Ladies and Gentlemen!

3:28 AM

Back where I come from, chivalry is huge. Guys get pounded for not opening doors for ladies or walking them back to their dorms at night, or, at the very least, offering such assistance. You don't dare swear or tell dirty jokes in front of a girl when certain other young gentlemen are about. A true gentleman dances with all of the girls at Friday night swing club. I can count on only one hand the times I haven't been walked home -- I've opened lots of doors, of course, since doors are a daily challenge. Still, my friend sent me off from Hillsdale with this warning: "Doors have handles that you have to turn. If you can't pull them open, try pushing."

Can you say spoiled?

Even with this princess treatment from certain young gentlemen, I felt the urge the other day to blast the few young ungentlemen who maybe open doors for only certain young ladies but treat other people like dirt -- not very gentlemanly at all. My blood boiled at the thought of their rudeness and crudeness and insensitivity to other unspecial females and people in general. How dare they claim the name of gentleman just because they open a door an occasion!

Then I stopped short. I quickly reviewed my thoughts on the interplay between ladies and gentlemen, and I realized a horrible, horrible thing that nobody ever addresses: ladies tend to get away with bad behavior and put up unloving demands simply because they're "ladies" and guys are "gentlemen."

I, like many other girls, respond with so much rudeness and offended pride when guys fail my expectations. For example: Once, a friend of mine offended me. Instead of me handling the situation maturely by approaching him later and telling him how I truly felt, I snapped something like, "That's not what you do to a girl!" and tattle-taled on him later to another guy friend -- who later, I discovered, locked the offender in the bathroom for half an hour as punishment. Forget the fact that I'm a "lady" and he's a "gentleman." Who says I get off the hook for handling offenses Biblically because of my gender?

Fact of life: guys make mistakes -- not because they're jerks but because they're sinners just like me. So many times I forget this (purposefully or no) and demand the guy to be perfect. Sometimes he can get away with making mistakes -- but he better be the one to man up and apologize first. After all, I'm the girl. I have the right to be infuriated at him since he's a guy and should have treated me better. No, no, NO. The mature one, not the male, must offer sincere apologies and reconciliation. Girls may not lose their tempers at guys or refuse to make the first move in repairing a relationship.

Girls must follow Christ's command to lay down their lives for their friends just like guys must.

I can fake the aura of "I'm weaker and want protection" -- but really, I just want out of doing hard things. I don't want to confront a guy on his sin or immaturity or offense towards me, so I send a male third party to do my own business. I don't want to talk to the front desk person, so I send a guy to do it for me. I don't want to carry bags from Kroger or help move chairs back into place or do any dirty work, so I play the lady card. Since when did doing hard things -- especially my hard things -- become solely a man's job? And when did I get this snotty sense of entitlement? Oh, sure, I'll carry things out to the car but only while dramatically flaunting my wounded womanhood.

No gentleman needs to feel the pressure of doing someone else's job. Yes, of course, we ought to bear one another's burdens -- whether a bag of leaves or a spiritual struggle. Nonetheless, it is not the man's responsibility to take on all the responsibilities of his lady friends.

This idea probably offends every American-born gentleman, but it's true. The whole interplay between lady and gentleman creates an entitlement mentality in girls to abdicate loving behavior and responsibility. It implies that there's a special sort of "lady pride" that, when offended, deserves protection and revenge at whatever cost to restore her honor. Forget turning the other cheek, we're told. No girl ought to put up with such treatment -- no girl should tolerate swearing or bad jokes or opening her own doors.

Ladies, that simply isn't true. It is our responsibility to tolerate the ungentlemanlike behavior of guys around us. It is our responsibility not to nitpick and nag when they neglect to open a door or allow you to carry something without offering to help. It is our responsibility to treat guys respectfully and humbly, tolerating their faults and helping them with their burdens too.

This semester especially, I've heard from several guys who hate the sense of entitlement the particular lady/gentleman complex creates. They feel pressured to perform when guys are scarce on the dance floor and many beaming eyes anxiously and expectantly demand they step out of their comfort zone and dance with a total stranger. They don't always have time to hold the door open for an entire stream of people running to classes. They get tired too and want to go to bed at 3 AM without walking entirely out of their way to the girls' dorm in the freezing cold. And they tell this to me, how they genuinely care about people but don't like the rigid and inconsiderate expectations forced upon them.

