because she is a girl and saying 'ladies first'.
I've heard that the only thing that separates us from a cockroach is the ability to release gas. I would hope that there is more than that to the human race.
It's s simple fact that men and women are physically different. Noting those differences is not sexism. Acting in response to those differences is not sexism. It is simply accepting reality.
Sexism is discrminating against the opposite sex.
Nothing is harmful about opening the door for a woman because she is a woman. It is simply old-fashioned good manners.
Denying a promotion to a woman because she is a woman is clearly sexist.
But making your husband do the dishes on football Sunday is clearly both sexist and harmful ...
I agree with this. There is nothing inherently wrong with "ladies first." It is a remnant of the cultural idea that men should protect women. As a woman, I believe it is in a good man's nature to want to physically protect women, especially his wife and also his family. Women naturally want to protect men and their families as well, but it has less of a physical component, except when it comes to children.
Just my two cents.
Personally I don't say "ladies first" because 1) I recognize some women may be offended by it due to the connotations; 2) if I referred to any of my female friends as "ladies", I'd get the roasting of all roastings; and 3) I don't only let "ladies" go first.
I often say "after you" and gesture for someone (male or female) to go ahead, because it's a kind gesture. Why should a kind gesture be dependent on biological sex? That doesn't make sense. It's also perfectly fine for a woman to gesture for a man to go first, in my opinion.
Thanks for your comment. The kind gesture is dependent on biological sex because of tradition. As other commenters said, men have always been seen as the one to protect and to take care of the woman. However, we now live in a modern society where this ideology is a little outdated, which is why I am questioning whether the act of 'ladies first' is truly appropriate.
Just like you, I open the door for anyone, regardless of gender and I wouldn't say 'ladies first' for the same reasons you listed.
Traditionally (women) were seen as being "the weaker sex".
They were a step above children and needed to be protected and looked after in much the same way. "Women and children first" is something often heard whenever a disaster is taking place.
Chivalry towards women was very common during the courtship phase of relationships for many generations. Opening doors, pulling back chairs, lifting heavy objects, paying for all dates/outings, giving up one's coat or jacket to protect a woman from weather elements, avoiding certain topics in the presence of women that may have been deemed to complicated or sophisticated for them to comprehend. (Business and politics...etc)
it dates back to the days of knighthood and the codes of chivalry.
One of the codes:
"To respect the honour of women."
http://www.lordsandladies.org/knights-c … ivalry.htm
However during the 60s and 70s many women begin to view chivalry as a form of sexism. They didn't want to be seen as the "little lady" but rather as complete "equals" to men in every way possible.
The phrase: "I don't need a man" became in vogue and the detested "Cinderella Complex" was frequently discussed in negative terms.
Lastly some women view men who display chivalry acts as their way of making the women feel "obligated" to them or it makes these men feel "entitled". In fact many women swear by going "Dutch Treat" on first dates rather than allow the man to pick up the tab because they don't want the man to "get any ideas".
Chivalry began to be viewed with suspicion consisting of ulterior motives.
Just about every man today can regal stories of opening doors for women without them acknowledging the gesture with a simple "thank you".
Kindness these days is reserved mainly for those they're romantically interested in. Many women choose to avoid making eye contact and smiling so that men won't hit on them.
That's true, I hadn't thought of that. Some acts of chivalry could sometimes send the wrong message. It has happened to me that the guy (feeling obligated by society to have good manners) payed for the restaurant bill, but then because of that they felt entitled to something more (another date, a kiss, etc).
I think that sometimes this could be a problem, because the girl doesn't want to 'owe' anything to the guy for simply being a gentleman. The problem is that when the men expecting something in return don't receive anything they feel like the girl is taking advantage of them. So whose fault is it? The man for expecting something? The girl for not returning the favor? Or society?
Interesting comment, thank you.
Your question is a chilling, (at least to me), indicator of the state of our society. And the lady in your story did her son a disservice with her answer.
Most recently we, (generically), engaged in a national discussion of which bathroom we should use, and now we have a young(ish) female questioning the validity of courtesy, respect, and politeness. Geesh!
My thoughts on what is behind the motive for "ladies first," "holding a chair or door for a woman," and a willingness to protect a woman - before a man, is simply respect.
So now we are apparently at a point where offering respect and courtesy are reasons for condemnation and criticism. Sexism my butt! It's lunacy.
"Lady" is a term of respect for me, and every woman automatically gets that respect, (from me), until she proves, (again, to me), that she does not deserve it, or that she does not want to be called one.
