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I am a male brazilian (born and living) software developer. I'm part of a remote team with people living in Brazil and in USA (born in other countries as well). We've been working together for 1 month.

Currently I am in USA on a business trip to get to know my colleagues working from here.

One day after the work we decided to go out for a happy hour. During the happy hour we started to play some party games (let's say table-tennis) and I got a match against one of my female colleagues (which is also our team leader). Since it was our first match, we were not sure about who was supposed to start playing. I tried to be polite, so I said:

"Ladies first, please go ahead!"

Briefly after she looked at me and said that this is a very rude thing to say in USA. I felt really awkward and promptly apologized to her. In Brazil usually it is not a rude thing.

I know that the "ladies first rule" is something that may sound rude in some cases, but in this situation in particular I was just trying to be polite with a colleague that I hold a huge respect.

Question: How rude is "ladies first rule" in USA?

closed as primarily opinion-based by JMac, apaul, sphennings, Flo, ElizB Aug 9 '18 at 18:50

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    This isn't really a good fit for this site right now. The answers would be too opinion based. Personally, I'd say the answer to this question can vary quite a bit with different people. Some might be offended you think they should get special treatment because they are a woman. Some still believe "ladies first" is the right approach. Most probably don't care either way. – JMac Aug 9 '18 at 17:17
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    @Jmac on meta there have been discussion of etiquette questions in particular, I don't see that this is all that different. – Upper_Case Aug 9 '18 at 17:30
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    @JMac I don't know how common etiquette itself is, being highly regional, time-based, and group-based fundamentally. I don't disagree that "How rude" can't be quantified, but if the question were edited to "Is it rude" nothing would be lost but it would suddenly become "answerable". If we allow etiquette questions, as is currently the community feeling, this is the sort of question we'll get. See interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3019/… – Upper_Case Aug 9 '18 at 17:44
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    Where in the US did this happen/is the woman from? JMac's right; in the 'American South', for example, probably most people think it's rude to not follow the ladies first rule. Somewhere like San Francisco or Portland, though, and the exact opposite is true. – TylerH Aug 9 '18 at 18:17
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    Should this get closed, a better rephrasing to be more on topic with IPS may be more along the vein of, 'Why was this considered rude and what's a better social alternative?' – Jess K. Aug 9 '18 at 18:24
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To answer your question: no, the 'ladies first' rule isn't inherently rude. However, the response to your gesture of "ladies first" will vary. Some may take it as patronizing, as if you're insisting they're incapable of opening the door themselves. Some women may take it as a flirtatious gesture, which is a situation you may want to avoid if you're coworkers with these women. Others may respond positively, and view it as proper and chivalrous etiquette.

While you could ask, "Would you like to go first?", this could cause a weird and unnatural break in the conversation or walk. My suggestion is to still open doors for female and male colleagues, but instead say something along the lines of "After you" instead of "ladies first". This removes the somewhat complicated gender roles and obligations, and now frames the gesture as a common courtesy. Now, the underlying social implication is:

I am happy to perform this polite gesture because I enjoy being courteous to others!

Rather than:

I am a man, you are a woman, and this is what men have to do for women.

I hope this helps!

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"Ladies first" could be offensive to people that believe that women should not receive special treatment and may constitute this action as being sexist. Some people would categorize "lady first" as a form of chivalry and not be offended, but thankful of the action.

I recommend in this kind of situation in the future you merely ask your American colleague if she would like to go first, instead of saying "ladies first."

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I don't really disagree with the other answers, but wanted to expand a little. The US is very big, and there are very different cultures in different regions, but for the sake of simplicity we can group these into the "North" and "South".

(Bias alert, I'm from the South).

Please note, this is painting with very broad strokes

In the South, chivalry is still the norm. People even talk about "Southern gentlemen" as the sort of ideal archetype. In the South, you are almost expected to hold the door for women, allow them to go first, help them carry stuff, etc. Failure to do this usually won't get a verbal reprimand, but you will come off as rude. Ladies first wouldn't almost never be considered rude here.

People in the North tend to fancy themselves as the modern and progressive-minded bunch. As such, you are more likely to encounter people who see polite acts as somehow condescending. They go to lengths to treat everyone equally, even if that means equally rude. Ladies first is more likely to be seen as rude here.

Though in my personal opinion, any woman who gets actually offended by Ladies first is beyond saving and should be avoided as much as possible.

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