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EMILY A. STODDARD What's changed? Chivalry today goes both ways



Published: Fri, August 30, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



He opens the door for you. He pulls out your chair and pays for everything. You may think one of two things: A) If I can't open the door, am I even fit to be on a date? or B) How sweet -- now there's a nice guy.

For me, the answer is simple. I'd choose B. Considering my opinions on equality and the like, my choice may surprise some people. Isn't it contradictory for a girl like me to appreciate a guy who opens the door? Isn't that supporting a chauvinistic action?

Some people believe that in the battle of the sexes, chivalry is an attempt to solidify the place of the "weaker sex." In my opinion, such actions are worthy and go to show that we should expect this kind of respect in our relationships.

While trying to be fiercely equal, it seems men and women have created a problem: When is chivalry polite, and when is it male dominance? I fear that girls who are starkly aware of this may just be labeled "The Intimidator" for coming off as anti-chivalry. Many guys have experienced this conflict: Open the door and you're a gem -- or open the door and you'll offend. Who knows what's appropriate anymore?

The guessing game of chivalry comes down to a matter of choice, with one person then trying to figure out what the other has decided. These days, guys feel it necessary to ask, "Do you mind if I open the door for you?" while it used to simply be expected of them.

Best of both worlds

This conflict is born of our ultra-sensitivity to women's and equality issues, and while I'm glad we are aware of those issues, I don't believe they should mean the downfall of respectable chivalry. In other words, it is possible to support all-around equality without sacrificing kind treatment.

What matters here is not the action but the intent. Ladies, don't shrink from a guy if he opens the door. Appreciate the fact that he was thoughtful; don't conclude that he considers you incapable. What is at heart is not his perception of your abilities but his perception of how to show respect for people in general.

True equality between the sexes would not eliminate chivalry but rather encourage both men and women to practice it. Chivalry itself is not the problem. The problem is that only men are traditionally expected to uphold it. So let's cut the guesswork out of dating, girls. Let the guy open the door -- and then do the same for him on the way out. It would be underestimating real equality between the sexes to have it any other way.

XEmily A. Stoddard, 19, of Grand Rapids, Mich., is a columnist for Blue Jean Online. Read more articles and reviews by young women at http://www.bluejeanonline.com, or check out the book "Blue Jean: What Young Women are Thinking, Saying and Doing. & quot;




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