Carol: What’s So Wrong With “Benevolent Sexism”?!

In the wake of my five-year-old’s medical drama last week (laid out here in tedious detail!), we returned today to Manhattan to have the stitches removed.  Having arrived in the city early, we treated ourselves to lunch, and as we left the restaurant, a very polite businessman held the door for us to allow us to leave first.  After I thanked him (and my little one did, too), it occurred to me this was a perfect occasion to point out how much we had appreciated his gentlemanly behavior.  (In fact, I really make an effort to let men who engage in this sort of behavior know how much I appreciate it, because I realize there are women who, indefensibly in my view, object to it).

This whole episode came back to me tonight when I read Charles Murray’s comments about a Psychology of Women Quarterly piece decrying what is, in essence, nothing but gentlemanly behavior — on the grounds that this “benevolent sexism” “perpetuates inequality at the structural level.”  Oh yes, this piece apparently also concedes that such behavior also makes both men and women happy (but who cares about that when there is “structural inequality” in the world?!).

It’s never clear to me how it perpetuates any kind of pernicious “inequality” when men perform small kindnesses for women.  Am I supposed to be insulted that this man thinks I am “weaker” than he is?  After all, from the looks of him, that’s probably the reality.  What, exactly, is the offense to the at-all-costs aspiration of complete and total “gender equality” in this small display of chivalry?  How is he trying to hurt me by a simple bit of kindness?

Given that these small acts have been found to make women happier — and the hard-core feminists routinely spurn them — no wonder they’re such an unhappy lot.  As always, in this debate we just keep coming back to the eternal question: Who said that to be “equal” to men, we have to be “the same”? I’d bet that silly canard has caused more confusion for men and more unhappiness for everyone than any of us can possibly imagine.

About Carol Liebau

Carol Platt Liebau is an author, substitute radio talk show host, blogger and (retired!) attorney. She lives near Manhattan with her husband, their five-year-old son and daughter, and a highly opinionated Westie. Find her at

11. December 2012 by
Categories: Uncategorized | 6 comments

Comments (6)

  1. Well if I were at the door first I may have held it for a woman with a kid along depending on the door and the kid etc…and I’m a woman. It’s a red herring complaint the Left makes. First falsehood: Claiming that men will shoulder the burden of a household, marriage, and kids “equally”. Never in a million years, save for maybe – I’d guess – 2% of men. And who suffers? The kids of course. Both parents end up “too busy”. It’s reprehensible that WOMEN (especially) claim their kids do as well in daycare away from parents every working day of the week or before/after school. While some women are not cut out for motherhood and yes, perhaps the kid would be better off away from them being neglected all day long, as a “rule” this is not the case (for normal women who would actually nurture them and the family by being home until the kid is ready to be in school full time).

    • Swarm, what is a “normal woman”? I would say that my mother was a normal woman and she worked five days a week and nurtured my sister and I when she returned from work. Yes, we went to a babysitter/daycare and I think we are turning out OK. We are both in university and work part-time. But, hey, maybe you’re right, I’m only one person but so are you.

      “First falsehood: Claiming that men will shoulder the burden of a household, marriage, and kids “equally”. Never in a million years, save for maybe – I’d guess – 2% of men.”
      This. This is what Kathleen Connelly’s paper was aiming at. You are part of the problem. But it’s not your fault because, according to her, it is the gender constructs that form ideas like yours above. She was trying to illustrate that things like chivalry and other heteronormative concepts is what produces the problems that are in our society today. I suggest you read the whole paper instead of just the abstract and maybe you will learn something other than the traditional cultural BS that poisons us.

      And Carol, I don’t even know where to begin with you’re article, so I won’t.

  2. Civil courtesy is never an insult. Those who have never observed, nor practiced, it should never get out of bed in the morning. My habit has always been to hold the door if another person approaches close behind. Gender and age are irrelevant. In the same vein, I am always appreciative when it is done for me; and I make sure to sincerely express that appreciation.
    The idea that we are even having this conversion is repugnant to me; as it is yet another indicator of just how far our refusal to practice, what used to be, common courtesies has taken us. One only need observe our political landscape to experience the results.

