The Right Opinion

Don't You Dare Open a Door for Me!

By Mona Charen · Dec. 14, 2012

Chivalry is back in the news. The always-alert Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute draws our attention to an item in the Psychology of Women Quarterly. A new study on what the authors are pleased to call “benevolent sexism” (which, as Murray translates, seems to mean gentlemanly behavior) found that both women and men are happier when men behave like gentlemen.

This being a sociological publication, though, the findings are not written in English, but rather in academic argot. It’s full of sentences like this: “A structural equation model revealed that benevolent sexism was positively associated with diffuse system justification within a sample of 274 college women and 111 college men.”

If you spend more than $100,000 on an undergraduate and graduate education in women’s studies, you can learn to be this impenetrable, too.

The authors of the study were quick to warn readers about what they’d discovered. “Our findings reinforce the dangerous nature of benevolent sexism and emphasize the need for interventions to reduce its prevalence.” Right. Though it seems to increase the life satisfaction of both sexes, it must still be eradicated.

When feminists set out to remake the sexes back in the 1970s, they seemed to choose all the wrong traits to emulate and/or eliminate. Women were encouraged to match the promiscuity, aggressiveness, and irresponsibility of men. In other words, women were to model themselves on the worst men. Meanwhile, the best traits of traditional men – specifically their most chivalrous and protective impulses – were to be maligned, mocked, and resented.

Still dancing on Mitt Romney’s political grave, feminist writer Gina Barreca told the Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten that Romney would be a “terrible, terrible date.” (Leave it to a feminist who wants women to be taken seriously to evaluate a presidential candidate as a potential date.) Why? Because he’d be chivalrous. “Chivalry is the opposite of good manners. It’s infantilizing. It’s contempt masquerading as politeness. The chivalrous guy is establishing roles; he is the protector, you are Limoges. Your job is to let him be masterful. In my experience, when you are standing on a pedestal, there’s not much room to move around. That’s by design.”

Emily Esfahani Smith isn’t buying the chivalry as disguised power grab line. Writing in the Atlantic, she notes (as Rich Lowry has highlighted) the contrast between the Titanic and the Costa Concordia – two sinkings 100 years apart. Three quarters of the women on the Titanic survived, while three quarters of the men died. In 1912, men would have been ashamed of themselves if they failed to protect women – even at the cost of their lives. Was that just “contempt masquerading as politeness”? On the Costa Concordia, early in 2012, men shoved women aside to get into the lifeboats. Oh well, at least the women had more room to move around than on that darn pedestal.

Smith reminds us that chivalry arose in response to the violence and barbarism of the Middle Ages. “It cautioned men to temper their aggression, deploying it only in appropriate circumstances – like to protect the physically weak and defenseless members of society.” Obviously many men failed to fulfill the ideal. We’ve always had boorish behavior. But wasn’t it preferable to label boorish behavior as such, rather than celebrate it as a victory for sexual equality?

The chivalric code persists to this day, despite the best efforts of the feminists. When a shooter opened fire at an Aurora, Colo. movie theater, no fewer than three young men protected their girlfriends from bullets with their own bodies – and died in the process.

Smith includes an anecdote that sums up the case for chivalry. Samuel Proctor, pastor of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church, tipped his hat to a lady. She was offended and demanded, “What is that supposed to mean?”

He replied: “Madame, by tipping my hat I was telling you several things. That I would not harm you in any way. That if someone came into this elevator and threatened you, I would defend you. That if you fell ill, I would tend to you and if necessary carry you to safety. I was telling you that even though I am a man and physically stronger than you, I will treat you with both respect and solicitude. But frankly, Madame, it would have taken too much time to tell you all of that; so, instead, I just tipped my hat.”



Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

So maybe early explorers like DeGama, Magellen, and Columbus, were sailing to---get away from feminists?

Friday, December 14, 2012 at 5:44 AM

Kevin from Arkansas in USA replied:

Speaking of sailing, Tod, feminists must really have had a cow when anything about the Titanic comes out. 75% of the women survived, 50% of the children and only 19% of the men.

Titanic Memorial:



APRIL 15 1912




Friday, December 14, 2012 at 8:42 AM

Rod in USA replied:


Friday, December 14, 2012 at 1:28 PM

Tex Horn in Texas said:

Men, don't buy into any of this unadulterated bullshit about "who" you should be. Be yourselves. Much of what is wrong with America is people telling men (and women) what they should be, who they should be, natural or not. Hey, good people, be yourselves. Have fun.

Friday, December 14, 2012 at 12:09 PM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA said:

I have yet to have a lady get upset at me for holding a door for them or helping with their packages. I always get a smile and a thank you. Maybe its because I live in the South where polite manners are a way of life for both men and women. Although when visiting my wife's folks in Elimra, NY I still do the same and haven't had anyone get upset. I think the feminists have blown this issue completely out of proportion.

Friday, December 14, 2012 at 1:26 PM

Rod in USA replied:

It's not just in the south. It is in many places..... I have so seldom ran into a femi-Nazi that I cannot recall the last time that I did. I have even noted a return (albeit not widespread yet) to the use of "Miss" over "Ms." Hallelujah!

Friday, December 14, 2012 at 1:31 PM

pete in CA said:

If I failed to exercise proper gentlemanly manners my dear old mom would come back from her grave and grasp me firmly by the ear - and hold my while my departed father firmly planted his size 14 EEE as deeply as he could into my posterior.

Good manners are never out of style.

Sunday, December 16, 2012 at 5:45 PM


AMEN PETE!!!!! And for those that don't like good manners - all I can say is "KISS MY GRITS"!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 11:21 AM

Richard J. Abbate of CT in Cheshire, CT said:

As an officer and a gentleman, I consistently hold doors, slip on coats, give up seats, open the car door and generally do my very best to show courtesy and respect for my female acquaintances. I have had to 'fight' for the right to open a car door for some ladies.

As a divorced, single male of some years, my dating life has been punctuated with insistences by women that they can open car doors for themselves. My reply is a simple observation that while I do not question their ability to do so, I do wish to maintain my gentlemanly status by being of service to them. I appreciate the 'differences' between our genders and revel in the opportunity to be a male and of service to a female.

All very archaic, no doubt to some observers, but that is how I was raised and taught, and I'm not going to change at this late date in my life.
I will remember the ministers remarks, and also the 'mistaken identity' remark. I have had a very few women object to my use of the phrase 'Ma'am', when addressing them, and will keep that 'sir/lady' comment in reserve for the most obnoxious of respondents in the future. There are limits to even a gentleman's restraint.

Monday, December 17, 2012 at 11:12 AM