So, Who Should Open the Door to the Building?

Short version: the person who does not have their hands full, no matter what sex they happen to be. The younger of the two people, no matter what sex they happen to be. After that it gets messy.

I suppose it is a sign of just how prosperous the western world is, and how few real problems we have, that “Who should open the door to the building” generates so much fuss on the internet. The most simple answer is to look at who has their arms full of packages or is trying to wrangle multiple small children, and open the door for them. Can the other individual physically open the door without help? No? Then you open it for them (provided you won’t drop what you are holding.)

The younger, more able individual opens it for the older or less able person. This is just good manners and being polite, as is the above. Do unto others, et cetera.

But what generates so much furor is “should a man open a door for a woman?” Not if his arms are full or he has a toddler under one arm and groceries or parcels in the other (see Rule #1). And if he is 90 and needs a cane while she’s 30, well, see Rule #2, unless he insists. Then the lady is gracious, accepts the gesture and thanks him profusely, and gets the inner door (if there is one).

I was raised that gentlemen opened doors and ladies said “Thank you, sir,” smiled, and went into the building. Especially if the lady had her arms full. A younger lady got the door for an elder lady if no gentlemen were around. If a man opens the door for me, I smile, thank him, and go through. The only exception is if I’m loitering for a reason. Then I smile, say, “Thank you but I’m waiting for someone,” or “Thank you, but I need to fasten this/get these things arranged,” and then go from there. It has nothing to do with him being superior or inferior to me, or me submitting to some patriarchy or something. In fact, in true patriarchal societies, women often go behind men, open doors for men, and are restricted from going places where men are permitted free access.

Note that we are talking about doors to buildings. Doors to cars are another matter, and that is so regional and variable that it’s probably safer for the gent to offer to get the door and see how the lady feels. I don’t really appreciate well-meaning gentlemen closing the car door when it is 100F outdoors and the car has been closed for a few hours in the sun. I also don’t whine if an older gentleman does just that, because I know that some training is firmly ingrained in people.

But what about the argument that since feminists have declared all women to be just as good as or better than men, and make such a stink about doors being opened, a man ought to let any female-type person deal with her own d-mn door? Are her arms full of stuff to the point she can’t get the door? Open it, please, if only so other people don’t trip over the stuff that she’s going to drop.

One hallmark of a lady or gentleman was the ability to make things easier for everyone else, by opening doors, giving seats to those who truly needed them, making small talk that sets people at ease no matter who they are, and treating people with respect. “Do unto others…”

I appreciate an opened door. I also open doors for others. It’s just basic manners no matter which chromosome set a person has.

NOTE: I have lost my patience for arguments about Men’s Rights and Feminism destroying all need to be polite to members of the other sex, and so on. Don’t beat that dead horse in the comments, please.


27 thoughts on “So, Who Should Open the Door to the Building?

  1. I recall [way] back in college, when I held a door open for a young woman who was obviously late for class.
    But she evidently still had time to stop and spew venom at me for the crime of being considerate.
    She really should have come through the door first.
    I complied with her wishes, and released the door. It was one of those impressive oak doors that had been around for a century or so, about ten feet tall, and three inches thick, with a very strong spring to shift the heavy thing.
    She tried to catch the door after it had gained momentum. She weighed maybe 95 lbs. soaking wet.
    Physics happened.
    Did I mention that said door was at the top of a flight of granite stairs?
    Watching that [ahem] somersault backwards down the stars remains one of my favorite memories of school.

    I am still considerate. The vast majority of the time it’s appreciated.
    I am also prepared to mercilessly mock any screaming harpies I might have the misfortune to encounter.
    But I can’t say I blame the men who say “screw it”.

    • No, and if a person is a jillass (or jackass)… Sometimes giving them what they desire is the lesser evil, at least in their mind.

    • I’ve done the same. For some reason it ticked them off again when I yanked the door shut. No steps nearby, though one walked full-face into the closing door anyway.

