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Feminism: Is being a 'gentleman' now seen as sexist?

Nowadays, there isn't a great deal of clarity when it comes to what a man can and can't do.

It seems, in the current climate, that some men do not feel comfortable with where the line is drawn. My cousin—a young man who aligns with the feminist movement—just last month was rudely reprimanded for offering to help a woman with her suitcase up the stairs. So now he won't ever do that again. Is this a case of feminism going too far?

What feminism has to do with it:

As the feminist movement gains serious momentum, it means our world is moving forward a great deal. It means the actions of men are starting to be scrutinised, and quite rightfully. Catcalling is no longer acceptable. Disrespectful, objectifying language towards women in the workplace is now seriously reprimanded. Although some serious headway remains, we can be proud of the feminist movement and the direction it is going in. Women are starting to be treated as equals and with respect—particularly on university campuses.

But the question remains: has it all gone too far?

Was the woman at the airport just having a bad day or she was well within her rights to rudely refuse the help of a well-intentioned man?  Has this scrutiny of male actions turned into man-hating? Or is it all in the name of women empowerment? There are a lot of tweets claiming that people would never call themselves feminists because they appreciate it when a man opens the door for them. Or when they give up a seat for us to sit on. Or lend a coat when it's cold. Do they have a point?

Photo credit: Samantha Sophia via Unsplash

The difference between sexism and common courtesy:

It is important to note that feminism's goal is not to stop men opening doors for us. When a door is held open for us, we are not thinking 'oh he thinks I am so weak I can't even open a door, how sexist' or 'he's trying to take what's rightfully mine, I wanted to open that door for myself and he's just taken that liberty from me'. We, generally, are thinking 'thank you, that's kind of you.' Because all human beings appreciate acts of kindness, whether from a man or a woman.

What we do not appreciate is: being looked down upon, patronised, underestimated, or objectified. Looking at a woman's breasts whilst interviewing her for a job, touching her on the bus, whistling at her whilst she walks past. All of this is objectifying her. It is judging her on her body. It is scrutinising her for what she looks like, and treating her as an object. None of this is the case when simply holding open a door.

Where the line is drawn:

When the woman is objectified. When holding open the door turns into an invasion of personal space. Or an act that disrespects her body. Or when she feels targeted and victimised because of her sex. Ultimately, when she feels unsafe because of your presence. That is when it has gone too far.

Feminism does not need to eradicate common courtesy. Kindness and respect is blind to gender; we can open doors for men and women alike.

Featured image: roya ann miller via Unsplash