Yesterday was one of the extremely rare occasions I use public transport.
When the bus I had been waiting for arrived, a man who had been there before me stepped behind me and said “After you.”
I said, “No it’s ok, you were here first, after you.”
He said no. He insisted I go ahead of him. I repeatedly declined. It went on for so long that the bus actually closed the doors and he had to jump forward quickly and get on the bus before me, at last, and I got on behind him. He threw me a reproachful look and tutted.
Why did I make such a big deal of it, some may ask. But a lot of women I know will understand exactly why. Because I suspect he only did this because I am a woman, and in particular a young woman who happens to fall within the strict boundaries of what our society considers “attractive”. Because more often than not, this sort of thing is a precursor to a chat-up line, and I don’t want to be chatted up. Because, despite me repeatedly and firmly saying NO he refused to listen to me. Because this is not the first time this has happened. Because I have, on more occasions than I can count, had drinks bought for me, bills paid for me, men sit at my table, men hold doors for me, give up seats for me, seek a conversation with me, ask for my number, insist on walking with me, ask me what I’m reading or where I’m going, and almost invariably, when I say no, or try to make my own choices and retain my autonomy, they will not take no for an answer.
We live in a world where men refusing to listen to what a woman is saying, and insisting on doing something even though she has said no repeatedly is considered politeness, and when women don’t like this, they are considered ungrateful and rude.
I am completely in favour of opening doors for people, and allowing them before me, regardless of their gender, but I am more in favour of listening to what people say and respecting their wishes. This isn’t about politeness, I am polite to strangers all the time, but I don’t push them into doing things they don’t want to do.
Chivalry is dead? If only.