      My favorites are the people of either sex who hover like flies around the door to a building, then try to jump in front of me when I open the door to go in. I shoulder them aside. I’ve been told this is “germophobe” behavior, in that they’re afraid to touch a door handle. Sounds bizarre, but it would explain the people who bump the crash bar with their butt and back through a door…

      Where I grew up cutting in front of someone is rude to the “requires immediate response” level. Particularly when they might politely ask if I’d hold the door for them…

      Further on the door subject are the retards who figure it’s too far to the bike rack, so they chain their bike to the entry door. WTF. dude? Please note that I am a large and irritable individual, and your bicycle, and the more expensive your bicycle is, the easier it is for me to stomp it into a shape more to my liking.

  2. I come from an older era. My parents raised me to: walk on the curb side (so I’d get splattered and not the lady); to follow up the stairs (in case she fell [and no, there was no hint of “greater likelihood of falling”]; to hold her chair until she was comfortably seated, and to open doors [not because she was incapable but because that is what a gentleman did.] As I long ago came out, there aren’t many such occasions.

    But my first partner and I were together for 30 years (he unexpectedly passed in ’95), and while I didn’t hold his chair, if I recall correctly I pretty much did the rest, because I loved him, and in a modest way I was protecting him in case of need.

    These days, the only situations where I encounter women (with or without packages, etc.) around doors that don’t open automatically will be going into the arts center for the symphony, ballet, a musical/stage play, whatever; or some other building sans automatic doors, I have a simple policy. If I’m the first to reach the door and there are others approaching close or reasonably close behind me, I simply hold the door for all of them and go in last. As there is an inner door in this particular arts center, I’ve found that one of that group, whether male or female, though most often male, will hold the second door for me.

    And frankly, if it’s just one woman, I’ll hold the door and nip ahead if I can reasonably do so, to hold open the inner door for her. I’ve never been yelled at or looked at askance for my impertinence or male chauvinality.

    Just my USD .02.


    • For us older folks (or just moi if I’m the only one), translate, please? I have no idea what “c4c” means.



      • Comment for comments – some blog systems require at least a token comment in order for someone to subscribe to the rest of the comments by e-mail. Some blogs have turned this into an art-form, where you will see lists of aircraft types, chemical formulae, patter song lyrics (T42 followed by 24T) and so on.

  3. And ‘in this modern age” the whole thing is one more argument for automation where it can be applied. Whether ‘electric eye’, pressure pad, or passive IR sensor, if the door can be opened by machinery, it neatly avoids the argument. Until the doorbot breaks, of course.

  4. I’m a grumpy old fart. I’m going to open the door, period. Because that was the way I was raised, and I don’t want my momma to come up out of the grave and start chewing my ass.

    • Same with me except my mother isn’t in the grave yet. She’d still chew my ass. On second thought, no, she wouldn’t. Because my father would beat her to it.

  5. I too was raised in the era when men opened doors for women — but not for scrawny kids. The way I knew I’d started registering as “female” rather than “kid” was that in my second year of college, suddenly I was bumping my nose on the doors that guys sprang to open for me.

  6. I have lost my patience for arguments about Men’s Rights and Feminism destroying all need to be polite to members of the other sex, and so on.

    This, to a dozen dozens.

    • The way we most effectively rebel against the Marxist custom of dividing humans into categories and deciding by category is to make our decisions about individuals. Deciding by individual means that reprisal must be personal in response to individual action. For reprisal to be individual, we must treat those who have not personally violated the rules politely.

      Does that mean I’m not a rude little jerk? No. My Momma tried to raise me right, but not all of it stuck, and I still have a ways to go.

  7. When two people meet in a doorway, there has to be a mechanism or rule to decide who goes first. It could be whoever gets the first punch in and coldcocks the other. On average women (and the elderly and encumbered) would fair less well under this regime. Or we could let the encumbered, the elderly, the ladies go first.

