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?