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The Art of Getting Hysterical About Gender

BY Simcha Fisher

| Posted 6/10/11 at 8:00 AM

 

I’m not very familiar with this website, The Art of Manliness; but I’ve always felt that one of the last manly things a man can do is to talk about manliness. Either you is a man, or you ain’t. I don’t really think it’s the kind of thing you can learn.

On the other hand, there’s clearly a need (and a desire) from men who have noticed that the world is a mess, and want to do better. So, we have websites like this, which discuss boar bristle shaving brushes and more vital topics, too. In the words of Elliot Gould’s Marlowe in The Long Goodbye, it’s okay with me. Good for them, for talking about the things that nobody’s father is around to tell them anymore.

A recent post about holding doors for women had a very intriguing introduction. (The issue of holding doors itself doesn’t interest me much, because when I’m out and about, I’m usually in a mad, frantic hurry, and can’t wait to give anyone the chance to be chivalrous; or, I’m so far advanced in a pregnancy that I can’t reach the door with my stupid short dinosaur arms, and physically need someone’s help. Men and women and small children instinctively do it, more from pity and alarm than from gallantry.)

In the introduction, the author says:

There are some women who are offended by it because they think it implies the inferior status of women—that women are too weak to open doors for themselves. Kate thinks that if you’re dating a woman who takes umbrage at having the door opened for her, that’s a red flag, because it signals that she does not understand that a woman can be smart and independent while still being playful about gender roles.

Yes. There’s nothing more tedious than a woman who Takes Her Gender Seriously At All Times, who thinks more traditional women are feeble-minded—but how intellectually acute is it to get all in a dither over a mere gesture, ignoring the man behind it? Most women who enjoy having a door opened don’t get all bent out of shape if it’s not; but women who don’t like it will go ballistic if it happens. That’s just silly.

It’s like when priests feel like they have to say, “My sisters and brothers, ” instead of “brothers and sisters,” or even just “brothers.” Isn’t it demeaning to women to imply that we’re going to shriek and pass out by having our genders mentioned second? I’m so very, very smart, even though I’m just a lady, that I understand the concept of “mankind.” I’m offended when people say “he or she,” as if I’m too stupid or prone to hysterics to grasp the idea of a gender neutral pronoun like “he,” which worked just fine until we all went bonkers and made our language bonkers, too.

This bit sums up what I’ve been trying to say for a while now, in far fewer words:

Then there are men who think you shouldn’t do things like open doors for women because if women want to be fully independent and equal these days, then they need to give up being treated with any special consideration. To me this is an entirely wrong-headed approach to relationships, because it’s premised on the idea that everything must be tit for tat. Yes, you open doors for a woman, but your woman probably does special things for you. If she doesn’t, then that’s the problem, not chivalry itself. It’s madness to think that equality must mean doing the exact same things for each other and constantly keeping score.

Yes! Thank you! A few commenters in recent posts insist that if women are going to vote and drive, then that’s that: Men are tearing up the social contract, and anyone who expects them to take out the garbage from now on is just being plain old mean. (Attention, men: Whining is never attractive. Ever.)

I’m not, as I mentioned, especially hung up on men opening doors, specifically. But the idea that men do some special things for women, and women do some special things for men—sounds like a plan to make life tolerable.

Is it enough? No. I know that there are men who do these outwardly chivalrous things: opening doors, calling their wives “my bride”—but when it comes down to genuine, meaningful sacrifice, they’re nowhere to be found. Many women fall into the same shallow trap: They’re all about making cookies for hubby and keeping his sock drawer tidy—but it’s not about him or his desires at all, it’s about making sure everyone notices what a Truly True Woman she is. When times get tough, it turns out that all their dedicated love was pointed inward: Lookit me, with my family values! Lookit me, I’m preserving society!

So: Women are not going to lose any ground by walking through an opened door, as long as they safeguard their most valuable property. And men are not going to save civilization by opening a door for anyone, if they’re not also willing to open their hearts.

Now can we please discuss a true life-and-death issue: micturition and the art of careful aim?