In response to James Paxson’s “An outdated culture”

Hi James,

I read your article and it really spoke to me. You’re right – “chivalry” is dead, and unfortunately for women, it’s been replaced by an “I’m-a-nice-guy” culture, which is pretty much just a more nuanced form of misogyny. Your entire piece reads like a plea for the thanks you deserve for being a decent person and treating women with so-called “respect.” Your generalizations are inaccurate and hurtful. You present your opinions as if they are absolute facts, which is inherently disrespectful towards women. On behalf of all women, I apologize that your interactions with our gender have disenchanted you. Your omnipresent knowledge about how we react in social situations is quite impressive – But, to be frank, it’s wrong.

Your protesting that, “if women keep complaining that chivalry is dead, men will eventually not even wear pants in public,” is what, a threat? This line seems to say that, “if women do not behave towards me the way I expect and deserve for them to behave, I will cease being a decent person.” That sentiment is not exactly bursting at the seams with respect for women and their choices.

You repeatedly claim that men are just trying to be “polite.” People who are genuinely well-mannered and kind do not do things expecting a thank you. You say that, “polite gentlemen” do things like “opening doors” and “paying for dinner.” Guess what! Women open doors for others and pay for dinner as well. It’s called common courtesy.

Your idea of chivalry is an outdated concept – chivalry has evolved into a standard for  being a thoughtful person, regardless of gender. The two places in your article where you almost say something positive about how women are immediately followed by a “but.” Has anybody ever complained about men being “too independent”? When you say, “men respect everything women do,” does this include respecting our choice not to pat you on the back for gestures that are common courtesy?

You say that “gentlemen” are a dying breed – good. Let them die off. Women everywhere would breathe a sigh of relief if we no longer have to deal with men who force us into situations where we either have to say thank you or risk facing verbal assaults and degradation. I assure you I’m not the only woman who has been the recipient of unsolicited compliments, followed by scorn when I choose not to engage. This sort of “I’m-just-trying-to-do-a-nice-thing-but-women-are-so-ungrateful” thinking is very problematic. Women do not owe men anything. Not a thank you, not a smile, nothing. If this discourages some men from doing “nice things,” so be it, because it will make it easier for us to distinguish sincere gestures from kindness with a price.

My favorite line in your entire article is, “Polite men are just trying to be nice, but women seem to be becoming too independent.” This statement is very revealing of the attitude towards women shared by self-identified “nice guys” – strong women who are fighting for equality are threatening. Tacking on the phrase “too” shows that you believe there should be limits placed upon a woman’s independence in order to ensure your own comfort.

Then you move onto your “example.” You claim that when a man pulls a chair out for a woman, there are only two possible outcomes. I’m not sure who you’ve been consulting for these statements, but I encourage you to broaden your experiences before reducing us to two behaviors. One of the most disturbing things about your article is how you seem nostalgic about a period of time when women were submissive – and a period of time you did not experience yourself. You reference what happened in the “olden days” and compare it to modern times almost mournfully.

You claim that, “Men do not perform gestures such as holding doors and pulling out chairs because of the joy in them; they do it to be respectful.” If you don’t find joy in doing something kind, don’t do it at all.

It’s really a shame that feminism is seen as an obstacle by some men. It’s wonderful that we live in a society where women can vote and get jobs, but we still have a long way to go until women and men are truly equals. Though many men may argue that inequality has been eradicated, it’s actually only become subtle and disguised. Sure, I understand that it can be frustrating when you aren’t receiving the gratitude and appreciation you feel entitled to. However, I must remind you that women are not indebted to men for practicing basic civility.

As a side note, do you actually believe that your clearly staged photo validates your point?

The purpose of this response is to inspire some self-reflection and hopefully get you to question your own attitudes and beliefs towards women. It takes a very strong person to challenge their own beliefs and employ empathy towards another person, and I’m hoping you’ll find the strength to do this rather than writing me off as some other woman who has “killed chivalry.”

The title of your article is “An outdated culture,” but the true outdated culture is that of narrow-minded, elitist men expecting to be thanked for being “nice.” I wish you well on your journey into modern times.

– Ashley Dingel

Advertisements