October 27, 2005

Gentlemanliness and whether it has a place nowadays

My lovely boyfriend always makes a point of walking on the outside of me when we're strolling along any pavement – something about stopping me getting splashed by puddles when cars go past and other such honourable intentions.

However, I have recently noticed that many other men choose to force me to leave the pavement when they walk by me and to walk through a doorway before I do instead of holding it open for me.

Have men begun to shun the gentlemanly behaviour that has been ingrained in our society for generations? And if this is true some, I am sure, would justify this by saying that if women want equality they should no longer expect to be as 'the fairer sex'. But equally we are inherently weaker and thus should we expect to be protected in this way? Or is it insulting if we want to be treated as equals? I personally get irritated (something Justin knows very well) if a man doesn't play to his best against me in sport just because I'm a girl .

Does gentlemanly behaviour have a place in modern society?


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  1. Yes it does. Or at least it should do.

    Well, it's more just common politeness really-I was always brought up to hold open doors for people and wait for others to go past.

    And the problem is of course, if you're in that situation, who should go first? If there was an older man, I would open the door/wait etc, because he was older. But then he would do the same for me because I'm female. So you get a kind of "you gor first", "no you go first,really" situation. Tis a tricky point.

    I think there's a lot to be said for gentlemanliness- men should be men. Go back 100 years and the men were in control, they had confidence etc. Now women have started to take some of the control and it's left us (and particularly our generation, since we've gone up in the more or less equal society that our parents haven't necessarily had).

    Maybe this is why women go out with arrogant/selfish/wankertype men. It's because they have that kind of confidence.

    Justin is lovely though-it's kind of ingrained thoughtfulness. Bless.
    ax

    27 Oct 2005, 10:23

  2. Hmm I think I left out a bit there. Oh for an 'edit my comments' tool!!

    it's left us up s*** creek somewhat bereft of an etiquette guide.

    27 Oct 2005, 10:24

  3. I agree. Gentlemanliness (is that a word – I like it) should definitely still exist. Hotline (the Virgin Trains mag) has an article in it at the moment about how "the chap" is back in fashion. In fact the whole article just reminds me of Andy, but there you go…

    I think the other thing to consider is when men step aside for women to let them through etc, the women tend not to respond – probably because they haven't noticed that anything is actually happening.

    If a man let's me go first, or compliments me in the street, or whatever, I make a point of smiling nicely, and saying "thank you very much". Then they will do it again.

    I am what my mother would call an anti-feminist. It's all fab being able to do stuff yourself (change a tyre, lug heavy stuff around) but hell – if there's a man around, he can bloody well do it!

    xx

    27 Oct 2005, 10:30

  4. Oh thank god. I'm not the only one!!

    I do have feminist tendencies- but they only tend to come out around complete plonkers.

    I have to say, it's really nice when someone opens the door for you-provided they don't make a big thing of it.

    And you're right. Gentlemanliness is a good word. It has so many ways of looking at it

    Gentle-manliness -rrrr…. Sounds like a huggable big strong man type

    and

    Gentlemanliness.. a trait not often seen in this day and age.

    I wonder how many chavs are gentlemanly?

    27 Oct 2005, 10:35

  5. Gentlemanly behaviour does – and of course should – persist in some of us, y'know. I don't think it takes any particular confidence to be the type of person who ignores social niceties like holding doors, just a mild amount of selfishness and a lack of consideration for anyone else in society. (Hence also problems of graffiti, litter, minor insurance fraud, grumble grumble…).

    The trouble is that we 'gentlemen' often don't find it appreciated enough – back to common politeness on the part of ladies/old people/etc.? Perhaps some do feel patronised by such actions, but if they do they're in the minority and I've never found anybody to feel "threatened" enough to respond aggressively.

    Sarah: good for Justin! If you're not near any roads, convention says he should always walk on your right, to keep his sword arm free to protect you.

    27 Oct 2005, 10:44

  6. Unfortunately gentlemanliness is apparently not a word. Hurumph. Should be though.

    Simon: I have to say I don't think I've noticed whether Justin stands on my right away from roads, though I'll make sure I mention it to him!

    27 Oct 2005, 11:15

  7. Yay for people who appreciate gentlemanliness! I find that a lot of girls I know don't particularly appreciate it, which is sad and probably why it's in decline so much. In fact, gentlemanly behaviour is often frowned upon by many women in my experience. This I do not understand.

    27 Oct 2005, 11:21

  8. I was brought up from an early age to get out of people's way etc, hold open doors, let others go first. It lead to me holding doors for minutes at a time, particularly when I was a nipper. I remember saying to my mum in a reedy 4 year old voice that some people hadn't said thank you.

    I still do it now and find more often than not that a good number of people don't even acknowledge you/one/me let alone say thank you. I also have a problem (have had for a number of years) about people not giving up pavement space. I normally get out of the way for others, but when there are 3 or 4 tiny people (usually women) taking up the whole pavement, why should I go in the road/on the grass? Selfish perhaps, but a little respect wouldn't go amiss. Perhaps it's assumed that I won't give any out. A pre-emptive dis-respect perhaps.
    I can't comment on my other gentlemanliness or lack of it. I've ranted enough, and not terribly well.

    27 Oct 2005, 11:26

  9. Matt Gilbert

    Someone once said, "the definition of a gentleman is someone who knows how to play a brass instrument but doesn't.

    27 Oct 2005, 15:39

  10. Indeed, Matt, a consideration of particular significance to me since moving to the bass clarinet section of Wind Orch!

    I think maybe there's a fine line between showing respect for a woman and making her feel like you're inferring she is incapable of doing something herself, and this probably differs from person to person. God, we women are annoying!

