Chauvinism Anachronism

6 Mar

Dear LetterBalm: My new boyfriend is wonderful in every way except one. He persists in chauvinistic attitudes that come out in exaggerated politeness and courtesy. He insists on opening all doors, pulling out a seat for me every time, letting me always go first, walking on the outside when we’re together on the street, taking all the grocery bags – you get the idea. I don’t mind common courtesy. In fact, it’s quite nice. But he makes a fetish out of all this and gets annoyed when I want to do things for myself. We’ve had arguments in public about this.

–Not a Delicate Flower

Your “wonderful in every way except one” boyfriend may have other failings that will come to light as the months go by. Male chauvinism has been out of favor for decades. Smart men and woman, as you say, let common courtesy dictate their interactions – whoever gets to the door first opens it, grocery bags are carried most conveniently, seats are pulled out by either party depending on space and timing. Chauvinism is excessive, and Ms. L.B. believes your man may well exhibit old-fashioned attitudes about what women “should” do in life and their “proper” roles. He may have pre-conceived notions derived from his family background or traditional sources. You need to be alert to these controlling behaviors that may come to light. Meanwhile, take him aside privately and see if this helps:

Arthur, I appreciate that you act like a gentlemen towards me. But sometimes you cross the line into excessive politeness that doesn’t help. I appreciate your care and concern, but when you act like a chauvinist you make me feel uncomfortable. I don’t like it that we’ve had words in public about your actions and my embarrassment. This is the twenty-first century – I’m a capable woman on her own. I don’t want to be treated like a fragile flower. I hope you can understand this. What are your thoughts?

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