There was a news report the other day tolling the death knell for male chivalry in the city because “gender equality” now means men no longer feel obligated by the historic expectation of society to give up their train or bus or subway seat to a woman.
I admit the only time I will give up my seat is when a pregnant woman can’t find an empty spot to sit. Does that make me less of a man or less mannered or less polite in that I see my fellow passengers as people first and not as their gender unless, that is, they are carrying the future inside them?
Have we all whittled away our sense of graciousness and poise by giving up our traditional gender roles and expectations? When I first moved to New York a friend of mine — who was then 68 and old school in every way — told me a story when he recently gave up his seat on a bus to a pregnant woman.
She took his seat, looked up at him and said, “Sucker!” He burned with fury the rest of the way home though he vowed not to let her inconsiderate comment mar the intent of his future consideration. My friend still tells that story 20 years later with the same anger as if it happened yesterday.
I know women who are insulted if you pause to open a door for them because they feel you are being a condescending male who believes a woman cannot open a door on her own. No amount of explanation will pause the torrent of male chauvinist accusations. I have also never draped my jacket over a mud puddle so a woman could walk across without getting her shoes wet.