Reader’s letter – Courtesy

16 November 2008

In response to the recent editorial in DIVA, I would like to make some comments, both from the angle of a male, and from the point of view that perhaps it is time to consider not just the loss of courtesy of men towards woman, but towards each other, including women towards men, in society today.

It is clear that in many parts of Europe and in the Anglo-Saxon countries, women are steadily achieving equality, both in their roles and, importantly, in the expectation of their roles. This, of course, does not just encompass rights, but also responsibilities, for all of us (men and childcare for example). As a consequence of these role changes, men can often feel unsure of where they stand or how they should act.

However, what are men doing about it? Do we here present a debate by men about what they want their roles to be? Not really, and in this aspect, women are far ahead in setting the agenda and achieving results. Perhaps l support equality too much (but come on guys, what do others think?), if that is possible, in that l will be the first to admit that women can do just about anything men can do, and more often than not do it better, but at the same time see no reason why the idea of ’ladies first’ should still be so widely practised. After all, allowing or expecting one gender to have priority over another is, of course, discrimination based on gender-the very thing we are moving to reduce in society. Or are we? I think it fair to say that equality must be a two-way street in order for both genders to truly respect the other. How can it be fair that, as the average man is stronger in muscle mass than the average woman, special treatment or ’chivalry’ should be practised only by one gender to another? How many women think it wrong to ask another woman to help lift something? But of course, society still expects a man to carry a woman’s heavy load if needed. Just as it is expected that a woman should walk through the door in front of a man in most if not all situations. I call that discrimination based on gender in the same way that in most restaurants a woman is served first, or the man is always given the wine list! Are women not able to choose wine for themselves or for the person they are with?

What an extraordinarily narrow way of thinking. Regarding the comment about women having to put on make-up to please men, etc., I would suggest a visit to Scandinavia where few women wear make-up (compared to other countries), and where the men spend as much time grooming themselves as women do.

Equality brings so many surprising changes where there is the will. I am sure we could all debate these issues for years, and there are many more important aspects to the debate, but why not go beyond it. Why not improve the way we treat each other? Just because we have equality shouldn’t mean that we now have an excuse not to help someone in need, or to stand back to let someone else go first. Why not concentrate on lifting the overall level of courtesy in society? Not based on gender but based on common sense and need. Is it so hard for a man to accept help from a woman if he is having difficulty with something awkward or heavy? I fear many men do find it hard, but isn’t it a shame that pride gets in the way. Do women look upon a man in difficulty as needing their help, or are they only concerned about when they need assistance themselves? In my experience l have found women only too glad to help, if asked, and have always felt pleasantly surprised when a woman waits and holds the door until l go through. And, of course, the situation in reverse should apply equally, without it inferring that the man should feel somehow superior to the woman or that she should feel inferior to him.

Education, children … this is where it starts or doesn’t start. Both boys and girls (and especially teenagers) should be taught much more to look after others in need, especially those older, irrespective of gender.

Now here is an idea to ponder-why not abolish armies and instead have compulsory service camps to teach 20-year-olds to put something back into their community and to treat others with grace and respect … and when they pass at the end of the course they are then entitled to vote.
JC, Geneva

Editor’s note:
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