June 28, 2012

No, you get off the elevator: gendered body language

Hi there gender blenders,

I hold my arm toward the doors indicating to the man on the elevator with me to exit first. He does the same, no you first. I want to continue the argument, but the doors are threatening to close. I give in, feeling a little ruffled--
  • He was closer to the door.
  • He was carrying more stuff.
Logic follows that he should go first. But I am read as a woman. The social rules of gender therefore make itimperative (at least in U.S. society) that I exit first. (What's the elevator going to do? Eat me if he leaves me on it for a second?)

Now, I'm not someone who feels righteously pissed off about the whole male courtesy thing--not exactly. It's more of a private annoyance. I personally want to break down the binary of gendered behaviors, which sometimes manifests in wanting to invite men to get off the elevator first and women too. Women will accept this from another woman because they are expected to accept it as a general rule. Men, in my experience, will nearly always refuse the offer from a woman. Does it threaten their masculinity? What about my masculinity? Do I not have equal right to mine? Must I defer to the importance of theirs simply because I am a woman?

It's about more than deconstructing gendered behaviors for me--it's also about public recognition of my gender identity. Just because I answer to female pronouns and am socially read as a woman should not mean I always have to get off the elevator first. 

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, these little things really irritate, don't they. And I'm getting more and more intolerant as I get older. Any request that has "because you're a man" or some such attached to it just gets a blanket refusal nowadays.

    As for elevator etiquette: He was at the front, he should have got out first. Otherwise he's just in the way!! Grrrrrrr!!!