Yesterday as I was walking out of the library, a guy held the door for me. Not that uncommon, especially in the South. But this was one of the times I just didn't get it.
Some door-holding is common courtesy. We all do it, we all know the drill: you open the door, quickly look back to see if someone is there, and if they are within a reasonable distance (right behind you), you pass it off to them. If the person is too far away, sorry, you're on your own. But that last step is where it gets iffy.
This guy who held the library door had to wait a good five seconds for me. How inconvenient for him! Doesn't he have somewhere to be? Would he have held it if I were a guy?
Has anyone (likely a woman) ever had someone (likely a man) do the ultimate door-hold? This is my (least) favorite. You're walking towards a door, and a guy suddenly comes through the door from the opposite direction. You expect that he'll pass the door to you, or maybe hold it open while you pass through. But no - instead, he does this maneuver: he stands in the doorway, stretches one arm out to keep the door open, and nods or gestures to you to walk past him through the door. You (cringe, then) squeeze/shimmy past him, not touching the door at all.
What just happened?
In case anyone is wondering, I am perfectly capable of opening doors all by myself - and I think I can speak for every other able-bodied woman and girl over the age of, like, two: WE CAN DO IT.
Door-holding is something I hadn't thought much about before I came to North Carolina. In the North, it's just not a big deal. Now, when I go home, I notice that guys sometimes hold doors for me, but not nearly as much as here. I remember my sister saying after a semester at school in South Carolina that she hadn't opened a door for herself in months. Crazy!
From what I have heard since coming here, it is pretty common in the South for boys to be taught from a young age that it is very impolite to not open a door for a girl, and that they should act like "gentlemen" by opening doors, pulling out chairs, carrying bags, and jumping through hoops. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a liiittle, but you get my point.
Another thing I have noticed, after talking about door-holding with people born and raised in North Carolina, especially in more traditional households, is that some guys and girls can get a bit defensive about it! I can see how it would be frustrating for someone to tell you that the way your parents and society taught you to do something as insignificant as holding open a door is wrong. And honestly, I really do think that a lot of people who were taught this see door-holding simply as a favor, and mean no harm at all.
If a guy sees door-holding as a favor, though, it is implied that the girl owes him something. It can also imply that she shouldn't have to do any strenuous lifting or work. This concept only further perpetuates the strong man/delicate woman dichotomy, and gives both physical power and social authority to men.
One study by psychology researchers at Purdue found that, when men have the door held open for them by another man, they report feeling lower self-esteem and lower self-efficacy, while women do not report a change. Simply having the door open makes men feel emasculated: less effective, less confident, less manly. This very statement equates women with ineffectiveness and uncertainty. It is this idea that makes me uncomfortable with the "chivalrous" act of door-holding. Not any one act or any one man in particular, but the act as a whole.
We all try to be polite - and there's nothing wrong with not slamming the door in someone's face. But even if you're just trying to be polite by opening the door, think about the social implications. Does this act give any power to one person over another, even if implicitly? If so, it might be better to just pass the door back.
Plus, you don't want to get yourself into this trap: