My modern take on men opening doors for women; a common-sense guide.

I thought it time to bring back this at Christmas; when respect should be the by-word for our interactions with each other.

At a dinner party recently, in conversation with a friend (thanks, Mette Mikkelsen, for making me reflect on this a bit more), came the subject of men opening doors for women. I am a man, and the interlocutor a woman. Both of us, I think it is fair to say, qualify as feminists. But our takes were different on the question of a man opening a door for a woman.

Style: "Mad Men" January Jones (Betty Draper) and Don Draper (Jon Hamm)

I shall start this by admitting that I do it. I will open a door for a lady IF the situation is such that it makes sense for both of us. But in the same way as I would open the door for anyone. To be clear, in my younger years I opened doors for women because I was taught that a gentleman does. And a gentleman does BECAUSE he is a man, and she a woman.

Like so many things that are symptoms of patriarchal structures, the ‘why’ of it is the proof in this particular pudding.

The issue, as there certainly is one attached to a man opening a door for a lady, is about the intention.

It is nice, not rude, or sexist, to do something nice for someone because you respect them, because they are another person, and it’s the right thing to do, and it’s courteous. I would, and do, happily open doors for a wide range of people, and allow them to go first out of respect, courtesy, or just plain niceness.

That decision should (and I hope it mostly is although we are all fallable!), not about the sex of the recipient of the benevolent act. I would like to think my act is a gender non-specific one. At times, however, I find myself through my Aussie male (sexist) conditioning, forgetting myself and opening a door for a woman BECAUSE they are a woman. Nobody is perfect. šŸ˜¦ The trick, like combating racism, is to catch yourself out and question yourself.

Where it becomes a problem is if the intention of the male opening a door for a woman is to be ‘correct’, according to his own idea about what is correct, to her as a woman.

Why is this a problem, I hear you ask? That’s a great question, and the subject of my dinner party conversation.

Because doing nice things for someone CHIEFLY because of their sex is, you guessed it, sexism, and is quite simply the flip side of doing something bad to someone for the same reason. It betrays an uneven power relationship.

The safest way as a guy to act on this question of ‘man opening door’ is to, before the situation occurs, reflect on your own intent. Do you act out of niceness and courtesy in a general, gender unaware sense, or do you do it out of ‘correctness’ and hold the door mostly for ladies because they are women?

if the latter, for the sake of promoting gender equality, then consider changing your perspective.

That starts with understanding that women are not the weaker or more decorative sex, and you can and should rather open the door equally for anyone whether man or woman, young or old, out of niceness; because you are a good guy.

Try this: I open the door for women other people, because I am a gentleman polite.

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For the Burqa Ban

And for everyone who enjoyed the thinking of Kenan Malik, the also compelling arguments in FAVOUR of the burqa ban, put together very nicely, and thought-provokingly, by Phyllis Chesler*

Ban the Burqa? The Argument in Favor.

The rights and the wrongs of a burqa ban, as with any complex issue, are easily expressed, but coming down on one side or another really not. Whether you are for or against, it mostly comes down to one thing; your point of departure; your answer to the foundational questions of what you want to achieve by a burqa ban, and is a burqa ban the best way to achieve that end?

 

* Phyllis Chesler is emerita professor of psychology and women’s studies at the Richmond College of the City University of New York and co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology and the National Women’s Health Network.

Against the Burqa Ban

The burqa has become a battleground for western values. And a burqa ban is a truly complex issue.

For those wondering about the right and wrong of it, this piece from Kenan Malik is worth spending time mulling.

Pandaemonium

As the French ban on the burqa comes into force today, here is part of an essay I wrote last year, when the French debate first kicked off, for the Swedish newspaper Gƶteborgs-Posten.


THERE IS CERTAINLY SOMETHING MEDIEVAL ABOUT THE BURQA AND THE NIQAB. The idea that in the 21st century women should be hidden from view for reasons of modesty or religious belief is both troubling and astonishing. Yet, there is also something surreal about the way that this piece of cloth has been turned into a battleground for Western values and about the idea that the burqa poses some kind of existential threat to the West.

The campaign against the burqa is particularly puzzling when in reality so few women choose to wear it. The sight of a burqa in Paris or Brussels is almost as rare as a glimpse of a bikini in Riyadh or Karachiā€¦

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5 Practical Things Men Can Do For Gender Equality At Work

Many men ask me what they can do after they have been made more aware of gender inequalities.

Yes, many men, nay, most men, are blissfully ignorant of gender inequality.

Once they have become aware, however, things begin to change. The world looks different. Their minds never regain their original shape. And they are left wondering what they can do.

They are also left wondering about all the things they have done in their lives that were sexist, and how they might do them differently. As you might have gathered from my earlier blog article about men opening doors, it is as simple, and as complicated, as that question.

This post leads you to a very thoughtful article by Kathleen Davis – Leadership Editor at http://www.fastcompany,com – providing some suggestions for things men can do in the workplace to help along gender equality in the workplace. These are quite useful ideas, many of which one might say are starting small but designed for those who wisely ask the question about what they can do to make things better.

Remember, small change is where big change begins.

Her five main action areas are:

1. If You Have It, Take Parental Leave (And Encourage Other Men To Do So Too).

2. Share the Second Shift

3. Mentor (both men and women)

4. Pay Attention To Double Standards In Language

5. Donā€™t Participate In Panels Of A Bunch Of White Men

Read more here: http://www.fastcompany.com/3037193/strong-female-lead/5-practical-things-men-can-do-for-gender-equality-at-work

(With due credit to Kathleen and Davis FastCompany for this graphic)

20 things that tell us patriarchy is alive and well (or “20 reasons we all need feminism”)

Can you believe some people think the battle for gender equality is over? Are you serious?

