Here’s the thing about nice guys: they’re not nice.
I can’t tell you how many guys I see on social media mourning the loss of chivalry and decrying how unfair it is that women never go for them- the nice guy, the guy who treats women “right.” He would totally bring her a single stemmed red rose, open doors for her, and carry heavy things for her. He’s not sexist because he says “loves women.”
There are so many things wrong with this type of behavior that’s it’s tricky to call people out on it. They don’t understand how being a “nice guy” is completely sexist because, on the surface, they are behaving as expected.
It’s not their fault, to a point. The ideas are so deeply ingrained into our culture that very few people bother examining their origins or possible effects.
So here is a crash course on why this behavior is problematic.
Let’s start with chivalry. It seems like people have been mourning the loss of chivalry forever. I say let it die. Chivalry is rooted in a code created nearly a thousand years ago for knights to follow, saying that they should protect the weak. More info here.
Some women might say that they prefer the pedestal. It’s easy to fall into the trap of being treated like a princess, thinking that chivalry helps you.
But it doesn’t.
Author Abigail Collazo describes this in her article (here),
"As with most gender relations, the problem lies in the power differential. The woman may be on the pedestal, having doors opened, chairs pulled out, and meals paid for. But actually it is patriarchy that is asserting its power. How? Simple. The woman may be on the pedestal, but it is the privilege of men that has put her there."
As women, we start to think that we are being treated with esteem, but we're only being reduced, our agency removed as we are placed in a box where men are comfortable with. We're succumbing to traditional feminine roles, allowing them to perform the traditional masculine roles, to reaffirm their manliness.
More than that, it perpetuates the idea that women are "other," that we are not equals.
"There are indubitably times when women need special consideration. Why? Because women are uniquely targeted or affected under specific circumstances. Women are specifically targeted for rape and sexual assault and other forms of gender based violence."
If you want to be "chivalrous," take care that a woman can be and feel safe when you are
Next, there's the whole "I'm a nice guy so why don't women like me" problem. This one also relates to our good old pal, "The Friend Zone" or TFZ. Daniel Radcliffe (Yes, Harry Potter himself), eloquently explains what's wrong with men complaining about TFZ in the following video:
Essentially, it's a man saying that if he does X, Y, and Z, he deserves to have the woman. Her opinion and feelings do not matter. If he follows the rules of being a "nice guy," he should be rewarded with a woman. He thinks love, sex, and relationships work like a carnival game: You knocked down the milk bottles! Here is your prize!
Hopefully, I don't have to explain what is wrong with treating women as objects and prizes to be won.
Men who participate in this behavior can take it to the extreme, to the point of murder. There are countless stories of men killing women for rejecting them. Here's just one example. And another. It's dangerous to think this way. People are losing their lives.
Finally, we have the guy who can't be sexist because he loves women. Okay, I consider myself a feminist. The majority of my friends are women. I, myself, am a woman, but I don’t love every woman. That would be insane. It objectifies an entire gender and lumps every woman together. No, sir, you don’t love women. You love the idea of women, especially when they fit your traditional ideas of femininity.
It IS possible to respect and appreciate women without objectifying them.
At this point, you’re probably thinking that I’m being unfair. How’s a guy supposed to win?
Well, here are some quick and easy tips on how to treat women with respect without being a sexist jerk:
- Instead of being obsessed with chivalry, treat everyone with kindness and respect. Let a woman open a door for you. Open a door for a man. Treat everyone with decency.
- Instead of seeing women as weak, use empathy and understand what the world is like for them. There are many issues facing women today, and male allies are appreciated.
- Support policies that support women in terms of equal rights, equal pay, healthcare, etc.
- If you want to go out of your way to be kind to women, speak up when you hear a sexist joke or observe sexist behavior.
- Ask. If you’re unsure, ask what the person is comfortable with.
To be honest, it’s nice to be treated with kindness, but I think everyone should have that privilege. So, gentlemen everywhere, keep your chivalry.
I want your respect.