“How can men embrace feminism and still be gentlemen?”
The question was posed by a male Facebook friend just now. I understand the consternation.
I like to open doors for women, especially my wife. They don’t need for me to do it. They’re certainly strong enough to open their own doors. In Janie’s case, she’s probably more capable than I am. She’s strong, like bull – and graceful like the dancer she is.
I love to hold Janie’s coat as she slips into it. She doesn’t need for me to do it. She’s far better at dressing herself than I am at dressing myself.
When we’re out, I like to hold her chair as she sits at dinner. She absolutely has no need for me to do so – strong and graceful, remember?
Why do I do it?
It’s a feeble attempt to atone for all rude and stupid moments from the past. It’s an elementary school level reasoning; “if I’m nice to you today, maybe it makes up for one stupid and rude thing I did yesterday or five years ago.”
Of course it doesn’t, but for a moment, it feels like my world has been made a smidge better and that I was the agent for that improvement. That’s not a bad thing. A selfish thing perhaps, but not a bad thing.
But Janie and the other women in my life don’t need to participate in my atonement. Indeed, they may feel belittled by my “gentlemanly” actions.
I try to ask for permission.
It may be a look. It may be spoken.
If it’s spoken, it’s a request, not an order. It’s “May I?” not “Let me.”
“Let me” implies “You need for me to do this for you.”
“May I” states clearly “I really would like to do this for you and you’d be doing me a personal favor by allowing me to do so.”
Would I want to do these courtly deeds for men as well as women? Yes! But permission from men is seldom given and the request, in any form, is most often resented.
Am I over-thinking this?
It’s my gift.
I’ll simplify it.
In every happy and life-enhancing and guilt-free experience I’ve had with the opposite sex, permission was asked. Thus, my two-word answer to the question; “How can men embrace feminism and still be gentlemen?” is;