Equalitist Chivalry: Vaginas are Doors Too.

I have been chewing on this issue since a year ago at a cocktail party, when a friend of mine with two elementary school-aged sons asked for advice on navigating the conflict of interest between feminism and chivalry.  Her eldest son, who is darling and hangs on her every word, questioned why men should hold the door for women if women can do it themselves.  Didn’t that violate the laws of feminism?  I did not have a clear answer then, but it seemed sad at the least (no thanks, I can open the door myself) to horrible at the worst (I don’t need you to hold the fucking door for me, asshole!) to do away with chivalry altogether.  In the end, it just didn’t seem right to criticize something that’s so… well, nice.

Today the issue was unwittingly brought to my attention again by another friend.  Because I am a Facebook stalker, I sometimes scroll through dozens of comments on popular postings to see what my friends have to say, especially because they might think none of their friends would do that (guess again).  You know, when that little message in your newsfeed comes up because one of your friends commented on something controversial?  This is what I saw:

She's my friend, but she's really nice so she'd probably let you stalk her too.

She’s my friend, but she’s really nice so she’d probably let you stalk her too.

My friend, let’s just call her “Er” for anonymity’s sake, is a gender equalitist (“equalitist” is not really a word, but “feminist” is misleading, IMO, and equalitists know we’ve had quite enough of that) that I admire.  Outspoken but friendly, self-deprecating, community-driven, and best of all, fucking hilarious.  She’ll take the joke over the jab any day.  Now can you see why I spent time stalking her?

As you might have guessed, Er was not really in favor of this article.  She is of a mind that manners trump chivalry, and on that point we agree.  (If I had to choose one, manners all the way.)  She brought up the fact that holding doors for women was born out of a belief that they are weak.  True to the parlance of these internetted times, she did not cite her sources (tsk, tsk, Er).  But considering that every person on the planet was at one point grown and expelled by a woman’s body (the vast majority without medication) I wonder how that belief could have been so widely held (open…hehe) as to spawn (sorry, I just can’t stop) that particular chivalrous act.

Besides, it’s a selfless act, opening the door for someone, and I struggle to believe it was born out of pity.  Knowing, as I so intimately do, the power struggles in my own marriage to a man, I assert that no kind act begins with viewing someone as weak and incapable, especially when they are in fact the opposite.

What if a desire to honor women begot chivalry?  Maybe we weren’t so disconnected from the harrowing tumults of life as we are now, and men recognized that women themselves are doorways, doorways to human existence.  Maybe it started with sons insisting that they hold doors for their mothers out of gratitude, and when they were old enough to marry and have children of their own, they extended that courtesy to their wives.

Aside from being the human portal for three fabulous little beings, I hold doors for all genders.  Chivalry is a gift we give each other, and nothing zaps the pleasure out of gift giving faster than criticism and expectation.  Let us not condemn or demand, but open.


4 thoughts on “Equalitist Chivalry: Vaginas are Doors Too.

  1. Great post and what a conundrum to ponder! I love the question of what kicked off the “Allow me, ma’am” gesture.” In that same vane, I’m going to go ahead and drop a Bible bomb here, featuring the most abominable six-lettered four-letter word of our time:

    Ephesians 5:22 “Wives, submit to your husbands…”.

    Our culture teaches us to be opposed to the idea of submission – and especially to the idea of women submitting to men. But, an interesting fact I recently learned is that the word “submit” did not actually appear in the original writing of the above verse. As with the entire Bible, every verse needs to be read in context or it will be misread. If you look to the previous section in Ephesians, which ends with verse 5:21, it is written, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Each of us is to submit to the other! (out of reverence for Christ, or if that is not palatable, then how about out of reverence to the fact that we were all created equally?) Submit. Man to woman, woman to man, boss to worker, friend to friend. Another way to say it is, put yourself second for the sake of honoring another. Hold the door!

    To finish this – the word “submit” carries over from 5:21 and is then understood in 5:22, as the Apostle Paul narrows in on women in this particular teaching – “Wives, [submit] to your husbands as to the Lord.”

    Okay, so women are called out twice (first, in 5:21, as part of “all of us”; then in 5:22 with all the ladies) to submit. Seem unfair? Sexist? Take a look at how husbands are commanded to treat their wives just a few verses later, in 5:25 – “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”. Gave himself up for her. As in, knowingly walked into condemnation, torture, and an eventual horrible, violent death. Sounds to me a bit like submission. And in 5:28 “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”

    The world would be a better place if we ALL chose submit to one another. Submission is a spirit-filled endeavor. When we are filled with a beautiful spirit, dare I say a God-given one, we crave this idea to act kindly, beautifully, fully out of grace, even chivalrously.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking blog entry!

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Bug!

    I appreciate your interpretation of these texts; rarely is the conclusion drawn that husbands and wives are to submit equally to each other. The word “submit,” dusting off the old etymology book here, literally means “to go under,” (“sub” meaning “under” and “mit” meaning “to go”) in other words, to yield to the authority of another. If the “submit” part were not directed solely at one party, I wonder why the word “commit” (“to go together”) was not used? With issues ranging from unequal pay in the workplace, to five million girls under age 15 married off as child brides each year, perpetuating cycles of destitution for both sexes, female submission or yielding (championed by several religions) does not seem to be in humankind’s best interest.

    Based on the verses you’ve quoted, and the intentional distinctions made therein, I interpret that the main communication is to occur between God and man, the essence of which the husband (man) then communicates (best case scenario, by living a virtuous life) to his wife (thus freeing her to happily submit).

    Assuming men are not born any more Godly than women (a big assumption considering the church’s history, and the command you mentioned for men alone to walk into condemnation) institutionally inserting a man, however virtuous, between a woman and her own sense of right and wrong has been proven ill-fated. If loving, doctrine-adherence is one side of that coin, exerting physical dominance as a means of control is the other.

    In the time it was written, I imagine this text seemed radically loving toward and protective of women. If in fact the command to submit was passed down equally, IMO the wording has since rendered it misleading at best, and incredibly destructive at worst.

    All that said, I am in no position to judge anyone who continues to find her true freedom in these verses.

    Thanks again for commenting and taking the time to share your thoughts!

  3. so so so agreed… opening a door in an opportunity to show someone you have regard for him or her. i hope its becoming less a gender issue and more to the point of humanizing others, which i know i sometimes fail to do!

    • Hi Al! Thanks so much for reading/commenting! I’m totally with you in hoping it becomes less of a gender issue, in terms of both who is performing the act of chivalry/kindness, as well as what gender traits (along the masculine-feminine continuum) are displayed in that act.

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