By Sam Burnham
I've noticed a buzz of late on the interwebs. There seems to be a storm around several instances of women taking offense to encountering one of the most basic acts of gentlemanly chivalry - men holding the door for them. Each case has had one complaint or another that attempted to justify the indignation that this simple act of good manners incited. If elephant there needs to be a decent and honest explanation of the action and the intentions behind it to give a correct rebuttal of the complaints.
Let me begin the rebuttal with some commentary on the state of men in modern America. I believe there is much justification in the feminist narrative on "rape culture". It does not require of us much investigation to find instances in the news of sexual assault, domestic violence, sexual harassment, objectification, body shaming, etc. 100 years ago a "gentlemen's club" was a place where gentlemen gathered top lay cards, maybe billiards, while socailzing and attempting to solve the world's problems with the art of conversation. Today, a"gentlemen's club" isn't the kind of place you would look if you were looking for a true gentleman. Let's just leave the rest of that to your imagination.
So when dealing with the idea of "toxic masculinity" I cannot deny that such a thing exists. I think there is definitely a problem there and it will take men, gentlemen, to fix the problem.
How we fix that is complicated as the problem itself is complicated. But all the solutions are going to be dependent on men having manners, acceptable decorum, and at least a basic respect for women.
To use a cinematic analogy, we've taken masculinity from the realmof A Man For All Seasons, Beckett, and Lawrence of Arabia and we've pushed it to Porky's, Revenge of the Nerds, and Animal House. I have little doubt that a lack of home training in menlieat the core of this problem. On the other hand, Becket being attacked for being Becket is also a contributing factor. We need real, thoughtful, principled men of courage and conviction. We need me who realize that a woman passed out drunk behind a dumpster is not an excuse for ungentlemanly behavior but rather a beacon calling for chivalry. Rather than using the occasion to act on barbaric desire, men need to take action to provide safety, a way home, and are sure that she doesn't remain a woman passed out drunk behind a dumpster and certainly that the situation doesn't take a turn for the worse. We need men to eschew passivity and boldly defend the place of women, not because women are weak and incapable of taking care of themselves but because gentlemen are strong and capable of standing between the rights of women and the barbarians who disregard them.
But one thing to notice about this approach,it depends on men. Unlike those sanctimonious diatribes we've seen that start out "Dear [place identifier of group being pontificated to here]", I'm not calling for major behavior changes from. anyone other than my own demographic. Men. What I do ask is that men not be chastised for being polite. The solution doesn't depend on what women wear, where they go, how much they drink, where they work, or what they think or feel. There is only the polite request that they not overreact when men do something polite. Please don't read any more into it than what is there. They aren't saying that you're weak or incapable of opening a door, standing while a man sits, or picking up your keys when you drop them. They are just demonstrating the respect and manners that were instilled in them, most lkely by their mother, who happened to be a woman. See it as service rather than supremacy, because that is what it is. And a man who is not discouraged from service in the small things is going to be more likely to stand up when it really counts.
Now more than ever, this world needs gentlemen.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire