My sisters and I
are all feminists. We have flipped our middle fingers at the glass ceiling, we
have stood up against slut-shaming and we have become apoplectically furious
over rape conviction statistics. And yet, at the same time, we are very
different feminists – I spent a full hour and a half arguing with one of them
about the etiquette of door opening, and we still don’t fully see eye to eye
about it. (We got some good washing up done though.)
It went like
Me: I don’t really like it when men hold
doors open for me.
Sister: Why not? Should they be letting
it swing shut in your face then walk away laughing?
Me: No! I mean, obviously, hold it open
because it’s polite. I hold open doors for old ladies. That’s fine. But I mean
Sister: So, when you walk through the
door, they should be all like, “I’d do the same for an old lady, in fact I
thought you were an old lady, that’s a cool thing to say about your face, I
won’t take your vote.”
Me: Look, forget about the old ladies.
How about –
Sister: Forget about old ladies? That’s
not very feminist of you.
Me: Shut up! Old ladies are not
relevant right now! That’s not anti-feminist, that’s just a fact! …Ok. How
about I say that it annoys me if we are both going through a door at the same
time and then he pulls open the door and goes, “Ladies first.”
Sister: Why would that annoy you?
Me: Because it’s sexist.
Sister: How is that sexist?
Me: Because it’s like he’s being all –
gah. Because he’s like – you know. Because –
Sister: Because he’s going to check out
Me: Well, not necessarily. Though he’d
be a fool not to. But. Because. Well. Essentially, ‘ladies first’ is part of the
ingrained cultural reflex of limiting and domesticating woman. The kind of man
who says ‘ladies first’ is also likely to make jokes about getting back in the
kitchen and claims to prefer ‘girly’ girls and also, incidentally, will harass
women, verbally and maybe even physically, who don’t fit into his very, very
narrow categories of the ‘right’ sort of female.
Sister: I’m impressed that you took all
that away from a man holding a door open for you.
Me: I see that you are resorting to
sarcasm to combat my argument. Nevertheless, I will continue. The sort of man
who says ‘ladies first’ also complains about feminism like this: “God, women!
You want equal pay then you expect us to hold open doors for you and pay for
dates! Fucking feminists and their erroneous sense of entitlement!”
Sister: It’s nice that he knows the
Me: He probably doesn’t. But, the fact
is, I expect equal pay. I don’t
expect doors to be held open for me –
Sister: Because you like the challenge
of a door coming towards your nose.
Me: - just because I’m a woman. I
expect it out of politeness, not some sort of antediluvian attitude towards my
gender. Nor do I expect to be paid for.
Sister: I do.
Me: … what?
Sister: I expect doors to be held open
for me because I am a woman.
Me: But that’s – sexist.
Sister: I don’t expect them to do it
for all women, and I don’t expect it from all men. Just certain men, because
they fancy me. Anyway, I like being celebrated because I’m a woman. So I expect
equal pay, so what. I’m also very attractive.
Sister: So you’d rather your boyfriend
never held doors open for you?
Me: That’s – that’s not the point!
away from the penetrating glare and discombobulating air of total righteousness
of my sister, I can see all the logical fallacies. What the hell’s my boyfriend
got to do with her army of narrow-minded admirers, eh? He’s not doing it
because I’m a woman, he’s doing it because I’m his girlfriend! A very different
beast! You don’t hold doors open for women
because you’re mid-way through a conversation about whether Paul McCartney’s Kisses on the Bottom is supposed to be a
concept album about analingus, and if you don’t hold the door open for her,
you’ll miss all the grotesque arm and face movements she’d doing as she goes
through. And my sister’s ‘because I’m a woman’ meant ‘because I like it when a
very limited set of men are attracted to me and show it in easy-to-decipher
ways’, not, ‘because I consider myself to be in a position of doorframe
inferiority whenever I see bloke’. So there. (Incidentally, my other sister
stayed resolutely out of this argument. “I’m a horse,” she said, utterly
deadpan, whenever either of us appealed to her.)
And, of course,
my sister had a point. Sometimes
holding the door open is the nice thing to do, even if your genitals are different. It’s really not a big deal!
It’s a door! Walk through it like a pro! If they’re objectifying you as you go,
and you can read their mind and know that
they’re hating on your revolution, then why not go home and donate some
money to the Fawcett Society? But still… I’m not happy that someone out there
will take their gesture at the exit to mean I want fifties manners with
noughties salaries, like all those unreasonable hypocritical feminists. I want
to sit them down and explain to them how I feel about going dutch.
“I’m a horse,”
my other sister said for the umpteenth time, before adding, “Imagine the gender
politics involved in revolving doors.”
In the end, I
dealt with all this by turning it into a hilarious game, the way frightened
children do. So I’m keeping scores, and I know
when you’re being polite and when you’re thinking about asking me to make
you a sandwich. I just know. Because,
in my brain, this is what’s going on:
A man is opening it for you.
>the fuck you
“I see that you are carrying a lot of
items! Please let me help you!”
“You’re welcome! Have a socially relevant
You are now in a room full of doors.
open for old lady
“Thank you missy! You are a good girl!
Here, have this!”
You have received A VOUCHER FOR DISCOUNTED
damn. put in inventory and go through door marked ‘baker’
Someone is trying to get through the door at
the same time!
kick to chin
open for them
“Oh no! I insist! Ladies first!”
patriarchy with bare hands