Monday, January 13, 2014

On Holding Doors

It seems that almost everyone in the western world has a strong opinion on who should hold a door open. Most of the men I work with will say that the man should always hold the door open. They say it is chivalry, and a kindness for which I should be grateful. And they are confused by the fact that the "young generation" has so many "feminists" who don't believe in this practice.

"Woman are different than men," one client reminded me as he shook his finger to accentuate the important parts of his monologue. "And I trained my sons so that they would never let you near a door without rushing to open it. It's only right."

And I do understand much of the time it is intended to be a kindness. When the fellow right in front of me holds the door open for me, I thank him and move on. If the lady in front of me holds the door, I have the same exact response. The problem with this "kindness" is when others will not accept the same.

I was walking through a snowstorm, with the wind howling as I leaned forward and willed myself towards the engineering building. I saw a man was just three paces behind me still in the midst the billowing snow, so I held it open the door as I waited for him to go in. He stopped and gestured for me to go first. I was standing behind the door, freezing my ass off, and gestured that I was already holding the door and he should just go inside. He gestured again for me to go, because I am a woman and my holding the door is compromising his idea of chivalry. I gesture again for him to go, because I was standing behind the door and it was impractical for me to go first. We did this in a snowstorm for minutes like children - children who were both probably getting frostbite. I finally gave up and went inside, severely annoyed.

If it is a kindness and not some sign that women are less than their male counterparts, than why can I not hold the door open when it is convenient to do so? And even when somebody walks through a door that I've held open, I find they often snicker, as if it is ridiculous that I would do the same thing they do for others. Pointing out that I am a woman by insisting that I not hold a door makes me feel uncomfortable in a field where my gender makes me an outsider.

So, I have compiled this helpful flow chart of when I think you should hold the door open, and when it is not reasonable to do so.

Note that at no point does this chart take into account the gender of the person holding the door nor the person for which the door is being held. And unless you see being a woman as being "physically unable to open a door", then there should be no difference in how you treat the two groups, especially in a workplace.

What are your thoughts? Is there any rational reason why women should not hold the door for men?




  1. I'm of an age such that during my youth and through young adult life it was the cultural norm that men should hold doors open for women, but not the other way around. I think that's totally irrational, but due to years of conditioning I'm still much more likely to hold a door open for a woman than to let her hold one open for me.

    Because I realize that's an irrational criteria for determining who holds a door open for whom, I'm trying to cure myself of that habit. This is getting easier because I'm now reaching the age where some young whippersnappers—of both genders—look at me and think that, because of our relative ages, they should be holding the door open for me. Damned smart asses.

  2. I completely agree with your flowchart, people forcing people to act a certain way due to gender is ridiculous, if you want to open a door, you should do it, and nobody should boss you into entering first.

    Him not entering the door lacks common sense.

    On a similar note, I hate when there is only one car on the road, and you are trying to cross the street, the plan is to go behind him which would have been a 2 second wait, but instead he starts slowing down, and eventually stops and waves you past which takes about 7 seconds.

  3. Agree with your flowchart and thoughts about gender not being important in common courtesy.

  4. Right on! Plus, isnt it nice when we humans get to take turns looking out for one another? It makes me feel just as good to hold the door for someone else as it does when he/she holds it for me. We should share the good the comes from both experiences.

  5. Women can and should! And when the door is held for them not to forget to acknowledge the person holding open the door.


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