It is not their duty to "be gentlemen." And it is not our duty to inform them of their duty. If they choose to walk us home, more power to them for being thoughtful. If they choose not to, the balance of power remains neither increased nor decreased. If we decide to hold the door open for a guy because we get there first, more power to us for being thoughtful. If we don't, no big deal.

True gentlemen are gentlemen because they're thoughtful, loving and considerate -- not because they perform  the hard things for us. Besides, we are not primarily "ladies and gentlemen": we are primarily brothers and sisters in Christ. We go out of the way for each other. We bear burdens for each other. We do hard things for each other. I have walked sick guys back to their dorm to make sure they make it all right. I have held doors open for numerous people of both genders. I have allowed them to dump spiritual burdens on me and taken the initiative to pray together. I have tolerated swearing and bad jokes, and when it gets to the point where I'm uncomfortable, I speak up for myself or walk away -- because I believe it's my job to protect myself from bad influences instead of expecting people to change simply because I'm a lady.

I'm not interested anymore in being a lady, in that demanding, expectant sense. I want to be a sister who guys can open up to, depend on, respect and get help from. I want to bear their burdens for them and go out of my way to show I care. I want them to feel like they have many options to show respect and care in a genuine way instead of meeting medieval expectations of chivalry. I want to show tolerance and cover their faults instead of whine about my "womanhood" being offended. Basically, I just want to show Christ to these young gentlemen -- whether or not they walk me home that night.

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4 impressions

  1. That's so funny! I've had the opposite experience, to the point I feel really uncomfortable when guys make a point of opening doors for me or carrying things that "I really could have carried myself." I just feel mega-awkward and uncomfortable.

    I don't agree with these gals out there who feel like it's an insult to girls to have guys open the doors for them. I just feel like maybe they're confusing the Pauper for the Princess? Because I am totally not the Princess, so maybe they have the wrong girl. lol.

    I'm from the North, and I went down South earlier this year. I felt so awkward waiting for a guy to open the door when I normally would have pulled it open myself, but it seemed ungracious (to say the least) to complain about local customs of kindness. Still, I couldn't shake the feeling I grew up with that you weren't supposed to ask for helping unless you really needed it, and you should try yourself, first. As a result, I'm not good at the "Lady" thing, even when it's expected of me, which can be uncomfortable.

    It's just fun for me to see it through your eyes, a totally different perspective than what I've had. (I agree with where you're headed, though! ;) )

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  2. Interesting thoughts Bailey..... I really like your opinion on this.

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  3. This is really good! I agree . . . putting all those expectations on the guys isn't really fair, and it also can get uncomfortable for the girl if she's made to feel like she can't do anything for herself. I like how you said we're supposed to bear each other's burdens. The Bible doesn't say that only guys should be the burden bearers . . .
    Thanks for this post!

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  4. As a guy, I sincerely appreciate this.

    Yet there's a common thread between this post and the recent one that featured our back-and-forth that I think might be worth mentioning:

    I don't think the problem is chivalry or patriarchy, respectively (and whether or not chivalry or patriarchy is Biblical or correct is irrelevant, I think, to this).

    In each case, the problem that you are addressing is girls abusing a given system; in the former case, it's a girl using chivalry to enable her own laziness and fear; in the latter, it's a girl missing a foundational premise of patriarchy (honoring the men in her life) and instead beating her men over the head with a doctrine designed to encourage her to do the opposite.

    So I don't think the problem is chivalry or patriarchy (like 'em or not); the problem is girls who aren't being ladies, and female adherents to patriarchy who aren't submitting to the doctrines that they wield.

    That'd be like using pastors who commit adultery to discredit Christianity; the problem is not with Christianity.

    Make sense?

    That said, I think you are SPOT ON to encourage girls not to abuse this; indeed, a real lady is such because she has true, deep, loving, serving character.

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