Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Danonymous Dan: Into the lionesses’ den

I once had the misfortune to work as a freelancer in an all-female public relations office. Me, the lone rogue male, thrust into their midst like a sacrificial slave. Lunchtime was a daily competition about who could eat the healthiest salad – the shocked, jealous stares engendered by my M&S sandwiches were the highlight of my day.

This agency was ‘trendy’ in the painfully-boring way that PR agencies try to be (one PR agency I worked in had sand on the floor of its meeting room, another forwent chairs for beanbags), with its point of trendiness being Unisex toilets. It was a mere two days before I got told-off for leaving the toilet seat up. Already rather irritated by the job, and knowing it was only a two-week contract, I decided to argue my case. I posited that a group of strong-minded career women should really be able to manage the lowering of a toilet seat. If they weren’t looking before they sat down then it was a problem with their own personal due diligence practices – after all, I didn’t just walk in and start pissing on a lowered seat without looking.

“Look,” said one of the senior account directors, a particularly po-faced harridan – pregnant at the time, although how I have no idea how – “It’s just basic manners.”

I’m pretty sure toilet seat etiquette is not included in any manners books, but it does bring me to the wider point. The reason I mention the toilet seat thing is because it’s symptomatic of ‘a woman’ expecting that ‘a man’ should do something for her simply because she is ‘a woman.’ With the advent of equality over patriarchy is it not time to start looking at the balance of ‘manners’ that govern social interaction of the sexes?

It’s fashionable to think women are happy to go ‘dutch’ on a meal, but as a guy you still worry that raising it as topic will lose points. So what is the real deal these days? What are the new rules? Should a guy automatically let the women go first, and ensure he’s holding the door for her? If it’s cold is the man supposed to give up his coat? No women I know has turned up to a date with a gift of flowers for me, not that I would want flowers, but the same garages men buy flowers from also sell charcoal briquettes and plastic footballs – I’d happily accept either.

I know I am being facetious about this but I guess what I’m driving at is if things are more equal (or to become so) then men should be in line to have a more equal share in the social niceties. Social rules we use find their route in the patriarchal societies of the past. They were designed, unconsciously I assume, to reinforce dominant male, inferior female stereotypes, “You can’t refuse him, its his right, but at least he holds the door and lets you into the bedroom first, what a gentleman.” Do we still need them?

One girl I know who earns well over £50K, but if her boyfriend suggests she dip into her pocket for anything she turns into a bile-spitting harpy, because as a woman she should be ‘looked after’. If we mock her, she looks to her beleaguered boyfriend to defend her tight-fisted behaviour. I know, or have had the displeasure to meet, various such women. I freely admit that part of me quite likes the ritual of it all, acting the gentlemen by going through social motions, but another part of me would like to say fair's fair – let's see consistent equality with the ladies taking the initiative 50% of the time.


paula yates' wine lodge said...

Re lav: seat AND lid both down in my house, so everybody has to do some work.

Re paying: First date: whoever asked, thence Dutch unless it's a birthday or treat, then back to the 'whoever asked' rule. I earn about twice what my bloke does, and would NEVER expect him to pay for me all the time.

Dave Boyle said...

Well, there are four ways to use a bog - pissing and shitting, men and women. Three involve the seat being down, only one up, and only blokes need the seat up.

So, 75% of uses need the seat down; in a female workplace the usage will be much greater than that. I think your former colleagues were right. It is a courtesy.

Anonymous said...

@dave boyle

So what you're saying is that since 75% of use cases for the lav are seat-down 25% of users should treat the next person as being inherently lazy?

I habitually leave the seat down at work and home when I'm done. Not out of courtesy but simply because the seats at both places seem to be installed in a highly unstable manner; you need to hold them whilst you're peeing otherwise they fall and chop your cock off. Down is the default state for such a device, I find.

Jacky said...

I can really understand men's frustration on this. Frankly as a woman I feel almost as confused. I think it's fair to say that over the first couple of dates, guys seem to like paying for meals, and everytime I've offered to go halfsies, it's always been refused, so there is obviously a point after which most women should start contributing, but it's not really clear when this is. Surely there's a nice way to bring this up in conversation which doesn't include the words, "Stop being such a bloody sponger".

About the toilet seat thing; those women at your office sounded whiny and annoying. At least you don't work there anymore! I'm used to living with men during university, so I've never given a thought to lowering the toilet seat. They have to raise it after I go, so what's the big deal?

