I had one of those should-have-said moments earlier this week, when you have the perfect opportunity to say something clever in a confronting situation only to say nothing and then spend the next 48 hours agonising over what you should have said.
Here’s what happened. A man, who I estimated to be in his early 30s, was walking a few metres in front of me in a communal area of my office building. We occasionally see each other around, smile and exchange a few words, but that’s it. Anyway, as he pushed open a door we were clearly both about to walk through, he turned to me and said, “I would hold it open for you, but I’m pretty sure that makes me a bad feminist or something,” followed by a (deservedly) awkward laugh. I bit my tongue, smiled equally awkwardly and walked in behind him.
I get it, mate. It’s 2018. Being a man is hard, right? You don’t know what you can or can’t do or say without getting yourself in trouble, and you recently read somewhere that even chivalry is sexist now. So what’s a well-meaning guy in his “FEMINIST AF” T-shirt to do?
Start by holding doors open for whomever is behind you, female, male or otherwise. It’s just good manners. Acknowledge that women do not need you to open doors or lift luggage for us—we can do that perfectly well on our own thank you very much—but if you see someone carrying a heavy load who may need a hand opening that door, or struggling to lift their luggage, then offer to help. Understand that you can be chivalrous by supporting women, not protecting them (Runjhun Noopur explains this idea well here).
Whatever you do, make sure that you are doing it out of respect for women, not in a patronising manner. And before you offer to help a woman with a task, ask yourself if you would offer a man the same help. Because despite its history, chivalry is not and should not be gender specific.
That’s what I would have said.Support Villainesse