Wake up! There a millions of things that tell us patriarchy is alive and well and, concomitantly, we still all need feminism. I have even seen some people trying to say that patriarchy does not exist.

Hmmm….try thinking a little, people, with that thing between your ears.

Some people look quizzically at me when I speak of patriarchy; as thought it is a completely alien term. Not only is patriarchy not alien, it is the way all of our societies operate. Think of it like a plane; the patriarchy bit is the framework, the superstructure, the skin, the wiring, the fuel, the food both on board and carried by passengers, the cockpit, the black flight recorder, and most of the controls. And the extra cushions.

People who don’t know about it have quite simply not asked, not observed, and/ or not been taught about it. People who believe it does not exist are quite simply ignorant. No excuses for this one; it’s not like you just weren’t in class that day. The patriarchy deniers are the ones who during the 1960s would have seen the freedom-riders in Alabama and wondered what the fuss was, or would have stood watching a lynching of a black youth and thought it was ‘normal’ even though no white boys were hanging alongside.

And yet, patriarchy – like racism – is really not that hard to understand if your mind is open to it. It is simply the predominant social system everywhere on Earth whereĀ men are the primary authority figures in the central societal roles of (a) political leadership, (b) moral authority, and (c) control of property.

In short, patriarchy is a system where men primarily hold power and influence.

These following 20 quick observations quickly demonstrate patriarchy is still alive and well, and why we still need feminism to get us anywhere near a form of equality between the sexes.

You know we still have patriarchy and need feminism when:

1) … a woman doing the same job as a man will be paid around 25% less.

2) … you don’t see an unattractive and aging female actor as lead in a movie with an attractive lover young enough to be her grandson.

3) …. women’s swimming outfits get skimpier, and men become ever-more prudish, donning the longest swim trunks possible.

4) ….Twitter trolls go after a feminist man, saying he is gay or stupid, but go after a feminist woman by threatening to rape her.

5) ….a female public figure is subject, even before opening her mouth, to comments about her hair, the way she is dressed, or her makeup.

6) ….despite being more than 50% of the world’s population, on average women only make up 20% of parliamentary seats.

7) … only 4% of CEO posts in Fortune 500 companies are held by women.

8) ….. anti-social behaviour in boys is dismissed as ‘boys will be boys, while anti-social behaviour in girls is not tolerated (ever heard of ‘girls will be girls’?).

9) …. mostly only women wear makeup. Men don’t, because under patriarchy nobody really cares how men look.

10) …. women most often take the man’s surname when marrying, almost never the other way around.

11) … the waiter most often gives the bill to the man at the table, or gives the wine to the man for tasting.

12) … 1 in 3 women are subject to serious sexual assault by men, including rape.

13) …. photo shots of Heads of State are an exercise in ‘Where’s the Woman?’

14) …. women are forbidden from combat roles in the military.

15) …. men order a lap-dance with their business lunch.

16) …. you see topless women on page three of some fool’s rag of a newspaper.

17) ….weakness is described as ‘being a pussy’, ‘being girlie’, ‘being a girl’s blouse’, or even more directly ‘being a woman’ (saw this last one on West Wing last night; shame Aaron Sorkin!)

18) ….blonde (read: meant to be ‘stupid person’) jokes are only about women.

19) …. an otherwise corporately responsible car company (or all of them, in the case of car shows) will launch a new supercar with scantily clad women rolling around on the bonnet.

20) …when parents go all ‘Jack Bauer’ to protect their daughter’s virginity but rationalise their son’s away as ‘playing the field’ or ‘sowing his oats’.

21) … when a man with many sexual partners is a stud and a woman a slut.

22) ….when a little boy ‘displays leadership qualities’ while a girl with the same behaviours is ‘bossy’.

23) …when you walk into a clothes or toy store for children and can almost feel the pink/blue line being painted on your forehead.

Yes, I know I said 20, but there are just so many!!!

Feel free to mail in some other “You know patriarchy still exists when…”

We Expect Too Little of our Boys

Too often, responsibility for a boy’s behaviour falls on girls. in the playground this manifests as boys playing rougher than girls and the girls being held responsible should they get hurt. It manifests as ‘boys will be boys’.

At the adult level this manifests as a rape victim being blamed for tempting or teasing the man, or dressing like ‘she wanted to be raped’.

The lack of responsibility for our boys managing better their strength leads to a lifetime of blame avoidance for the impact of that strength. It also leads to the rape culture all-too prevalent in our society.

Sexual assault on women is not about sex; it is about power. Boys are taught that physical strength can be used to achieve ends, and that it is a positive thing to laud that power over others. Very often this means bullying girls and, later in life, women, through exercising physical power.

This article from the very clever Kasey Edwards articulates the feeling that, yes, we are indeed not raising our boys to take responsibility for their own behaviour, and often laying the blame for a man’s behaviour at the foot of the woman.

We see this in rape culture as a beaten woman ‘deserving it’, a raped woman ‘asking for it’. It even comes up (with thanks to the anonymity that cowards use on the internet) in the form of public figures – especially those espousing gender equality – who ‘need need to be raped’.

http://www.dailylife.com.au/life-and-love/parenting-and-families/are-we-expecting-too-little-from-our-boys-20141012-11535b.html

It is unacceptable.

And unforgivable.

Rape culture, the abuse of women, and women being to blame for men’s bad behaviour, has got to stop. It stops with us at the family level.

The way we raise our sons has everything to do with the way men treat women. Let’s revisit the way we raise our boys.

"If we don't create the 'gender issue', we certainly exacerbate it by maintaining such low expectations for boys."

(With credit to Kasey Edwards and Daily Life for the accompanying photo)