It was another dreary and frightfully windy day in Rochester, and I was speed-walking back to Gilbert after getting a sub from Rocky’s. As I approached the door and began to swipe my card, I saw a guy approaching from the corner of my eye. He was at that annoying distance where he was far enough that I would have to wait for him, but so close that it would be rude for me not to. Reluctantly, I opened the door and held it there, counting down the seconds till he would walk in and I would be able to experience the warmth I had been dreaming of the whole way back to my dorm, when he approached the door, walked straight across it, took the door from my grip, and said, “No please, after you.”

Perplexed, cold, and annoyed, I walked in, frustrated at what a waste of time the whole process had been. I could not understand why he hadn’t prioritized getting into the warmth of the building and saving us both some time rather than engaging in pointless courtesies. It was then that a more irksome realization dawned upon me: what I thought of as a polite gesture of holding the door for another person, that guy thought of as a missed opportunity to be chivalrous, one he had to redeem himself from by holding the door for me.

A part of me did not want to believe this was true, so I made a conscious effort to test out this theory. I held the door open for many guys at the entrance of dorms and academic buildings, the dining halls, and at every location, even at the doors at the entrance of the tunnels at WilCo—quite arguably the busiest doors on campus—guys looked at me holding the door for them, completely taken aback, and held the door for me instead, insisting I walked in first. The few who did choose to walk through the door, did so whilst simultaneously gawking at me in shock and thanking me multiple times, looking embarrassed. Embarrassed!

I spoke to some of my girlfriends about the situation, and they told me they went through the same infuriating experience every time they tried to hold the door open for a guy. I started to keep an eye out for such situations on campus and when I saw it happen to other girls too, the ubiquity of the situation left me stunned and saddened. What I thought of as a practice of common courtesy had been poisoned by gender role stereotyping. In an environment such as this, where girls and boys are going head to head both inside and outside the classroom and are living together as equals, this was bewildering. Why is it that guys still felt the need to conform to the age old attitude of being a “gentleman” and feel obligated to hold the door for a girl?

By holding the door open for a girl who is already holding the door open, a guy implies that it’s a gesture she should not have to make. Digging deeper, implying it’s a gesture she should not have to make in turn implies it is a task too hard for her to undertake, and so she should not be made to bear that burden.

While this may sound unreasonable because everyone knows that girls are capable of opening doors, the implications of the situation are screaming otherwise. I am in no way arguing that guys think that girls are not strong enough to open doors for them and so feel the need to help them out. All I’m trying to say is that every time a guy insists the girl walks in first, or is surprised when she doesn’t, the archaic frail-female frame of mind lives on.

The roots of our fight for gender equality lie in changing this very frame of mind. And while the act of girls opening doors for guys, not expecting doors to be opened for girls, or not being surprised when a door is opened for a guy may seem like insignificant things to worry about, these minor changes in our way of thinking, can pave the way for the major changes we want to see in the world.  

So if you’re a guy, the next time a girl opens the door for you, walk through, and do it without making her feel like she did something extraordinary. And if you’re a girl who hasn’t tried it yet, go on and open a door for a guy—you’ll be opening another one for all of us.



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