Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

Women Opening Doors for Men

Men with mothers who taught them manners reflexively open doors for women. It is a courtesy intended to reflect respect.

But what is signified when a women opens a door for a man? Peter Sagal quoted a source on his weekly NPR radio show claiming that simple courtesy equates to social castration for the male, stripping him of his power and dominion over the woman. Really? Women open doors, physical and otherwise, for men all the time.

man-opening-door-woman-shockedThe website, “The Art of Manliness,” carries a post called “The Ins and Outs of Opening a Door for a Woman.” The authors, Brett and Kaye McKay, concede some women dislike having doors opened for them. Kaye McKay warns this could be a “red flag” signaling a woman lacking the self-confidence to accept a courtesy or about her own sense of independence.

The McKays note many men forgo the courtesy on the logic that if women want to be independent, then they don’t deserve any special treatment. They call this wrong-headed thinking. “Yes, you open doors for a woman,” they write, “but your woman probably does special things for you. If she doesn’t, then that’s the problem, not chivalry.”

Which brings us back to the question of the social significance of a woman opening a door for a man. My casual research produced far less material on this question than the accepted techniques of gentlemen assisting ladies through the exit doors of the shopping mall or into the family van.

What does it say about a man who would feel “socially castrated” by having his door opened by a female fellow worker? Nothing too positive.

Style: "Mad Men"January Jones (Betty Draper) and Don Draper (Jon Hamm)Since when did opening a car door reflect having dominion over a helpless female who climbed into the vehicle? Okay, other than on Mad Men?

In addition to being coached by my mother to open doors for women, I took the responsibility on as a coordination drill.

  • Could I get the door unlocked?
  • Could I open the door without smacking into the car parked too closely next to me?
  • Could I help a woman into the car without spilling anything on her?
  • Could I close the door without slamming it on her foot or snaring her handbag strap?

Striving to avoid being a klutz is what has kept me motivated to remain courteous.

The Art of Manliness says it is manly to open a door for “a dude.” “It’s an act of common courtesy that you can show to any person, whether they be man or woman.”

The website also encourages extending the courtesy of opening a door to elderly and physically handicapped persons or to someone juggling an armful of packages.

This suggests the act of opening a door for someone is really just a nice thing to do, regardless of who opens for whom. There is no social messaging tucked into the armrest. A woman’s courtesy should be appreciated as much as a man’s.

And if a woman picks up the tab for dinner, don’t complain. It may not say anything about you or even about courtesy. She may just be trying to rack up credit card points for a trip to Hawaii.


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