And finally, there's no harm in some good old fashioned chivalry. No, of course we live in a totally different world than we used to, and some women think that they can change the world to have all the rights and pay of men, and still keep all the chivalric intentions. Which is of course crap. I will say though that women do pay attention to that kind of thing, like it or not. That's not to say you always should be pulling chairs and carrying purses, but if she's cold because she's made the effort to put on a pretty frock for you to gawk over her, you should definitely surrender the coat.

Anonymous said...

Equality is not about having 50-50 rules, just a situation where both are contributing equally in the best way they can.

Making less money, or just 'being the woman' is of course no excuse for just taking taking taking. My solution is not to go counting beans, but for the person who makes less to simply return the favour once in a while: ask the other party out, and pay for everything. Pick the restaurant, even if it is just a pizza place. Or make an amazing homemade meal. Be creative if you don't have much cash. Everybody likes to be treated. And - it is really nice to be the one treating! Much nicer than splitting bills...

On the seats: I take it as I find it - not worth arguing over. Just leave it clean - no splatterings is all I ask.

Anonymous said...

Re: paying for meals. Personally I always want to go dutch. Some men take offence at this (but on later dates they all really want to go dutch!) and I still don't get it. As an independent woman I never "expect" anything, apart from common courtesy and respect, and it works both ways. If then the kindness is offered, I really enjoy that, but again it works both ways: I like to treat people (be it a date or a friend who's been feeling down/lost a job, etc.) and we should do it for the pleasure of giving pleasure (sounds a lot like sex to me :P).

This issue leads me to think about something similar: most of my female friends NEVER carry condoms nor have them at home, and always expect the guy to have some. I personally really disagree with that because safe sex is both parties' responsibility. I hate it when girlfriends complain that a guy didn't have a condom: well, nor did you! So stop complaining and go buy some for next time!

RandomPinkness said...

I agree that both parties need to contribute financially and obviosly other ways to the relationship,'relationship' meaning, dating/friends-with-benefits/partners/whatever.

I have more money than my fella ergo I buy things for us, pay for meals etc. I know full well if he had the money he'd do the same, he gets me little things when he can, and I'm happy with that. I don't expect him to contribute as much as I do because he simply cannot afford it.

I like him to be a gent, walking in-between me and the road, carrying heavy shopping bags and so on, in return I am incredibly girly I clean, cook etc. We live up to the old stereotype a bit really but we're both happy that way. I am a feminist, in that I believe men and women are equal but different, but being old fashioned suits me and us.

I also agree about the condom thing I have some in my bedside drawer at all times, if you want to be having sex you need to make sure you're protected whether you're male or female.

lalita said...

As for the toilet sit, I don't see a problem, it has never bothered me really.

Concerning chivalry, what is the problem Dan? Is it really such a horrible thing to open the door for your lady? Do you feel oppressed bringing in a chair for her? I don't understand guys like that. Money is a different issue, I think women should be payed as much as men and I don't mind splitting the bill. But if a guy is not capable of simple acts of courtesy, then I would not consider him neither for a partner or a friend. It's a NATURAL instinct that a male takes care of his female. Trying to change that chases sex out of the society. Look at the demographic data and you'll understand...

Anna said...

Re: toilet seat: Honestly don't care; anything that takes one second to fix isn't worth complaining about.

Going dutch: whoever suggested going out should offer to pay, or if you're going dutch you should probably say in advance.

Turning up with flowers: I'd never ever ask for them or expect them, and in fact they're a bit of an inconvenience when an apology would do!

Anonymous said...

@ Lalita

"But if a guy is not capable of simple acts of courtesy, then I would not consider him neither for a partner or a friend. It's a NATURAL instinct that a male takes care of his female."

Is that not the point though? He's asking if we need unbalanced social etiquette any longer? What do men get in return for it? What is it a female's 'natural instinct' to do for us? Please don't say 'have your children' because that's hardly a great selling point in a dating scenario.

We've managed to over come various 'natural instincts' and no body appears to have a problem with letting those go? Also I doubt very much that a man's natural instinct is to take care of 'his female' (Love your use of the possessive 'his' btw).

That may be how it looks now, but any natural instinct would be driven by a need to advance his DNA over another male's - in short he's not protecting his woman he's protecting his ability to breed with a woman.

lalita said...

I simply don't see and understand how that is a problem for some guys. What I meant was that guys I know also benefit greatly from being gentlemen. A girl likes to have the feeling she's taken care of and a guy likes to feel that he can take care of HIS girl...And it's just opening the door...A very simple act, costs you nothing, is not particularly difficult but makes a difference.

"That may be how it looks now, but any natural instinct would be driven by a need to advance his DNA over another male's - in short he's not protecting his woman he's protecting his ability to breed with a woman."