    • Well said BillK. Thank you for being kind. I have lost count now of the times I have left a store, or any public place, feeling stressed out because of other people’s rudeness. It seems that so many only care about themselves. It makes me want to try even harder to not be like that and hopefully my kindness will cause the other person to be kind to someone else and so on and so on and……………..

  3. I agree with Carol and “swarm.” I am now past fifty and was an adolescent when the Women’s Lib movement (yeah, that’s what it was called then) was gathering full steam. Being an impressionable, inexperienced, and ignorant teen, I totally bought into it and subscribed to the feminist dogma well into my twenties.

    As I matured, I realized how absurd and destructive such a philosophy is. Men and women are equal in value, but they are not the same. They are physiologically, mentally, and emotionally different–not better or worse, not greater or lesser, but DIFFERENT. We were created to complement one another, and that necessarily implies that there are differences. In fact, those differences are so patently obvious that only those blinded by political correctness refuse to acknowledge them. I realize that there are women who are great multitaskers and can successfully hold down a job while still parenting their children and maintaining a good marriage, but for many that is a difficult and stressful lifestyle, and children often pay the penalty. (And, by the way, no childcare provider can take the place of a parent.)

    Feminists like to tout the freedom that they have gained by being unshackled from traditional roles. But what has been the cost? In reality, women have lost while men have gained. Women who choose to be stay-at-home moms are often made to feel like slackers, or at least unfulfilled. Men increasingly expect their wives to hold a job and contribute to the family’s coffers while also expecting them to shoulder most of the burden of childcare and housekeeping (and, yes, there is usually a great imbalance here). Since we are supposedly freed from our traditional roles, they also feel freed from theirs. No longer do most men regard it their duty to be the providers and protectors of their families. Feminism has produced an unintended consequence. Many men, no longer feeling societal pressure to take on the responsibilities as head of a household and being told to take women down off that demeaning pedestal, opt not to pursue marriage. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Yeah, I know it’s an old cliche, but it still rings true. The sexual revolution, along with the birth control pill and Roe vs. Wade, came along at the same time as feminism. Taken together, the result has been multiple millions of abortions, record-breaking numbers of out-of-wedlock births, and marriage as an institution on the verge of collapse. Women often feel used and unsupported by the men in their lives and wind up being like the Obama campaign’s fictional “Julia,” a woman who must depend on the federal government to be her provider and protector because the modern female just can’t expect a man to do that anymore.

    Is is too much to suggest that feminism has contributed to the deterioration and possible eventual collapse of our culture? I don’t think so. A mere glance through the history of the human race reveals that the family is the basic unit of society. When the family is healthy, society is healthy. When the family unravels, so does society as a whole.

    I believe that, although individuals certainly have the right to choose their own lifestyles, traditional male and female roles (“gender constructs”) have fulfilled an important function in the propagation of the human race for millennia, and we disregard these to our own peril.

    Okay, that was my long answer. My short answer is that I love it when a man honors and respects me by holding the door for me! And I often do the same for other people.

  4. Wow…..okay. It’s seems someone hit a nerve. If you work and have young kids you don’t have to stay home with them. You’re just being sensitive – working mothers. I worked when my first was born, hated giving him up to daycare so I made sure that soon after I had my 2nd, we had built our lifestyle around my hubbys income (quit spending and got out of debt) so that I could stay home. Not everyone can do that nor wants to. So chill. But if your kid is a total brat, then maybe you need to. When I quit work I found out my daycare worker never said no to my daughter, took me 3 months to get rid of her tantrums I never saw until I was home with her. Now on to the other thing, my 19 yr old daughter just broke up with a boy that refused to open a door for her. He said he wouldn’t because they were ‘equal’. Yet he opened doors for his mom and grandma. I said good for her. PS – Watch Think like a Man – movie that just came out – it addresses this. Very good.

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