I Miss the Simple Courtesies

February 24, 2015

I came across an article written by a woman in upper management that really rocked my boat. She spoke about things I might have heard in former centuries, certainly not in this century.

She said that men are larger, so if you’re sitting on a bus, the man takes up more space and that’s as it should be. He’s entitled to take up more space on the train or bus. If he earns more money than a woman for the same work, he’s entitled to earn more money than a woman for the same work.

I had a couple of thoughts running through my head at the same moment when I read those words. The first thought was that I miss the simple courtesies that were always extended to women. When a bus was crowded and a woman was standing, a man always stood up and offered his seat to the woman. He certainly didn’t take up most of the seat and make the woman squeeze into a tiny space or make her stand up while he sat, especially if he was occupying two seats.

The next thought I had was that this is the 21st century and we have a law on the books, although not enforced, that gives equal pay to women for equal work. How can you be a woman in this century and not want equal pay for the same work that a man is doing? Why should a woman earn 70 cents to every dollar that a man earns if she is doing the same work?

And then I started to think about the simple courtesies that were always extended to women that I rarely see anymore, like men giving up their seat to a woman who is standing or to an elderly person who is standing. I miss hearing please and thank you. If I thank someone nowadays, instead of being told, “You’re welcome” I hear, “No problem.”

Throughout my life, the men in my family always held the door open for me, always pulled out my chair to seat me, always walked around the car to open the door and help me in or out of the car, and always saw to my comfort and well-being. To this day, I see them helping women in and out of cars, holding the door open for them in a public place, giving up their seat to a woman or an elderly person, and dozens of other simple courtesies.

I don’t know when that all changed but it doesn’t do much for society. No one ever questioned whether or not I was smarter than a man, but one thing was sure, I was never as physically strong as a man. I didn’t have to prove that I was worth receiving these courtesies; as a woman, they were given to me.

Nowadays, when a man opens my door, it’s probably because of my age rather than because I’m a woman. I miss seeing the simple courtesies that used to be extended to women. They never made women feel weak or less worthwhile than a man but somewhere along the way, women stopped wanting or expecting to receive them or men felt that if women were competing in the workplace, they could damn well open their own doors, seat themselves in public places, and stand up in crowded buses and trains.

And, as I said, I miss these simple courtesies that made women feel special without making them feel weak or incompetent.

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