My boyfriend has always made it a point to open the door for me when we get in the car. At first, I would try to rush and get ahead of him, so he couldn’t do it, or ask him not to. He couldn’t understand why I was being so weird about it.
"I can do it myself," I’d say.
"I know you can do it yourself," he would sigh, "but it’s something I want to do for you."
A couple of weeks ago, we had dinner with another couple. The guys both agreed this kind of behavior was weird on women’s part. Basically, women should know that men are just trying to be polite; they’re not trying to pass judgment on women’s capabilities or sensitivities.
I never explained why I feel so strongly about it.
The problem is that for every man like my boyfriend and our friend, there’s many others who define women in a different, lesser sense. Men who approach women on street or at the subway late at night to pass judgment on their appearance and berate them when they’re not interested. Men who take to the internet to criticize women’s hair and shoes. Men who get defensive when women are strong, who call for them to return to their “ladylike" days. Men who get offended when women don’t respond to their flirtation at bars, labeling them as ‘bitches,’ they have never experienced the shit that comes with being a woman in 2013 and thus are so ignorant of the fact that maybe a well-intentioned ‘hi’ is the 14th unsolicited comment that girl received that day. Men who open car doors and carry boxes for women because deeply engrained in their minds is a belief that WOMEN ARE LESSER.
For every man like them, there is at least one who vigorously follows google links like, “Women should know their place,” “Women cannot be trusted,” “Women need to be controlled.”
For every man who will really think about this UN advertising campaign are countless others who will dismiss it as nothing more than another shrill noise from the feminist brigade.
Birdy is polite in a “Can you please help me find my rain boots?” and “Thank you, I’d love another deviled egg” kind of way. But when strangers talk to her, she is like, “Whatever.” She looks away, scowling. She does not smile or encourage.
I bite my tongue so that I won’t hiss at her to be nice. I tell you this confessionally. Because do I think it is a good idea for girls to engage with zealously leering men, like the creepy guy in the hardware store who is telling her how pretty she is? I do not. “Say thank you to the nice man who wolf-whistled!” “Smile at the frat boy who’s date-raping you!” I want my daughter to be tough, to say no, to waste exactly zero of her God-given energy on the sexual, emotional and psychological demands of lame men — of lame anybodies. I don’t want her to accommodate and please. I don’t want her to wear her good nature like a gemstone, her body like an ornament.