If you are looking for the "why" of it, then you would not understand the answer.
If I may interject GA, I think the young lady made it apparent the value of courtesy and respect when she said the following:
There's a difference between holding the door for anyone simply because we are well educated and out of respect, and holding the door for a girl because she is a girl and saying 'ladies first'.
The question she is asking is why is this respect primarily directed at women, as opposed to anyone, regardless of gender? I think the answer is more complicated than it appears.
As a small aside, in Canada we tend to hold the door for anyone behind us as a sign of courtesy, regardless of gender. It's a nice practice but it opens up the opportunity for some social faux pas - some people feel pressured to hurry through the door as to not keep the door holder waiting, and other times the door holder ends up holding the door for dozens of people. Ironically, a simple gesture of courtesy and making people's lives easier often adds unnecessary difficulty to the situation.
Glad to have you jump in Mr Popo, the water is fine and yet unmuddied,
I think I answered her question as asked. Which I still take to be as you quoted. Although I don't think education level should be a valid qualifier.
Here in the U.S. we also do as you say Canadians do - hold the door for anyone as a courtesy. We also suffer some of the same consequences you mention. Courtesy isn't a national attribute, but a social one. By my opinion of course.
I think I see the "respect" part of these exchanges as nuanced. Perhaps it could be said that courtesy is motivated by "respect" for another human, but I would qualify that. When I hold the door for someone it is due to a social courtesy, not necessarily a respect for that human being. I would hold the door for a thug the same as I would for a saint. When I hold a door for a woman, I am doing it out of more than courtesy and respect for her as a human being. I am consciously doing it out of respect for her gender. Whether that is good or bad, or a case of splitting hairs, I do see a difference. As illustrated by her question, apparently the OP does too.
Hence the meat of my answer to her. Men of my perspective do it out of respect for gender. Men of my perspective hold their value, strength, and contributions to our lives as worthy of automatic respect. Men of my perspective do put women on a pedestal. They may not want to be there, and they are welcome to climb down, (and still be respected), or they may prove to be unworthy of that respect and fall off, but until they do I will continue to hold that view. And I continue to hold that the answer to her question of motive is respect for gender.
I also still hold that if that explanation is needed, then the seeker will not understand it.
I always thought "well-educated" was synonymous with "well mannered," though oddly I can't find any evidence that supports that notion in English. In Portuguese we say well-educated to mean someone with good manners, regardless of whether that person has been formally educated. Language is a weird thing.
I agree that it isn't a national attribute, though it's quite funny to see Canadians stereotyped as being polite to a fault - I think we tend to do this more than other countries. But I didn't mean to imply that Canadians are courteous because they're Canadian. I just don't have as much experience to speak on the social customs of other countries.
Regarding respect of gender, I understand why you respect women for their gender. The followup question that I'd ask (and I imagine the OP would too) is why this respect is also not extended to men for their gender, given that men were and are involved in protecting and providing as well as child rearing. I have an idea but I'm always looking for other viewpoints that can better explain it. I hope asking that why doesn't preclude me from understanding.
Are you asking why men don't automatically respect men for their gender too? If so, then I think extrapolation of my original response should answer that also.
Text communications are unable to properly convey the tone and inflection that play such a large part in discussions, so I feel the need too explain that this response is intended to be respectful of you and your effort, as shown in the depth and quality of your initial response above, but I feel the answer to the OP should be obvious to any but those that want to refute it.
I am sure that this topic would be an enjoyable exchange to those that wish to delve into, and banter about, the psychological aspects of the "why," but I am not one of them.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it. :-)
Generally we as humans are protective of women. The reason why this has been promoted in our species can be partially explained by customs like chilvary and traditionalism, but that doesn't explain how those notions came about.
I think it boils down to eggs being a limiting factor in reproduction relative to sperm, as well as women being the carriers of our lengthy human gestations. Or to put it simply: sperm is cheap, eggs are expensive. A tribe would only need one man to impregnate hundreds of women in a short period of time, whereas one woman can only have one pregnancy every 9 months. The tribes and societies that prioritized the safety of women had more reproductive success than those that prioritized the safety of men, or even those that had no preference, simply because they would have more of that limiting reproductive factor. That tendency to protect women would be carried down to the majority of future human societies.
Obviously, not all forms of protection are the same. Some are beneficial and mutualistic and some are oppressive - depending on who you ask, chivalry and traditionalism may be one or the other. In general there's an inverse relationship between freedom and safety. In the harshest conditions you will see freedoms sacrificed for safety. Women can be disproportionately affected by this reality because we as a species are especially concerned with their safety.
