I am currently at a national academic conference with a coterie of faculty, administrators, and graduate students from our university. During lunch yesterday, one of the graduate students, a man in his mid-20s, and I had a conversation that made me both sad and angry. He shared with me that he has been yelled at by women when he opened the door for them. He was scathingly told that they could do it themselves and didn’t need a man to open the door for them. He said that he generally responds that he views it as common courtesy and that he opens doors for men, too. But, as we were talking, I could tell that he was genuinely discouraged by the frequent tongue-lashing. As a man of his generation, he feels like he is caught in a no-win situation.
I told him that being a feminist did not mean we couldn’t accept the gift of an opened door. It also doesn’t mean that we have to do everything ourselves and do it all alone and that those women who scolded him must have been terribly constipated those days to have reacted the way they did.
I consider myself a feminist. I have an amazing career as a homemaker that I absolutely love and find completely fulfilling. And, oh, yes, I also happen to have a second job as a university administrator where I am well respected. In both of my jobs I get to make a difference in people’s lives.
This isn’t a feminist thing. I don’t even see this as a generational thing. This is a common courtesy thing. I have no expectation that a man will open a door for me but I gratefully thank anyone who opens a door for me or helps me out in one way or another.
Because thanking someone for a bit of kindness is the right thing to do. And perhaps if we start being grateful for each others’ little acts of kindness then more and more of them will be performed and, oh, I don’t know, the world will be a better place.