There are certain protocols, mannerism men and women engage in while walking in the world. There are regional and cultural differences, even within America. Where I live, several generations of women have always walked along behind men. Some feminists who move here from the East, from urban areas, complain about it as if it were oppressive, sexist to see women walking behind men. It’s not, it’s actually kind, protective. Men go first because of sticker bushes, wet branches, deer poop, bears. In the really rural areas, men often carried riffles and sexist or not, you just don’t want to be the one walking in front of a rifle in case somebody trips.
I take a lot of elderly women to run errands, go grocery shopping. Without fail they will make me go first, to pave the way, to clear the path. It would be better if I could walk alongside them in case they slip, but it’s a bit of leftover cultural programming. Their sense of safety is entwined with knowing somebody is on the path ahead of them.
Doors and entering a room are another cultural quirk left over from long ago. When couples are together, men tend to go through doors first. That’s because you just don’t know what you’re going to encounter behind a closed door. It’s an old bit of frontier wisdom, there could be a fight going on, in which case opening the door for women and pushing them into the room like some sort of human shield, is just not polite. It’s kind of amusing, to this day I experience a moment of hesitation if hubby holds the door open and wants me to go first.
Driving is another oddity around here. If a guy really, really likes you, he’ll let you drive. It’s kind of ironic, feminists that come here from the city, from the East, tend to perceive women driving men around as some sort of equality thing. Au contraire, that is the one cultural quirk around here that could almost be labeled sexist, as in, just because you are in physical control of the vehicle, does not mean you are actually the one “driving”. Some of the men around here take backseat driving and dominance over the car, to a whole new level. You are clearly a chauffeur, a servant. I was driving an older man the other day and he told me to take a left, and another left, and another left, until I finally mentioned it seems as if we’re going in circles.
“Yes” he said smugly, quite pleased with himself, “I just wanted to see if you could follow directions.” It’s impolite to toss an elderly man out of a car, so I was forced to count silently, backwards in French.
I honestly empathize with some men, especially the young ones who are trying to express kindness towards women, trying to learn the rules. If you try to hold the door open for a feminist, she’ll probably give you a dirty look. If you try to hold the door open for a local woman, she’ll probably hesitate and want you to go through first. If you hold a door for a girl who really thinks she’s special, she’ll probably barge right through as if you don’t even exist.
It occurs to me that given the difficulties we experience simply trying to get through
doorways together, it’s quite miraculous that men and women ever manage to communicate together at all.