Final Thought Friday: Is it Sexist or Just Polite?

Is sexism, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder or is it more concrete and sinister? This topic came up bit ago among some of my friends and it really got me thinking.

The basis of the discussion was the holding of doors open for women, and men acting as placeholders in a line or even giving up their place in a line, pulling chairs out from the table and generally deferring to women at all times. Those of us involved all had differing opinions on whether such actions could be construed as sexist or if they are just what polite boys do.

To borrow loosely from the Supreme Court, is sexism is kind of like pornography… I know it when I see it… or is it real?

In my life I:

– am referred to as Mrs. _____ and I RSVP to weddings as Mr. and Mrs. DH’s first and last name
– want doors to be held open for me, hands full or not
– get all giddy when DH opens the car door for me (doesn’t happen often because we don’t go many places one-on-one.)
– have never had men stand for me as I arrived to or departed from a dining table but that’d be pretty neat
– have never had a gentleman tip his hat to me. (but then again, men don’t wear hats anymore. Sigh. Thoughts of a bygone era… and no, baseball hats don’t count.)
– love it when DH thinks to walk on the street side of the sidewalk (although there is debate about this one as people could hide in the alcoves on the non-street side of the sidewalk
– loathe “cat-calls,” “wolf-whistles,” or any other animal like mating call. That’s just wrong.
– am not your “baby,” “sugar,” “hot thang,” “sweetness,” “b*tch,” “wh*re,” etc., etc. But I am a chick. (I don’t know why Iike “chick.”)

I could go on and on, but I got to get to parenting. What I am trying to say is, in my opinion, the idea of sexism is really grey. I don’t think sexism and sexual discrimination are the same thing, mind you, but is sexism definable?
You have thoughts, you know you do! Share them here. I welcome disagreements but you have to be respectful and stand by your statements.

Pax Christi!



Filed under feminism, Friday, life

3 responses to “Final Thought Friday: Is it Sexist or Just Polite?

  1. David

    From my point of view, as a man, I do most of those things. I think it shows how the man honors women. I always open my wife’s car door when we’re together, always hold the door for her, usually hold it for other women, usually defer to let a woman go ahead of me, sometimes stand when a woman leaves the table (we’re not much for social dinners so it doesn’t happen often), usually bow when introduced (not a deep profound bow, just a nod of the head). I don’t think it’s sexist to recognize the better half of society.
    What is sexist is to change the rules of a particular thing to be more inclusive of women. For example, if a woman and a man are competing for a particular job that requires a particular physical strength, both should have the same strength to qualify for the job. An example of this is firefighter. I know that one force requires a man to pull a 300 lb dummy out of a window and descend the ladder with that dummy as part of his job. Women only need to carry 200 lbs. Put this in a real-life situation, and a woman wouldn’t be able to pull the average man out of a burning building. So, to me, sexism is trying to carry equality of the sexes too far. Women are infinitely better at many things, men are infinitely better at other things. But we are all equally human. God bless.

  2. I don’t mind having doors held open for me – but I also like holding doors open for others when it is more convenient that way. I have had men get totally flustered/upset/look at me like I am from outerspace when I try to hold a door open for them in return, and *that* made me feel like it was sexism more than politeness. Similarly, I have had men get upset at me when I politely refused to let them carry my bag or books. That is not politeness, that is sexism. I don’t believe that men and women are fundamentally that different (given how wide intrasex variation in behaviors, strength, etc are) but there are ways to be gentlemen and ladies, and that is to treat everyone around you with respect and care – even if they act in ways you don’t expect.

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