Opening Doors ~ Outside the Margins with Catherine Dair

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In early August I made a Facebook post about taking my son to see his beloved Mariners play a game for his birthday. This was the post:

I’m currently at the Mariners game for my son’s birthday. He wanted to explore for a bit so we walked around. He’s a few inches taller than me now and still having growth spurts at 14 with more to come.

Every time the crowds would get thicker he would reach over and interlace his fingers in mine. No longer my little boy who would grab Mom’s hand so we wouldn’t get separated in a crowd…this was clearly my young man in protective mode making sure Mom stayed with him and safe. It was clear that was his intent by his body language.

Time flies so damn fast. (And so proud to be his Mom). 

I received a private message a short time later. The contactor said they read my post to their partner which had resulted in a conversation on why they didn’t show this type of affection. Their reason was that they had been scolded too often for holding doors open for women.

This shocked me. I had never heard of this. Were men really scolded for opening doors for women? I asked a dad that I knew if he had encountered this and he replied “yes”.

Naturally I did what any person does who is curious…I enlisted Google and searched for articles on the topic. Wow, did I ever find them. Many of them.

It comes down to something called “benevolent sexism”.

This has been bothering me for days.

I see myself as a feminist. Yet I’ve taught my son to open doors for women. Not just women – all people. My son has never viewed women as the weaker sex. He would laugh at you if you accused him of it. Mom or big sister are the ones that capture the spiders in his room (or other parts of the house) because he’s terrified of them. Mom is the one who builds all the new furniture we purchase from IKEA and who teaches him how to turn that wrench. Mom is the one who has all the tough talks with him and who scared off the dog that came racing at him.

My son opens doors for people – men and women, young and old alike, because it is the nice thing to do. I would like to say I have taught him compassion but he was born with a bucket load of his own. All I had to do was guide him in ways to use it.

Guess what? My daughter opens doors for everyone as well.

They have also been taught to “take care of family”. Look out for the ones in your pack. Not because they are weaker, but because we are bonded in love and we look out for each other. My son was not holding my hand in public because I had leveled down to the weaker sex. He held my hand because he wanted us to stick together. He was being aware of his surroundings and how it pertained to the two of us.

I saw it as maturity.

It bothers me greatly that my son and possibly even my daughter will potentially get scolded for opening a door for someone in the future because it is seen as sexist. Instead of telling them to stop, I will have to forewarn them now it could happen. I will need to prep them for what to say if they do get reprimanded for it. What should that be? Should they just tell the person they are extending a kindness? Should they just take it on the chin, knowing that the real reason they did it was because Mom taught them to be polite to people?

Reprimanded for being polite. This makes me quite sad.

If you are someone that is rankled by this gesture, I am going to ask a favor. Consider that the person just might be doing it because they are of the mindset that being nice to others spreads niceness around the world. Not intending for it to be a sexist gesture. I know how much it would hurt my son’s heart to be accused of that.

The alternative is to teach my kids to not consider anybody but themselves in public and that is just not who we are. We believe that you should go out of your way to spread kindness and hopefully make someone else’s day a bit more pleasant.

We are a family that opens doors.

~Catherine Dair


About Catherine Dair

Catherine Dair is a full time Mom by day and spends her evenings as her alter egos – a ninja illustrator and a superhero. Her children know all about it and they are usually putting in their two cents over her shoulder. She gets the giddy pleasure of making fun art for authors, bloggers and lots of cool people. In her spare time, Catherine makes crazy designs for her Redbubble store and fiddles with her website. She gave up sleep because sleep is for sissies.

Find out more about the fun she likes to have in life (and the art she creates) at:

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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14 thoughts on “Opening Doors ~ Outside the Margins with Catherine Dair

  1. Well said Catherine. As far as I can see it’s the result of feminism, for some people, having turned into an all or nothing sort of thing. Don’t get me wrong I’m for equal rights for everyone. I was raised to see no differences between people be they based on gender, skin colour or any other distinctive characteristic.

    I guess so many women have felt repressed for so long that they now see every single kindness, every polite gesture, as an insult to ‘remind them of their place’ rather than the hand of friendship it more than likely is. It is a matter of perspective and I choose to see generosity of spirit rather than meanness when somebody opens a door for me, offers me a seat or ask me if I need assistance.

    For (young) men especially it’s a potential minefield though. How do you judge whether or not this particular person is going to appreciate your act of kindness or be insulted by it. And if you can’t, do you err on the side of caution and just allow that door to slam in their face or do you take the risk and bite your tongue if holding the door open is interpreted the wrong way?

    I wish I had answers for you. I think this is one of those issues that won’t be fully resolved until equality is a fact rather than something to aspire to. Many women won’t feel certain about their status until all of society agrees they are in fact equal. Until that day, polite and kind men like your son will struggle. I’m sorry.

