Where the rules went wrong
After a debate erupted on twitter yesterday when I posted the Rules of the Modern Gentleman, I thought I’d call my mom for a little perspective. She, afterall, is the woman who raised me.
“You are not going to win that argument,” Momma Holmes told me. And, this is where she said I went wrong: not looking at a calendar. “It’s 2014, baby. It’s a different society, a different world. It’s not what it used to be.”
Of course, I didn’t expect unanimous agreement from people on every one of the 30 “rules.” And as the originators of the list (@TMFMag) tweeted me yesterday, “unfortunately, many take them (the rules) too seriously…they are just basic foundations…not an all-encompassing manual.” Still, I didn’t expect some people to so fervently disagree with a couple of them.
The only disagreement from people came on the “rules” having to do with how a man should behave towards a woman, i.e. opening doors, offering your arm, paying for a meal. I know plenty of guys who don’t do any of those things. They’re good guys. We just do things differently.
Some critics translated traditional values of politeness as antiquated, “sexist” throwbacks to a time when women overwhelmingly weren’t treated as equal partners in the home or in the office. The “rules,” some argued, reek of sexism because they put men and women in traditional societal roles: men as the strong protectors of the weaker, more vulnerable or lesser sex, women.
Please know, buying a woman a meal isn’t me saying, “I don’t think you can buy your own.”
Holding the door open for a woman isn’t me saying, “I think you’re too frail to get it yourself.”
Offering my arm to you as we walk down the street isn’t me saying, “you need me to protect you.”
Giving you a compliment isn’t me saying, “I think you lack self-esteem and need me to affirm your worth.”
What I’m saying is that I respect you. I admire you. I’m in awe of you.
I understand there is a danger, however, if my personal actions towards a woman are misinterpreted. If a man feels compelled to open a door, etc. just because he’s the man, then he might apply that same mindset to other areas. In other words, if in his mind a woman is the “weaker” sex, then perhaps she also must be protected in the office from tougher assignments, the bigger workloads, promotions, etc. which are so often doled out by men. That type of thinking is wrong and can be harmful.
I believe it’s possible to adhere to “traditional” principles of politeness in personal dealings without being degrading. But, as Momma Holmes went on to explain, it’s a shame that we’re in a time when even being a gentleman has to be defended.
It’s too bad that being considerate led to accusations that I’m perpetuating an idea that women aren’t equals. But, truth is, when I see a woman, I don’t see her as my equal. That would be an insult to her. I see a woman as my earthly superior. Women possess a strength that men could never emulate and a wisdom we could never comprehend. Women are miracles and perform miracles. I’ve seen it. Women are the head of any household in which they reside. And given all that, please allow me to make a simple gesture … of getting that door for you, offering you my arm, or maybe even buying you a meal.