Holding open doors

A man I met said this:

“I don’t understand why feminists won’t allow me to hold open doors. For me it’s about respect. I like to open doors and when I take a woman out, I like to pay”

For me personally, the problem here is the social awkwardness of it. I don’t know whether someone is going to open a door for me, or let me through first. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Then, I’m walking along with a male colleague/co-worker/friend, and he opens a door, and allows me to walk through first, and then I’m supposed to be… grateful to him? Smile? Yet if I give up my seat for an old man with a walking stick on public transport, I’m running the gauntlet of causing offense. The old man has a disability, and as an able-bodied woman, I do too? The old man might feel emasculated, and I am… [insert female equivalent of emasculated here]…disempowered too?

Even though I find it confusing, I think: it’s archaic, it’s patronising, it’s condescending, but I have got bigger fish to fry.

I do not, however, let men pay for me. Friends, lovers… I like to take it in turns, like if my friend (of any gender) buys one round of drinks then I buy the other. That’s just me. I like the saying “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”. All too often, people pay for things for you, and then expect something in return. And I know that if I accept the gift, I feel obligated to behave in a certain way. It’s far easier just to pay my own way, instead of enjoying a man’s attention, and telling yourself it’s “just a friendship”, and then feel hurt when he tries to kiss me, I reject him, and I feel like I’ve lost a friend. When I was younger I thought I had a lot of male friends, but this kind of pattern/misunderstanding happened again and again.

I do empathise with men who feel cheated by women who accept gifts (e.g. drinks) and then reject them. Flirtation, courtship etc, can be a confusing game. It must be difficult to tell if a woman is receptive to advances or is just being friendly or doesn’t want to offend. I try to be really direct in my dealings with men when I’m single, but not rude and hurtful. If I’m interested in someone, I make it clear.

He told me “It’s about respect. I’m showing respect to  a woman by paying”. I’m in a long term relationship with someone who earns the same as me, and the way my boyfriend shows me respect is by letting me buy the next round, or letting me give him half the bill (we usually pay cash) beforehand.

If he earned double what I earn, and liked to go to places that I just couldn’t afford, maybe he could pay two thirds and I could pay a third. My partner shows me respect by: listening to me, by doing his half of the chores at home, by making me laugh, by telling me I look better without make up, by having dinner with me every night and never looking at his phone…

This friend of mine was a businessman, and I imagined that he probably was more affluent than me. But regardless of economic differences, I don’t like to feel “bought”. I once dated someone who insisted buying us a bottle of champagne at the bar, and I just didn’t feel comfortable. I’m one of those people who would rather a home made gift than an expensive one. I like nice things, but I would much rather go on a picnic with someone than go to a fancy restaurant.

If that makes me weird, I’m weird. If that makes me a “feminist”, then I’m a “feminist”. That’s just the way I am, and I like it, so I see no reason to change!





2 thoughts on “Holding open doors

  1. ericjbaker

    RE: men paying for dinner. If it’s a first date, I can understand the man wanting to pay. He does not know at that point how you view the social dynamic. If I were in that situation, I’d rather risk my date thinking my actions are patronizing than to risk her thinking I’m a cheap jerk, because the latter could just as easily be the outcome if I don’t pay. Unless we have an unusually open first date conversation and get our world views out in the open right away.

    On the other hand, I do not empathize with men who think they are owed something because they paid for a meal or drinks. I find that borderline sociopathic. If the person I’m kissing finds the experience distasteful or distressing, I’m not going to enjoy it either.

    My significant other and I have eliminated these concerns by sharing a bank account. We’re both paying whenever we go out!

  2. Amy Irving

    I always reject a man buying me a drink – I feel awkward like I instantly owe a sexual favour! Even when a friend buys me a drink I will spend the rest of the night watching their glass and trying to pick the right time to buy one in return. I don’t know whether that drink was a gift or whether it’s expected that I buy the next one. Pub etiquette confuses me in this way (but I am easily confused!). I have the same problem with unwarranted gifts. If I receive a gift from a friend for no reason I feel this awful sense of guilt until I can give them something back.
    In regards to holding open doors, I do that for anybody, male or female. My husband is the same. I have no problem if a man holds a door open for me – I see it as a sign of respect no matter what your sex but paying for my meal in full, I would feel indebted just like the drinks scenario.


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