Door bitch

12 Dec
The coalface of contemporary gender politics isn’t actually the earning gap or reproductive rights. The real battle, the one I rage daily, is a door. Specifically, the door of the lift in my office building. If I get in the lift first I stand towards the back and other people, including men, get in the lift and stand towards the front. Normal so far. I ride to the top floor, and if a man happens to be standing in front of me he will stand, somewhat awkwardly to the side and look at me expectantly.
I stand there awkwardly back.
He looks at me like I’ve forgotten something.
I stand there awkwardly still.
He gestures towards the door as though I might have misplaced it.
I smile sweetly and say something condescending like “out you go.”
The poor man will then either smile sheepishly and leave or continue to stand there with his arm half raised like a vaguely chauvinistic muppet.
If that happens I will then drop my voice an octave and tell him “we’ll be here all day.”
Given the choice between a speedy exit and being trapped in a lift for eight hours with an increasingly threatening woman they tend to choose the exit.
Taking gender out of the equation for a moment, I think the idea of people holding doors open for one another is quite nice. It’s also terribly inefficient. The time I spend each day saying things like “oh no, you go first” could be better spent staring out the window while my coffee kicks in or reading Jezebel. I’m a busy person and time is precious.
I have, on occasion, tried to instil a people-hold-doors-open-for-people regime by holding a door open for a man. This causes great confusion, much oh-no-you-go-first-ing and eventually I give up and just get the hell out of there. Less efficient still.
So back to the gender thing. I realise these men are just being nice. They’re just trying to do what society tells them. Problem is, society hasn’t updated its quote book since 1903. You can call it gentlemanliness, you can call it curtesy but as my very smart sister pointed out, if you hold doors open for me my arms will get weaker.
The polite gesture I meet every morning acts as a reminder that my presence in the building as anything but a secretary is something very new. It reminds me that women are treated in so many ways as special or unique or delicate or in some way worthy of men’s special care. It implies that I am either too important or too fragile to open a door myself. However well meaning, this is always patronising. Especially when you’re just planning on staring at my arse anyway.
I know not everyone thinks this way. I know that the graphic designer on Level 7 gets huffy if someone doesn’t open a door for her. I know that there are probably more of her than there are of me. I know that she and I probably both call ourselves feminists and that we don’t wear badges explaining how much we feminise and how often. I realise that the daily door dilemma is a minefield for us all. How about tomorrow we do this: who ever is nearest the door leaves first. And if the graphic designer from Level 7 gets huffy just smile politely and threaten to take away her right to vote.
Update: just after writing this my feminist door stance nearly got a man killed. I just had to use the sentence “I’m sorry my feminism nearly got you crushed between the doors of a closing lift. That really wasn’t my intention! I appreciate your efforts to be polite. Can I please buy you jellybeans or something?” Now I can see why the Republicans say feminism is so dangerous.
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3 Responses to “Door bitch”

  1. Matt December 13, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    I have a deep suspicion I am often the guy you describe at the start of this. Mind you, if a girl opens a door for me I just go through and thank her, and I don’t think I would be so silly as to let her out first from an elevator if she is actually stood behind me. But I do tend to hold doors when it is entirely unnecessary and often inefficient.
    Great blog again!

  2. Cicero December 13, 2011 at 10:21 am #

    Oh dear God. You’re a murderer.

  3. KC December 13, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    Love this – so funny and true. Even in the smallest lift this happens and you have to manouvre your way out awkwardly while trying to act like the delicate woman they think you must be (as if to warrant a door opening in the first place!)

    Jokes on them.

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