You’ve probably read about the Melbourne journalism student who interned at a large newspaper and wrote about her experiences recently. If not a brief synopsis – she found some of the comments and jokes made in the newsroom very sexist, racist and generally unpleasant. She has many supporters and many detractors but one thing just about everyone has been bemused by is the idea someone opening a door for you is sexist. But isn’t it just plain good manners they ask? Well, let me put my tongue firmly in my cheek and we’ll see.
So, is holding open a door for someone always about good manners? The short answer is yes with an if long answer is no with a but (Simpson’s reference *shoutout to MyNigel*)
So how can it possibly be sexist? Well lets look at some scenarios then you dear reader can decide.
1. The door opener holds the door open for everyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, disability or any other defining characteristic. I think we can label this one good manners or perhaps “employed as a door person at swanky hotel”.
2. The door opener (a man) only holds door open for women. What, doesn’t he think women are capable of opening their own doors? Or of asking for assistance if they need it? What about blokes who might need/appreciate help with a door? Or, although in late middle age, is the door opener (likely a he) still worried what his mother might say if he didn’t were she still alive to comment?
3. The door opener only holds the door open for people who meet particular characteristics of age, weight, gender and possibly enthnicity – possibly correlating closely with blonde, buxom but slender, women under 35.
4. The door opener holds the door open but in such a way that you have to squeeze past and rub against them.
5. The door opener holds the door open but in such a way that they can look down your top or check out your bottom as you go past. They may or may not make comments as you go.
6. The door opener holds the door open for someone then lets it close in the face of someone else with an armful of files/pushing a stroller/using a wheelchair/ scooter/other mobility aid/obviously pregnant.
That’s just the ones that I have personally witnessed. Of course as always YMMV. So I think before we write off people holding doors open as a case of good manners always, maybe it’s worth remembering that context is important? Also, sometimes when you are young and the feminism is strong within you having someone assume that you need the door opened for you or that you need to walk about of the elevator first can be really fucking annoying. Especially if you know they are just checking out your bum.