    The veneer of civilization is really not all that thick, it is not wise to make it thinner, but I think we as a society may have to go through a barbarous state again before we remember why we had all those rules in the first place.

  8. Sometimes there’s a clash of consideration and courtesy. Every so often my back gives me trouble. Every so often I have a burden to carry. And sometimes, someone enters a door I’m headed towards and holds the door for me WHILE I AM FORTY OR FIFTY FEET AWAY.

    Is this person letting the heat in or out of the building for my benefit? But it’s not working toward my benefit. I feel an urge to speed up, which could lead to injuring myself.

    Apparently, to this person the courtesy ‘transaction’ is the important thing, not the actual benefit to the one with the need. I want to take a cluebat to the dingbat, yelling “Courtesy FOLLOWS Consideration, not the other way around!”

    The right way to do it? Stand inside, either out of sight or in some plausible place (like the vestibule shelves of a bookstore) and come back to the door when the impaired person needs the help. That is truly considerate behavior.

    I have a slowly growing list of courtesy idiocies, at least one of which could be fatal. And all of them have one thing in common: a failure to subject courtesy-virtue to the test of practical wisdom: What are the likely outcomes of your action?


  9. Oh, and an older person who is able may wish to do as much as possible for himself, to retain or regain abilities. After some muscle damage, I was 20 years slower for a while, and people were determined to run ahead to ‘help’ me. Many were offended that I did not want their help, and were only chastened when I explained that I was in rehab from said damage and needed to do as much for myself as possible, to regain my abilities.

    Helping strangers isn’t a LARPing game where you score points. You can hurt someone, slowly by keeping them from exercising the skills they need, or acutely, and even lethally, if you act in thoughtless haste. While I was in said recovery, needing and using a cane, I was leaving a B&N with a bag clutched alongside my cane. I leaned on the stiff door to open it when an Eager Young Thing grabbed it and yanked it open. She was not pleased when I explained that if I’d had a hair more weight on the door, I might have fallen to the pavement, and if I were older and more frail, the fall might have broken bones, including, possibly, my skull.

    Think through the consequences. Help where it is needed, not to score points. Ask before you act. ‘May I help you with that door?’ offends only the techiest few, satisfies the needs of both consideration and courtesy, and may save a life

    • Excellent points. For every Rule of Thumb, there are exceptions. Except possibly “water flows uphill toward money.” That, hydrogen, and stupidity may be the only true universals.

    • Excellent point, and since I’m going through rehab now the argument is quite good. I need to do some things on my own, but at times I the shoulder is sore enough that help is appreciated. Voicing the offer is the key.

      This courtesy has its roots in courtly behavior and the expectations of knights. They were expected to uphold their honor, fight fairly and within bounds, and protect and defend the weak, among other qualities. Women and children, the aged, and the infirm benefitted (yes, in practice it was often honored in the breach). The traditions continue for men.

      … and my mother, or worse my great-aunt the sister, would rise up from their graves and seize me by the ear if I didn’t behave as expected.

      • Most places I’ve lived, voicing the offer will instead disrupt their day, and has a decent chance of causing more trouble than it’s worth. Don’t get me started on it being an invitation to those having a bad day who want to take it out on someone, and then there’s the language/hearing issues….

        If you can survive an automated door, you can survive strangers just opening the door.

        • Then you only ask if they look like they need help. If they are crabby, it’s not your fault, and hell, maybe their infirmity has caused them a bad day. Sufferring their crankiness might be a work of mercy.

          But yanking a door open when someone is leaning against it to open it could injure someone, or even shorten a life. True consideration is an expression of Practical Wisdom, which is a cardinal virtue.

          Yeah, I have strong feelings on the matter. If someone ever gave me a cluebat, I’d soon be jailed for assault and battery, unless I remembered to use it on myself first.

          • Except there’s a major difference between asking if you need help, and just automatically making that help available.

            That some people are idiots is a completely different situation, although a known one from the “how dare you hold open a door, you sexist?!?” flip outs.

Comments are closed.