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.


The Princess Revolution

A new generation of parents is shopping with the idea that pink and blueā€”along with robots, bunnies, dinosaurs, and unicornsā€”are for every child.

A great read from Adrienne Lafrance at The Atlantic:

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.

Self-Regulation of Sexual Objectification by Australia’s Advertising Industry? Miserable Fail.

Despite their own claims, the Advertising Standards Board in Australia, in a more than feeble attempt at self-regulation, has failed miserably to police community concerns about objectifying and objectionable advertising.

By dismissing the vast majority of claims, the circular logic of the Mad Men of Australia enables the ASB to report that there is little in the way of objectifying material out there.

The advertising industry of Australia demonstrates a their ‘men are monkeys’ and ‘women are for sex’ approach to advertising.

This excellent blog piece by Melinda Tankard Reist hits home; clearly demonstrating the failure of the ASB to enforce sexual objectification rules.

If the examples Melinda raises are NOT sexual objectification of women, the sexual objectification tests are clearly rubbish.

Not surprisingly, just as happens when police police the police, the ASB are acting themselves like advertising industry monkeys on this issue. It is more than high time to test objectively their tests/rules for identifying objectifying materials.

And so, what do we think of self-regulation for the advertising industry when it comes to objectification of women?

On a scale of one to ten, ten being ‘the best we could do’ and one being ‘lousy’, we really must be talking about fractions here.

If you happen to know any of these Mad Men at the ASB, please pass on this link of REAL tests for sexually objectifying material, just to make it really clear to them:

Not on Our Watch; it’s time to act against violence against women

Please take a look at this very interesting new campaign in Australia to raise awareness about domestic violence.

As one of those few OECD countries going nowhere on gender equality, and suffering appalling rates of gender-based violence, Australia needs to live up to its ‘free’ image and start freeing women from the violence that impacts so many Australian women every day.

Called “Our Watch”, it is clever, and delivers clear messages about violence against women.

Its thesis is, correctly, that no child intrinsically wants to grow up to be an abuser, or be abused; it comes from the way we raise our children. Violence against women starts with the way we shape our children to view women. Make it right.

Act now – intervene now – to stop it happening on our watch.



A Mom Got Tired Of People Telling Her That Her Son Couldnā€™t Wear Pink, So Hereā€™s What She Did

The ‘pinkification’ of books, clothes, and toys for children is out of control. It is, for so many consumers, a given and an unquestioned ‘way things are’.

And yet beyond their obvious intrinsic uses, it helps if we first ask what are books, clothes and toys for children? They are cues that children use to shape the world around them, find their place in that world, and understand how it works.

Books, for example, if you ask almost any parent, are about expanding understanding, opening or broadening horizons, feeding imagination and creativity. But how sad is it then that many books for children, as well as toys and clothes, do the opposite; they peddle stereotypes, often centuries out of touch and hopelessly out of date for today’s values, and they close minds to new experiences and offer very limited horizons (far more limited for girls than for boys).

Here we sit, in the latter half of the year 2014, when equality for women has gained ground in many countries, in many walks of life. And yet, girls are today still coerced into pink, salacious, or ‘domestic’ (read cooking and housekeeping) roles.

I notice amongst other parents I know a fairly even divide between those who recognise gendered marketing for what it is, and act against it as much as they can, and others who don’t even see it. But what responsible parent of a girl puts limits on her by aspiring NOT to be the hero of the story but to be a Princess that, somehow invalided by her sex, needs rescuing?

How tiring is it that girls are taught the virtue of pretty passivity when, in fact, the world is full of women heroes such as Marie Curie and Amelia Earhart, who they simply don’t get to learn about?

It’s in our everyday language; boys are lauded as strong and bold, while a girl is defined by her looks (pretty, beautiful etc) and, if showing leadership traits, is unfairly dismissed as bossy.

It’s in our choices of clothes, where certain colours say ‘boy’ and other colours say ‘girl’, without any understanding of the nature and personality of the child.

And it’s in our choice of books, where the adventurous child that leads others or acts intrepidly is a boy, while those who sit back and wait to be either rescued, or married, or both, are girls.

Thanks again to for the video clip, this is an interesting look at what one woman, fed up with gendered marketing for children, did about it.

When its done with adults, the gender stereotyping we do with kids looks as ridiculous as it is

How many of you have gone into a children’s store, whether for books or toys or clothes, and been asked whether it is for a girl or a boy?

When my daughter was 10 months old, I needed a sun hat for her and walked into a children’s clothes store, asking for a hat for my baby. The first question? Not age. Not size. Just “is it for a girl or a boy?”.

The hats were in different parts of the shop for girls as distinct from boys, and the colours were clearly segregated; if I wanted a green hat with frogs for my daughter, it was in the boy’s section. If I wanted a hat for a girl, then there were a variety of hats with roses on them, all pink, in the girl’s section.

I left that shop without answering the lady’s question; I left her with a blank look as she clearly failed to comprehend, failed to be able to step out of her own role in reinforcing gender stereotypes that is both so prevalent and, to parents like me, provocative.

Are you also upset at the anachronistic ‘pinkification’ of children’s books, clothes, and toys? Or are you one of those who don’t even notice this gender stereotyping that, even while we campaign for gender equality worldwide, is gaining pace around the world?

With thanks to for the video clip, take a look how ridiculous the ‘pinkification’ of our children looks when it is transposed on adults.

Children are individuals. They should feel free to choose their own interests, not feel they are supposed to accept or reject things because of a gender stereotype; because of a colour.

Parents or others who choose a gift for a child based only on a child’s gender are making a massive mistake, assuming what a child may like, or be like, with considering gender. Assumptions we make about children are self-reinforcing, the child learns so much about how to be, and how things are, from what they read, and from the children’s clothes and toys they are provided.

That boys are raised not to read books with girl leads, or play with toys that are pink, is sickening. That girls are given dolls that are for dressing up only, and are unable to even stand on their own, while boys are given action figures who can adventure and project power, is also sickening stereotyping.

It is wrong.

Gendered marketing to children normalises and perpetuates limiting and antiquated stereotypes.

It is time we put a stop to the providers of children’s products; books, toys, and clothes, to put gendered marketing where it belongs; in the past.