Saturday, September 18, 2010

What ever happened to the gentleman?

Women have come a long way in the fight for equality. Slowly, but surely opportunities for women in the workplace, the home, and society have evolved, and we now have the opportunity to do (almost) anything. While the fight is far from over, the success so far has negative consequences. While discussing gender role expectations in class, the dominant and rational male versus the gentle and caring female, I pondered the shift in male gender role expectations.

Men are celebrated for their dominance and ability to take charge in the office and at home, but they were also once celebrated for their chivalry and loyalty. It was not too long ago when men were expected to be (and took pride in being) truthful, loyal, and courteous, especially towards women. Today, unfortunately, there has been a shift. The days of standing up when a woman enters the room are long gone. In fact, I can't even remember the last time a guy, a date or just a friend, came to my door when he picked me up, instead of texting to tell me that he is outside. This got me thinking: what ever happened to the gentleman?

One reason for the change in male role expectations may be the fight for equality. Our big message: "Women are not inferior. We are equals and should be treated as such." But does treating us as equals mean loss of male virtues? Men no longer hold open doors for their girlfriends (sometimes even letting doors slam right in their faces), but in general, men have stopped being polite, courteous, and respectful to all persons regardless of gender or age.

Grant Ziegler notices the change in generation Y. He admits men have stopped saying please and thank you. But he also suggests, ladies, that we may be at fault. In our struggle to be respected and taken seriously, we have turned the "gentleman" into the "creeper" or the "sexist." Men who smile or say hello are flirting and men who pull out chairs are jerks. Ziegler pleads:
Please understand that I know you’re fully capable of opening a door. That wasn’t the point. I was just trying to be nice. I open doors for men, too, of all ages and ethnicities. I don’t care if you’re 4 or 40, I just figured it would be considered rude to drop a door on your face.
While I am hesitant to take the blame for the deterioration of male etiquette, there is some truth to what Ziegler is saying. Each of us may have, at least one time in our lives, interpreted well intentioned politeness as something demeaning and rude. The problem arises when we allow ill manners to be the norm and expect that our equality means that men no longer have to do "the right thing."

This past summer, modern chivalry (or the lack of it) made national headlines, when a young man was caught on tape dodging a major league baseball, allowing his girlfriend to get hit.

The public's reaction to the incident does suggest we still have expectations that men should honor and protect women. However, the girlfriend's reaction to the incident leaves me wondering if we have lowered our expectations too much. Even after making headlines, she doesn't think it's a big deal that her boyfriend jumped out of the way and let her get hit with a major league baseball. In the interview, Wyble (the boyfriend) says he thought she would get out of the way. I recognize that she is fully capable of getting out of the way of an oncoming baseball, but does that mean because we as women can take care of ourselves, we should expect less respect and less considerate acts from men?

I am sure we could all use a good lesson in etiquette, but the trend seems to be that as women elevate in society, male manners deminish.


2elle said...

Honestly, I think manners in general are just disappearing in our society. I agree with the quote from your post about holding the door open for anyone- male or female, 4 or 40. I feel like letting the door slam in someone's face is just plain rude no matter who it is! I think the focus should be on everyone, not just men, trying to be more sensitive and considerate of other people.

Everyone is always rushing to work, school, family events, etc. and often their impatience leads to lack of consideration for others in public spaces. We should all focus on just being nicer to each other - on the freeway, in the grocery store line, holding a door open, etc. At the risk of sounding like a hippie, the world would be a better place :)

N.P. said...

I agree with the previous post. Manners have become passe and less important in our daily lives. Which is interesting, because I feel like have manners and being polite never really is that difficult.

I often find that when a man opens a door for me, I can't figure out whether to say thank you or feel like there was no need for him to open it for me in the first place. I feel like many men - on the basis of the fact that they view feminism incorrectly - believe that opening a door for a woman is offense or that she would find it offense. In fact, I have heard a man make this justification when I asked him why he didn't open a door for me. This is impermissible, because ultimately it's manners. It isn't about who is weak or who is strong - or who dominates. All it simply does is give the other person a sense that they matter.

Rebecca said...

What happened to good manners? Nothing at all! The question is what happened to us? I suppose we could point a finger of blame to the absence of the traditional family, or values that used to be taught by both parents that seem to have become extinct. As a kid, I remember a lot of importance being placed on good manners. People seem to have less time to be courteous, and more time to be cut throat. Perhaps the seriousness of the economic down turn has people on edge, but that certainly can’t be the entire reason, can it? Maybe we just have a lack of affection for our fellowman. But it is clear to me having been courted in the 70’s, married in the 80’s, divorced in the late 80’s and courted again in the 90’s that the art of being a gentleman fell by the wayside and manners went from bad to worse.

Displaying good manners should NOT have to be something forced on you to do. I was always taught by my parents to respect those older than you, to say thank you and to be courteous to others, sadly with each new generation this is quickly fading away. I know that I felt part of my duty to my son was to raise him to be courteous and to be a gentleman. Somewhere out there someone is dropping the ball, and forgetting simple human values. I am going to be bold and say that it is a momma problem. However, before we throw in the towel and declare gentlemen an extinct species of man, I would also say that ladies must do their part as well. If we are to expect a "civil society" we must teach our boyfriends and husbands, partners and lovers and our children to take two seconds of precious time to start a conversation with a friendly greeting. Perhaps by example to ask excuse me when others are talking before just jumping into a conversation. We could communicate our desire to have a door opened or a chair pulled out. After all it's only "good manners." The real question is why don’t we?