Men, on the other hand, are seen as disposable across most human societies. I'm reminded of a quote by Hillary Clinton:
Women have always been the primary victims of war. Women lose their husbands, their fathers, their sons in combat.
Here she inadvertently demonstrates male expendability by showcasing women as the primary victims of male deaths.
The mother in your story is technically right - there are benefits of being a woman and there are benefits of being a man. But Western societies are one of the safest and most egalitarian societies in human history. There's no real need to discriminate between the genders, whether it's a minor vestigial annoyance like "ladies first" or a more serious discrimination like male conscription. Since this gender dynamic is something that's deeply ingrained in humans, it's not going to go away anytime soon. Heck, I don't think most people notice it even exists.
Wow, absolutely loved your answer, very true. Although I know the act of 'ladies first' is purely a traditional one, I think it's still important to look into why it people do it. Just because it has always been done it does not mean it's right or appropriate. This act is so engrained in our society that when someone questions it everyone retorts saying 'us women' are ungrateful and we should just accept this gesture of being a gentleman. All I am doing is questioning it, not determining whether it's right or wrong.
I hadn't thought about the whole sperm vs egg and I think it's interesting how something so biological appears in both mens' and womens' behaviors.
Thanks for your comment!
Hello again Mr Popo, I see your above explanation as well-stated proof, (I agree with your points), of my contention that if it was needed, then it won't be understood. Seldom is there a gain to stating the obvious, and I see your explanation as the obvious. I can already hear the "why" coming from one that needed that explanation.
Which brings me back to the "chilling" part of my original response. That what I view as simply obvious now has to be explained, falls right in line with the testament that we need to have a discussion of bathrooms portrays as the state of our society.
I'm surprised that you find it an obvious explanation. It took me a long time to get a better grasp on this dynamic, and most of my peers aren't aware of it at all. I was born in the early 90s though, so presumably there's been a generational gap of this information. Would that be the chilling effect you were alluding to?
As for the "why" I suppose that depends on what "why" they're looking for. Why this came about in humans and other animals can probably be pinpointed on the first eukaryote that injected DNA into another eukaryote. Another why is why this dynamic merits women respect for their gender, but does not merit men respect for their gender (given that men played and still play a role of protector and provider). I think both of those "whys" are valid questions to ask.
If the why is something like "why is life not fair" then I see what you mean. The OP didn't give me that vibe though.
Oh my, I did not really want to be right about my "chilling" concerns, but your first paragraph tells me that my concerns may be valid.
From my perspective, you are telling me that as the most recent adult generation, (you, and under 30), you had to make an effort to understand something my generation understood as only natural, and without need of explanation.
The fact that you find interest in exploring the minutia of the reasons, that I find so obvious, seems to confirm that my perspective is not common among you young folks. And I do not see that as a good thing.
My view is that the reasons for courtesy and respect, and yes chivalry, should not have to be explained to anyone beyond the age of five or six-year olds. That is not intended as a knock on you, but as a condemnation of society's evolving values.
As a further note, it just occurred to me go back and take a look at Thyscribbler, the OP. She also appears to be of your generation. We may already be where I feared we were headed.
My concerns are that we are not discussing something so evolutionary as changing moral values, ie. today's generation's ease of acceptance of LGBT folks vs. my generations struggle to reach that same acceptance, but of things so basic to human society that any changes should only be refinements, not evolutionary changes.
While I see what you're getting at, I don't think it's fair to say we're 'headed in the wrong direction'. I think it's always important to question everything, whether it may seem obvious or not (think of Descartes), and there is nothing better than discussing and exchanging points of view. To you something good may be not considered as such to other generations, and that does not mean we are necessarily the 'wrong' ones.
First, I don't think I am wrong. I do think the loss I spoke of to Mr Popo is bad for our society.
I also think the rest of my responses to Mr Popo are valid to this discussion and are in line with what you refer to as the thoughts of Descartes. I do not think his thoughts on the matter of questioning are pertinent to the basic nature of this thread's topic. Do you think Descartes would question the wrongness of murder or adultery? His musings concerned the ridiculousness of the traits of social ambition and interaction, and the failings of human nature. Neither of which do I see as pertinent to this topic.
For me, the topic's premise as expressed by you and Mr. Popo are outside his philosophies. You may disagree with that of course, but I think a couple more decades of life experience will show that my perspective is correct.
