A Guide to Avoiding Benevolent Sexism and Opening Doors for Women

What Women Really Think
Aug. 8 2014 2:34 PM

A Guide to Avoiding Benevolent Sexism

Seems OK.

Photo by Golden Pixels LLC/Shutterstock

Gene Simmons, a man who became famous by painting his face and sticking his tongue out over loud bubblegum rock, is concerned about the decline of chivalry. During his stint as the male guest on the Fox News show Outnumbered, Simmons and the female hosts discussed research on the impacts of benevolent sexism—basically, the practice of treating women like they're helpless and need coddling—and Simmons made an impassioned argument against all those scary feminists who won't let men open doors for them. Transcription courtesy of Callie Beausman of Jezebel:

If opening the door means you get special treatment, we want to treat you special. We want to treat you like the princesses you are. ... If anything, if you were a princess, EVERYBODY would open doors for you! You'd walk through, and — I don't want to do the joke, but — [puts on falsetto voice, waves hand like beauty queen], "We are arriving!" You'd want all the doors to open, and why not?
You know, if you take a look at history, you've been treated badly, you haven't had equal job opportunities, for God's sake, the vote hasn't been yours for that many years in the first place! Why not open the doors?

The woman who angrily dresses down a man for daring to open the door for her is the Bigfoot of feminism. Still, it's hard for some guys to figure out how to treat women these days with their heads full of liberation. As a nonmythical feminist, I'm here to help them with a few simple dos and don'ts when dealing with the frightening modern woman. Not to step on my colleague Troy's toes too much, but here's a gentleman's guide to navigating modern manners in the age of feminism. 

Do open the door if you are the first one to reach it, making sure to hold it open for anyone behind you to pass through, including men, women, and any domestic animals allowed on the premise. 

Don't mow over a woman in a rush to beat her to the door in a bid to open it first. Remember this basic rule of thumb: First to the door opens the door. You can usually tell you're first because the door is closed and there are no people between you and the door.

Do hold out your hand for shaking upon being introduced to a woman. "Nice to meet you," is a helpful addition.

Don’t tip your hat, bow, or call her “m’lady.”

Do try to open a jar if your wife or any other person in your vicinity passes it to you and asks you if you can get the damn thing open.

Don't cling to the jar, tugging endlessly at its lid if it refuses to open for you too. Give it three good tries, and if it doesn't open, run it under some hot water. That usually does the trick.

Do step back slightly to let people off the elevator if it's not your floor yet. 

Don't make a fuss over letting the women off first and then the men. The door is only open for a few seconds, so efficiency is key here. 

Do help anyone who has a large coat or many personal effects to arrange as they settle into a dinner chair, especially if you are not so encumbered.

Don't order for women. "The lady will have" are words that should only come out of your mouth if she happens to be in the bathroom when the waiter comes and she asked you to order for her. 

Do call her by her name. If you don’t know her name, "ma’am" is acceptable.

Don’t call her “princess.” (Exception: Between consenting adults in the privacy of your own bedroom, emphasis on consenting. Never, ever spring “princess” on an unsuspecting woman. Other exception: If you are talking to an actual princess.)

Overall, apply common sense to everyday situations. Try not to make every interaction some kind of grand statement about the proper roles of men and women. Just, you know, be helpful. 

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.


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