Monday, January 29, 2007

Where have the gentlemen gone?

Recently I was talking with another woman about the growing lack of civility and consideration that we are noticing among men in the church, especially among what she referred to as the "young bucks". We both wondered what had ever happened to the Scriptural idea that younger men should treat the older women as they treat their mothers.

But then, as I thought about it some more, I realized that part of the problem is that these same men probably treat their own mothers with an extreme lack of any respect, consideration, and good manners.

I know what some readers of this blog are no doubt thinking: it's the feminists' fault. Men would be gentlemen, but they are tired of being barked at every time they try to open a door for a woman.

To which there can only be one reply: that is sheer and utter nonsense, a ridiculous excuse for throwing out all manners and tact. Just because some woman didn't fall all over you with gratitude for strong-arming a doorknob out of her grip doesn't give you the excuse to lean back in your chair and belch loudly while making demeaning comments to and about every woman within earshot. Just because some women do not like strange men intruding closely enough on their personal space to open doors for them does not mean that, for the rest of your life, you need not ever be considerate again, but can declare open season on all women everywhere, subjecting them to the full range of your uncouth behavior.

I can recall a time when I ran out of gas on the highway, close to an offramp where there was a gas station. Two men, both total strangers, stopped to offer their assistance while I was walking to get gas. Man #1 practically ran me over and then offered me a ride. When I very politely declined to get in his vehicle, he began cursing me with the vilest language and threats imaginable. Man #2 stopped his vehicle a safe, unthreatening distance away from me and offered to bring me a gas can full of gas. When I declined his offer, he graciously accepted my "no", as any gentleman would. I doubt that he has since begun treating all women rudely and insisting that they are all asking for it, those feminists. It is obvious who the real gentleman was, and who had sinister motives.

What is ironic is that many of those men who wax nostalgic about the good old pre-feminist days are the worst of the bunch when it comes to how lacking in social graces they are. Apparently their vision of polite society includes ladies but not gentlemen. Either that, or these men have never learned what it means to be a gentleman.

Years ago, I knew an older gentlemen who seemed to epitomize graciousness. His manners were impeccable, born out of genuine respect and caring for others. I remember once seeing him respond to a woman who was rude to him. At the time, she was wearing ugly stretch pants, curlers, and chomping loudly on her gum, while he was wearing a handsome suit. But, given the way he treated her, one would have thought he was talking to someone else; he was that deferential and humble. Someone later commented on her rudeness, and the man replied, "I couldn't treat her as anything less than a lady". When it was pointed out that she hardly looked or acted like a lady, he appeared bewildered. "A gentleman," he said, "would never notice such a thing." To him, every woman was a lady.

OK, those are really old-fashioned ideas, and old-fashioned manners. That was back in the day when women wore gloves and hats to church, and when women weren't ever supposed to sweat. I'm not sure I want to turn back the clock.


I do wish those who love to trumpet forth loudly about what the Bible teaches about gender roles would do so with a lot more civility and decency. I wish they would be at least equally as concerned about all the Scripture passages that speak of humility, love, and how we are supposed to treat others in the Body of Christ. I wish they would stop seeing women as enemies. I wish they would not lose their tempers when women dare speak anything but a demure, "Oh, my dear brother, you are as usual so wise and all knowing." I wish these advocates of Biblical manhood would try, just a little, to behave like gentlemen.

An admission I make freely: I was raised by a true gentleman. I'll admit it --- I've been spoiled by the men I grew up with. Most of them actually liked the fact that I was a girl. I grew used to being treated kindly, respectfully, protectively, graciously, gently. Like many people who have been a bit spoiled, it took me a few years to realize that the rest of the world isn't like this.

But shouldn't men who name the name of Christ be different from the rest of the world? Why is it that so many of them are...dare I say it...even worse?


  1. I've been mulling over this post. It hits home since I have four sons. While they have good "southern" manners--i.e. they say "ma'am" and "sir," etc., they do not think to open doors for ladies and such. And I realized that they do not see this modeled by their dad. Not to criticize him...but has given me food for thought. What can I, as the mom do to encourage my guys to be gentlemen without it being weird--like I'm demanding it....

  2. My husband used to be almost hilariously obsessive about opening car doors when he was single. Once we had our first baby, this ended pretty abruptly. Maybe it's because, like lots of inexperienced parents, we were too busy schlepping all sorts of baby stuff out to the car. Maybe it's because my husband started viewing me as a mother, capable of opening her own car doors. I have no idea.

    At any rate, I have no idea where my boys picked up on the idea of opening the car door for me. But the older ones started doing it, and I would always respond, "Thank you, kind gentleman, sir," which became somewhat of a joke. The little guys picked up on this, and now there is almost a fight to see who will open the door for me. (My youngest still needs to learn to give me enough time to get in the car before he slams the door in his mad dash to jump into the car.)

    How to get sons to do such things? Maybe it helps to watch corny old movies where men do all the old-fashioned gentlemanly stuff that no one does anymore. Then you can comment wistfully about the good old days.