Lets not split hairs, we can go down to molecular level if you insist and discuss selfish genes but that was not the point.

thene said...

I think you're right, but it's interesting how this varies as the relationship goes on; by the time you're married, most of the domestic courtesies are expected to (ie. not necessarily but you look kinda odd if they don't) come from the female side; doubly so if there's kids involved.

Personally I don't like the dating courtesies, because a lot of it - giving flowers, paying for meals and drinks - creates this unequal situation you've described and that makes it harder for a gal to back away if she's no longer interested. "He's gone through all the right motions, so what's the problem?" I guess that power/expenditure imbalance is part of why girls who date around aren't seen so well as guys who date around.

I freely admit that part of me quite likes the ritual of it all, acting the gentlemen by going through social motions - oh, me too, especially when I'm dating girls, but I've acted that way around boycrushes too :P

Daring said...

My first two boyfriends did not drive or own a car. I did, so I drove them about everywhere. They did not work, so I ended up paying for a majority of the stuff we went out to do, unless they called it. All the while my mother railing at me for "acting like the boy," and insisting that I should drop anyone that couldn't drive me about and pay for everything.

So, obviously, I fiercely agree that that sort of chivalry is outgrown and patriarchal.

On the other hand, feeling taken care of is something that both partners like, I think. Assigning a gender to it is ridiculous. Taking turns at it has been the working paradigm of my current relationship, and it's quite nice. :D

Holding doors open for one another is just *nice.* Paying for things a practicality, and screw flowers, everyone loves chocolate.

Re: Toilet seat. I don't particularly care, as long as you actually lift it. The worst thing is when guys don't bother to and splash all over the seat. *Gross.*

Anonymous said...

Prenups. Yes or no?

Anonymous said...

It's a shame that those women used tradition to bully you. And goodness knows what kind of warped self esteem someone would have thinking that they should be looked after because of their gender. But I don't think men have it that badly, all things considered. All my adult life I've paid for dates based on who earns more, bought my man flowers - and he did like them! - held doors open for other people regardless of gender, and generally tried to live some kind of equal standards. And now I'm surrounded by male colleagues being promoted much faster than women who have more experience, in a mostly female organisation whose management is dominated by men. Almost all my female friends, me included, have experienced sexual assault, ranging from mild abuse through to rape. Others have been sacked for getting pregnant. (none of these situations received legal redress.) So I don't think we're ready to talk about equality between men and women, just yet, in this country. And part of me feels that being mocked for leaving the loo seat up, or being treated with double standards sometimes, is a relatively small price to pay. Perhaps if we were serious about changing the bigger things, the social niceties might follow?

Anna said...

@Daring: Oh, chocolates, what a minefield we women are THERE! What if she's on a diet, has a nut or dairy allergy, wants a clearer complexion... no. I can understand any man being afraid to buy chocolates.

Re: Prenups: personally, no, because I hope I wouldn't enter into a marriage without being fairly sure it would last. However for some people in some situations I think they could be useful (Paul McCartney, 'nuff said).

anti-asshole said...

No offense, Dan, but your post is rather offensive. Actually, it's very offensive. How many guys do you know actually open doors, bring women flowers, and so on? Fair is fair, but if you want to win over the love and affections of a woman who will care for you equally, you have to prove you're worth it. There are a lot of guys out there who just want to get in a woman's pants (and rightfully, there are a lot of women who WANT a purely sexual relationship)... HOWEVER, respect is respect. If you asked someone out, you pay for it. If you make a considerable amount more than them, you pay for it. If your woman makes more than you, be enough of a man to deal with this and let her pick up the check. You haven't considered the most important point here --- no matter what "equality" there is between women and men, men like to chase. They like to feel like MEN. They like to woo, and to persue. Do you REALLY want a woman to call YOU after a first date? Do you REALLY want a woman to take YOU out? Do you really want her to bring a football? Do you REALLY want her to bring home the bacon? Yeah. I thought so.

Anonymous said...

Toilet seat and lid down when not being used, so not an issue.

I can't remember when a man bought me flowers whilst on a date, wish it would happen though.

As for condoms, I keep them in my bedside drawer but only get them out when the fella says he doesn't have them. Would feel funny offering them up first, guess I feel a bit stupid.

Angela-la-la said...

Loo seat and lid both down in my house. Stops the dog drinking from the bowl.

Anonymous said...

I think that the seat default position should be up. As men occasionally 'sprinkle when they tinkle' I would have thought that women would be happier knowing that the man had prevented them from sitting on a toilet seat that may have been peed on.