Does being a gentleman support inequality?

One evening, I came across an interesting question. Someone said to me ‘since women speak of gender equality, then why do they expect guys to open doors for them?’ I had never given this any thought before. Now that this question was raised, it made me pause.

I decided I needed to put this question in front of a few others. I conducted a survey to see if being a gentleman is considered to support inequality. Out of the 89 people who participated, 25% men and 44% women do not think so. 11% men and 9% women do think so – I fit in that response. I was also curious to see if there would be a vast amount of difference between the male and female answers. The difference was not as massive as I was expecting.

Being a gentleman has strong historical connotations and the meaning of the word underwent a few changes in the West. From being a warrior to someone born into nobility (and being proficient in Latin), it evolved into polite and courteous behaviour. Interestingly, the code of gentlemanly behaviour moved away from focusing on reputation and militaristic expertise to the way women are treated in today’s day and age.

A gentleman today would be expected to do any number of the following – opening the door and letting a woman go through the doors first, pulling a chair out for the lady, paying the bill at a restaurant (especially so if there is a romantic interest), offering his jacket when the lady in question is feeling cold, and other such examples. The results from the survey led me to delve deeper into my mind. It is not the act of being a gentleman which promotes inequality. It is any expectation for a man to behave as a gentleman which leads to inequality. As we consider ourselves to be living in a civilised society, it should be the responsibility of every person, regardless of their gender, to be polite, respectful and kind. Some of the gentlemanly acts listed above are easily construed as examples of courteous behaviour.

If men do not open the door for a woman, then they should not be judged for being less than a gentleman. Similarly, if women pay for a meal at a restaurant, then they should be able to do so graciously and without running the risk of offending their dinner partner. Any expectations should be avoided. Women and men should be equals and the gender of the person in front of you should not impact the way they are treated.

Therefore, is the label of a gentleman necessary?



5 thoughts on “Does being a gentleman support inequality?

  1. Peter says:

    I’ve noticed/experienced this problem quite a bit. People expect you to treat someone differently or expect to be treated differently purely because of gender.

    Many girls expect guys to be a “gentleman” and be treated with a golden glove. They have the expectation that a good boyfriend should dominate them, run the relationship and just know what they, the girl, wants. They seem to expect a knight in shining armor to who will look after them like a princess. These gentleman gestures are sometimes more important to them then the real effort and scarifies made. Also many guys believe these gentlemanly gestures are important than making genuine scarifies for their partner. They believe they should always pay for the bill, while on the other hand having limited respect and empathy for their partner and other women.

    As suggested in the article, these expectations are by definition sexist as they are mainly based around gender. Gender equality is where we expect similar friendly gestures from people, regardless of their sex.

    1. Calpurnia Sycamore says:

      Hi Peter,

      Thank you for your comments and feedback on the article – you have highlighted a very important point. Expectations from and of both genders.

  2. Adam says:

    Great article. A good example of where we have all inherited a ‘label’ that has little context in the way we should all act.

  3. Salma says:

    Wow! This is really going to make me think twice before I judge someone in the future. Very well written and thought provoking.

  4. Shirsh Bedi says:

    Very well written and thought provoking. Good analysis too that it’s the expectations and the idea of it that could promote inequality and not the act itself. The world can do without all these labels!

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