Insight Is 20/20

Exploring the pervasive, and unperceived, patterns that govern our lives

Why Chivalry Bad for Romantic Relationships/Gender Equality

It's time to replace gender-based chivalry with pure kindness.

I've noticed lately that a very old trend persists against all odds: men hold doors for women, and then these same men refrain from extending such kindness to other men who lag only a step or two behind. Come on, guys.

It's 2011 and it's time for our society to evolve beyond the point of expecting chauvinistic behavior be applied toward women. In the past, when a woman's role was relegated to the domestic sphere, men were taught to treat women differently. Such differences included holding doors, walking next to a woman on the street on her side closest to the curb, and a bevy of other chivalrous behaviors that were arguably intended to indicate respect in years past. News flash for anyone who still practices such behaviors: this isn't really respect at all.

My point is far from misogynistic; rather, it's universal: I believe we should all hold doors for each other regardless of gender. In other words, a man should hold a door for a woman not because she is a woman, but because she is a fellow human being who is worth extending kindness to.

If men extend certain niceties to women but not to men, they reinforce this silly idea that men and women are entirely different species. Regardless of what John Gray of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus fame may say, I disagree that men and women are inherently vastly different. Sure, there are differences, but it's not good for men or women to focus on them. After all, if men and women are going to make romantic relationships work, don't they need to focus on the similarities?

The more we, as a society, continue to engage in such rigid, gender-bound behaviors, the more fixed and rigid sex roles will be, and romantic relationships will suffer as a result. The next time you find yourself at the threshold of a doorway and someone walks in front of or behind you, make an effort to hold the door for them - but be careful about why you tell yourself you're doing it.

PLUS: In Dr. Seth's new book, Dr. Seth's Love Prescription (available at Amazon.com or in bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble), he shows you how to stop repeating bad patterns in your romantic relationships. If you or someone you know keeps going for the wrong type of partner and seems stuck on this heinous hamster wheel, pick up a copy of Dr. Seth's Love Prescription.

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Seth Meyers, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist with the L.A. County Department of Mental Health.

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