This I Believe

Kristy - Sheffield, Alabama
Entered on May 7, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
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Thank You, Sir

Sometime last week, a young man held the door open for me as I walked out of a building. His act of genteel politeness was a token gesture, not likely to stir heads or raise a ruckus, I know, but in the small moment exactly during this modern day act of chivalry it occurred to me: men should always hold the door open for women. This thought was not by any means original, even to me, for as long as I can remember I have thought the same thought each time a man has taken time to hold the door. And then, as quickly as it comes, the thought will vanish until the next time, but the belief will continue to grow.

Holding the door, or having the door held for you, is a lesson in reciprocity. Implied by the act is a mutual agreement of respect and appreciation. Normally present is the technicality that neither party knows the other (barring the occurrence of said act within a relationship, of course), and yet, by a man holding the door for a woman, two people have nonverbally communicated on the issues of identity and worth. When a man takes time from his day to hold the door for a woman, he has essentially said, “You are worth this simple and random act of kindness.” Hopefully, she smiles her thanks.

The nineties were a decade that gave rise to women in the workplace as well as the seemingly new problem of “sexual harassment.” It was during this time that I came to realize everyone didn’t share my belief. I encountered the feminist notion that having a man open or hold the door for a woman was equivalent to blasphemy concerning women’s rights; it betrayed the refrain that women could do any and all things for themselves. I consider myself fair and open-minded, yet I admit to falling headfast into the logic I was presented with, until something occurred to me—there is a difference between rights and respect. And while women had fought for the existence of the former, I did not believe we should then fight for the extinction of the latter.

And so my belief grew stronger, until today it has become something of an expectation. If a man gets the door for me, well then, he has performed as he should. If he does not, then I pass judgment; he obviously hasn’t been taught well. As for my sons, holding the door is now a matter of rote. They hold the door for their sisters and me, as well as any other woman who may be coming through a door with us. And by teaching them to hold the door, I have not set back women’s rights, nor have they developed a view of women as anything less than capable. Instead, they have learned respect, and each time they hold the door, they communicate their respect—just as an unknowing gentleman did for me sometime last week.