I did not say you were the "wrong ones," I said your lack of understanding of the basics discussed were an indicator of what I view as the wrongness of our current society's mores. Descartes might argue with the way that we determined 2+2=4, or even our need to believe 2+2=4, but I don't think he would argue with the truth that 2+2 does in fact equal 4.
Consider that although he is famous for his thought that the only thing he could know for sure was that he existed, he also admitted that he lived by certain moral maxims and guiding principles.
A truth I have no problem equating with the truth that courtesy and respect are basic to societal function. And that a generation that has to discover that is a generation that has lost an important value.
I might have phrased it poorly but I never indicated that courtesy and respect are not basic to societal function, and as far as I can tell neither has the OP. If that's what you're concerned about then you can be at ease (most of my peers understand that as well). What we are questioning is the merit of giving respect specifically to women purely because they're women. That this is within the umbrella of "respect and courtesy" doesn't mean we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
To clarify, my investigation was not on the merits of respect and courtesy. My investigation was on the disparities between treatment of the genders, some which adversely affect men and some which adversely affect women. A very minor part of that investigation tackled gendered politeness like "ladies first."
It appears my phrasing must have been poorly considered also, because I did not mean to infer that you two thought that either. My point wasn't that you were wrong, it was about the apparent need to understand the "why" of my generation's automatic respect for women.
Oh I understand that you weren't accusing us of being wrong - we're only asking questions after all - but I wanted to make it clear that my generation understands the benefits of having a base level of mutual respect and courtesy. It's not a lost truth that needs to be rediscovered. We just don't understand the benefits of respecting people based on superficial traits like gender.
If most people in my generation aren't given or don't discover a suitable explanation, the natural conclusion will be that we don't need to respect people based on gender. We've kind of seen this played out in this thread but it's most telling in this Quora question I found: https://www.quora.com/Why-should-I-respect-women . Note that the top answer by a long shot (and written by someone who happens to be a woman) is "We shouldn't. Respect humanity instead." Also note that few people even attempt to tackle the "why."
However, if you're correct that any seeker of the explanation will not be able to understand it...then that information will inevitably be lost over time.
That being said, I appreciate your thoughtfulness and respect in this discussion.
Oh no! I need a soapy face cloth to get this egg off of my face.
"Do you think Descartes would question the wrongness of murder or adultery? His musings concerned the ridiculousness of the traits of social ambition and interaction, and the failings of human nature. "
My eyes popped open from a sound sleep last night and I realized I had mixed Voltaire in with those thoughts on Descartes. Maybe I can blame it on that last martini.
Yes, very good points. Kudos for strong logic.
It's is not that men pee faster, there are more stall in the men's bathroom and urinals. That's why never see a line as big as at the female line. Beside, they have pantyhose and that's a major time is pulling that all back up again.
Sometime huge line of woman and empty men's room .
I say let the feminist's be angry , I have opened and held doors for an absolutely rude response before and simply laugh it off , mostly younger educated women , but mostly it is a mans duty to be a man in spite of the occasional "look ". For the most part there is a smile and a thank you , well worth the effort . Many a woman has actually returned the favor . And something silently pleasant and mature passes between those in this situation ,those who understand the mans duty and manners .
I should think many men should try it just for the occasional smile . No one has ever said "no thank you , I'll open my own "!
It comes down to the natural order of things. Males are generally yang and females, yin. Females usually prefer long hair and dresses and make the effort to be pretty/beautiful. In the days of knights, princes and princesses, etc. there was more romance between the sexes as yang sought the balance of yin and vice versa. Today women have become way yang. They have lost a certain amount of gentleness of character and don't graciously submit to the natural dominance of men. Traditionally, men felt the responsibility to be a powerful force for the sake of being able to defend nation, women and children. It gave them a sense of self-worth. It is still a very prevalent concern, but I do not think women are conscious or appreciative of it today. Perhaps in their own quest for power / equality women rob men of the joy of being *gallant. Have they become *cavalier, arrogant and disregarding of men, I wonder?
cavalier: showing a lack of proper concern; offhand:
1 brave, courageous, valiant, valorous, bold, plucky, daring, fearless, intrepid, heroic, lionhearted, stouthearted, doughty, mettlesome, dauntless, undaunted, unflinching, unafraid; gutsy, spunky.
2 chivalrous, princely, gentlemanly, honorable, courteous, polite, mannerly, attentive, respectful, gracious, considerate, thoughtful.
"Just about every man today can regal stories of opening doors for women without them acknowledging the gesture with a simple 'thank you'"
And yet men do (continue) to show common courtesy toward women as a matter of course.
(As they have been doing all along.)
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