    27 Oct 2005, 16:05

  11. Yes, sometimes I do wonder how men put up with us.

    Not listening, and the fact that we have breasts may have something to do with it.

    27 Oct 2005, 16:33

  12. *chuckles at Anna*
    As a gentleman, I can neither confirm nor deny…

    27 Oct 2005, 16:51

  13. OK. I haven't had a chance to read the large conversation above, so I don't know what conclusions, if any, you've all come to. But all I can say, is that 'gentlemanly behaviour' may not have a place in our modern society, bearing in mind it is a throwback to a time when women were considered vastly inferior, did not have the vote, possibly could not own property, or work (this does, of course, depend on when you think such behaviour originates from…)

    so maybe we should get rid of it as a reminder of our past suppression?

    28 Oct 2005, 08:41

  14. Why though? From what I read here, women like to be treated like ladies, and I most certainly enjoy behaving more like a gentleman. Gentlemanliness isn't about oppression, it's about good manners and respect and proper treatment of other people. I think it's sad that so many seem to have confused manners with past oppression and want to do away with the lot, because the result in my opinion is a much less civilised and more unpleasant way of life.

    28 Oct 2005, 09:20

  15. Zoe, I wasn't aware that the natural conclusion to emancipation is selfishness!

    I hold doors open for ladies. I do the same for children (some of them anyway), elderly people, people with heavy bags, ill people, even grown men who are clearly more able than I am to open a door. It's a simple mark of politeness and respect, part and parcel of gentlemanliness (and indeed of citizenship). If that reminds you of "[your] past oppression" (how recently past it must be for you to personally be reminded of it so strongly!) then sorry, but I'll continue to do so for everybody else.

    As Siggy says, throwing out manners for being anachronistic seems to miss the point.

    28 Oct 2005, 10:28

  16. Simon, Well said. Better than what I was going to write.

    But I will add this: ZoŽ, if it is your wish I shall make every effort to let doors close on you so that you can feel more valued as a woman in modern society.

    28 Oct 2005, 12:26

  17. oh dearie me. Let me explain…

    Sometimes 'gentlemanly hehaviour' annoys me because it makes me feel self-conscious if I think it's only being done because of my sex. That doesn't mean that I find the actions abhorrent in themselves. I too am, I would say, a polite person – I hold doors open for people all the time. I suppose my point is more that it shouldn't be done only by men for women, which as you have shown above is often not the case. Politeness should be a cornerstone of our society.

    And guys, please don't let doors slam in my face! :(

    28 Oct 2005, 15:04

  18. Well, OK then!

    That said, you raise an interesting point, to an extent – where do you draw the line between an action being politeness vs. being performed "just because of your sex"? We all interact differently with every single person we meet, and that has to be governed to some extent by appearances and preconceptions (a.k.a. prejudices). The alternative is spending the first five minutes of any encounter establishing the ground rules (e.g. going into a shop – you assume the person behind the till works there, is trustworthy, speaks reasonable English, can use the till, wants to handle your transaction, won't start trying to sell you a trip into space,...).

    I know that, when I'm driving, I'm more likely to let somebody out of a junction or walk across the road if she's an attractive lady. It doesn't (sadly) make her any more likely to throw herself at my feet, but my action isn't motivated by oppression or patronisation; it's just courtesy boosted by a bit of human nature.

    28 Oct 2005, 15:28

  19. Hmm. All very interesting.

    Zoe – I'm quite surprised…That said, you do read the Grauniad, so perhaps it's not surprising to find an element of feminism in you :P

    I love the fact that doors get held open for me because I'm a woman. I love it when guys are blatently doing something just because I'm an alright looking blonde woman with big boobs – celebrate your femininity by letting everyone else enjoy it!

    Here endeth the lesson.

    xx

    PS - maybe we've stumbled on another fundamental difference between different ends of the political spectrum?

    28 Oct 2005, 18:12

  20. The aforementioned Justin

    I can remember one time when I was about 15 or so and was out in town with a few friends of a similar age when I held a door open for an old lady. She looked up at me and jumped when she recognised that I was a "youth" and I was meant to be rude and out graffiti-ing the car park or something. I just remember that making me laugh for the rest of the day.

    28 Oct 2005, 23:29

  21. I think age does come into it a lot.

    Have you seen that advert for 'Standard life' (I think it's that anyway) where a woman's trying to open a car door with a box in her hand, and a group of young guys walk past and one of them bumps into her, knocking her purse off the box?

    When I saw it I thought it was going to be a police advert about keeping your valuables safe, but it isn't. I have to say (and I'm sure it's very prejudiced of me) I automatically distrust large groups of young people (heheh I just typed young groups of large people!) (when I say young I mean 13–18 year olds)-partly because I remember what it was like to be that age, and I know that quite often they do things to obtain status in the eyes of their peers etc and I can see why to an old person, that might be really quite frightening.

    I think when you get to our sorts of ages-and especially in a university population where people tend to be more socially aware, you realise the importance of polite behaviour-to everyone, irrespective of sex, colour, position etc.. After all, by that age, most of us have worked in shops/offices/jobs where people have been rude to us, so we become aware of it in ourselves. I am very concious of trying to be as friendly as I can be to shop assistants/receptionists etc.

    The thing is, that, to me is just common politeness. It's the way I was brought up and I apply it to everyone-although occasionally I have been known to be day dreaming and inadvertantly let a door go.

    Gentlemanliness can be different-and I can see what Zoe says-there's a difference between doing something for someone because, well, it's just nice to do, and doing it with the attitude of 'because you're too weak/fragile to do it for yourself'. I don't envy you men, it's a fine line to tread-as a general if you smile at women in a friendly non-leacherous way (i.e. not at breasts) then they won't object in the same way. And never go out of your way to impose gentlemanliness on someone :)

    29 Oct 2005, 20:07


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