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I usually go to work by bus and usually don't care if people enter before I do (unless I'm on a rush), so I just step aside and let people pass. Sometimes there's a lot of people, sometimes just 1 or 2. Last week was just me and another woman waiting for the bus. As the bus stopped, I let her pass in front and she gave me a sort of a scornful look and groan before finally passing.

Later that day I've been told some women don't like it when men let them pass or open the door for them or something (because they consider it sexism coming from a man), so I thought maybe that was the case. I've honestly never looked too much into it until that day, and remembered I've always been raised to always act like a gentleman.

Can these traits I've attained be considered sexist, even though in my mind, I really don't care if I'm lending my spot to a man or a woman (as I've been doing most of my time)?

For reference, I'm currently living in the north of Portugal.

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    Welcome to Interpersonal Skills! Unfortunately, asking if something is sexist is very opinion based and therefore not a good fit for this site (some people will say yes, some say no). If you changed the question to something like "How can I reduce the chances of being perceived as sexist, when I let other people go first?" then the opinion based aspect of the question would be removed and the question would be on topic. Thank you
    – kscherrer
    Dec 4 '18 at 13:06
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I (as a woman) don't perceive this kind of behavior as sexism, but as bothersome and cumbersome because it disrupts the natural flow of every-day interactions.

Imagine walking in a group as the second person in front. In a world where everyone was treated equally, you'd expect the person in front of you to open the door, pass through it and hold it open long enough for you to take over in holding the door open and passing through.

Naturally, when the first person hesitates, you expect that there's a reason for it (like another group of people blocking the way), so you wait as well.

The problem is that, as a woman, you're forced to analyze the situation and asses whether there's a reason for you to stop as well or the other person is being gentelmanly and is waiting for you to pass through before them. It creates awkward situations and unnessecary waits and makes something as simple as walking through a door complicated.


However, there are situations where extreme gentelmanly behavior can be perceived as sexism. These are generally situations where your behavior implies that women cannot do simple tasks. Some examples include:

  • Making a show of holding every single door open for a woman (which requires you overhauling her several times to be first at the next door), implying that she cannot open a door by herself.
  • When a woman asks for a tool (hand-operated or power tool) to build or repair something and you insist on building / repairing the something instead of offering the tool you imply that she's unable to do it.
  • If a woman carries a big or heavy object and you take it out of her hands without being asked, you belittle her by implying she cannot carry the object herself.

If in doubt, ask the person if they want or need help.

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As a woman I have a different perspective on it - the one that has nothing to do with sexism.

Most likely your behavior was not expected (perhaps not even needed) and you simply made getting on/off the bus more awkward and time consuming and less smooth by making her pass you instead of timely getting on the bus yourself. Please consider that your gentlemen ways may slow down everyone and tip them off their rhythm. There is a time and place for such behavior but in crowd or if you are already first, just move on.

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The definition of a "gentleman" in my dictionary is a chivalrous, courteous, or honourable man. I don't see anything that says this courtesy should only extend to women. Personally, I will hold a door open for both men and women. If I stopped holding the door for women only based on the belief that some women don't like men doing this for them, then I would be consciously treating women differently to men. And if I stopped holding doors open altogether, that's what I call rude.

Sure, historically there is a practice of "ladies before gentlemen", and I can see why some modern women might see that as "sexist" if they believe a man is treating them differently based entirely on their gender. Again, personally, as a (gentle)man I don't see anything wrong with specific acts of kindness to the women already in our lives. In a relationship of any kind, it is nice for both parties to show appreciation and respect for each other through gestures. If you think about it, that has to be shown in different ways. For example, imagine if the only way a man and woman in a relationship could show appreciation for one another was to hold a door open and allow the other to go first. They'd either constantly argue about who was going first, or end up strictly alternating in which case it has become mechanical and the "gesture" is lost.

If a woman you don't know seems unappreciative of your chivalrous act (again, chivalry is defined as a moral, and social code, originally among knights, not towards women) then there really is not much you could do to anticipate and combat that. I personally believe there are more people (both men and women) that would appreciate a kind gesture than would be offended by it on some gender-based grounds.

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