    • This really is a hard scenario. I do understand how a woman might perceive it as “I can do things for myself, thank you very much.” But I’m also of the mindset that if I’m carrying something heavy or having a tough pain day that somebody (male or female) offering to hold a door open for me is often a godsend. How does one tell the difference on who you should offer to or should let them be? There seems to be no win here at the moment.

      I agree with you that maybe this is indeed one of those issues that isn’t going to be resolved until equality is what we have in every way. Then maybe when that day comes no one will think twice about it.

  2. I’ve never run into this problem, but I’m a woman. I assume women I hold the door for don’t believe I’m being sexist. I’ve certainly never felt like anyone holding the door for me was doing it because they felt I was weaker than they. I’ve also never had a man get offended when I held open the door for him.

    I hate the fact that you will have to warn your son about this. Apparently, being a woman lets your daughter off the hook (most likely). I hope your son continues to hold the door for whoever may follow him. If someone says something, he should very politely respond, “I’m sorry my manners offend you. My mother taught me that slamming a door in anyone’s face was rude.”

    • Thank you! I have never run into myself either yet was surprised at finding out how many articles existed about it on the internet and to have male friends tell me they had experienced it. So clearly the chance exists for my son to get some negative feedback and I don’t want him to stop holding doors in the event that he does.

      I love your reply! I’m definitely sharing it with my son! 😀

  3. For years and years, my husband opened every door for me. I noticed one day that all of a sudden he’d stopped opening the car door. It hit me then that he’d stopped some time back. I mentioned it to him and he said, “You told me not to. You told me you were perfectly capable of opening a car door.” Really? I said that? After some interrogation, it turns out I said that after we ran through a blinding rainstorm to the car. He’d run to my side to hold the door open and I’d yelled at him to just go get in his side – I was perfectly capable of opening the car door on my own. Ah. Yeah, I remember that happening and it *did* seem utterly ridiculous to me, under the circumstances, for him to get even more drenched just to open my car door. I had no idea I’d hurt his feelings, though. To this day, he opens every kind of door for me – except the car door. Sometimes it’s better to just say, “thank you” when another person offers you a kindness. You’re teaching your kids right. And I love when a young man starts protecting his mom.

    • I can absolutely see my son shutting down doing this if he took a statement to heart or misinterpreted what was directed at him. I’m was actually very nervous making this post but I’ve received nothing but positive feedback. Tell your husband we all think he is a gentleman!

  4. I say Thank you when someone opens a door for me … my Daughters say Thank you … my Granddaughters say Thank you. I open a door for anybody & expect nothing … my Daughters open doors & expect nothing … my Granddaughters open doors & expect nothing. We all practice kindness … by acknowledging kindness & by practicing kindness. It isn’t a gender thing … it’s a human thing. I don’t wait for kindness … I leap to practice it. I feel better … I do it for me! I think this is the way you have ingrained kindness into your children … by example! Congratulations! It worked … and makes you feel good, too! Great post!! Tell your son Thank you & to ignore the ignorant! You can’t fix stupid … even with a door to their face! Keep passing the smile & the kindness!

  5. We are also a family that opens doors, gives up seats for anyone who could use it more than oneself, and offers help carrying things to anyone who has their arms full. Good for you for raising kids with good manners.

  6. Someone I worked with once lectured me on why I shouldn’t let men open doors for me. I was kind of horrified by the lecture. There’s a lot of sexism in this world but I always chose to believe that someone holding a door for me was doing so out of kindness and politeness. That’s why I open doors for other people.

  7. I guess it really does matter if he opens doors for everyone or just for women. Because benevolent sexism is a thing, a real thing and it’s harmful in the long run. A universal kindness is wonderful though.

    The danger I see in your scenario (which still made me go ‘awwww,’ BTW because it’s really sweet) is that you aren’t the only one teaching your son, all of his social experiences are too and our basic paternalistic society does still emphasize ‘men do this for women.’ There’s a very real chance of your ‘do this as a general good’ could get subverted to reinforce ‘do this as a general, chivalrous good for women because you’re the man and she’s just a ‘wittle lady.’

    The thing is, I don’t think the feminist backlash against door opening is suggesting no one should open doors for other people, just the opposite in fact. I think it’s suggesting that the behavior should go from the ‘only men for women’ to ‘everyone for whomever needs it or is behind them on entering/exiting.’ All these fabulous comments from women saying, ‘I open doors for people,’ that’s feminism at work. That’s a success story. That’s partly the result of past women saying, “I can do that myself, thank you very much.”

    And all of that same argument can be made about your son’s protective behavior. Is he protecting pack or is he protecting a woman because he’s a man and she’s a woman? I hope, as you say, it’s the first option. If so, if really really so, then you deserve a HUGE congratulations on raising a successful, 21st century man. Either way, this is a wonderful piece on navigating changing gender norms and expectations. Thank you.

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