Last week, my husband and I experienced a huge triumph for our personal marital equality. He let me open and hold a door for him.
Not a big deal? Oh, it really is. I suspect he will laugh when he first reads this, but then he’ll think it through and understand. You see, this has been a small but long lasting battle between us.
When we first got married… Scratch that. When we first started dating, I was used to being an independent woman. I was only 23, so not as ingrained in my self-reliance as I might have been after another decade of single living, perhaps, but still used to relying on myself. I starkly remember that first time he smacked my hand back. We were going somewhere together and as I happened to be in front I reached for the door knob. He “hey!”d me, glared, moved me out of the way, opened the door and gestured me to walk in first.
Now, I do not have a problem with men holding open the door for me. I don’t have a problem for women or children holding it for me, either. Or scooting my chair when I sit down to dinner. Or offering me a drink before theirs. These things are courteous. Polite and kind behaviors practiced everywhere make for happier society in general, and that’s the kind of place I want to live. Somewhere happy. But opening the door for me because I am a woman, or even because I am his woman, is not a right that a man is entitled to operate by way of his gender.
This entitled behavior falls under the heading of Benevolent Sexism. It isn’t the action of a Chauvinist Pig, no; but this kind of preference that a man has a right to be courteous to a woman, that he should be insulted if she intentionally or inadvertently prevents his politeness, is most definitely sexist. It shows a preference for one gender’s rights and feelings over another.
After that first “hey!” smackdown, I didn’t argue with my now husband. I learned to grin at him and quietly step aside every time I reached a door. The longer we are married, the more accustomed he is to my blend of independence and togetherness in our marriage. He knows I am not rejecting his help and that his masculinity is not threatened when I do something for myself. It has taken some time, though, for me to be allowed to open a door for him in public.
Last week’s triumph was an internal glow for the rest of the day. It wasn’t that I was proving myself to be a strong, confident Woman by holding the door for him. It was simply a mark of equality, that he is happy to let me care for him the way he cares for me in public, as well as private. I am his other and his equal. He is mine.