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The Gentlemen of Columbia Heights

I profoundly love my neighborhood, and here’s why:

I can no longer count the number of times I’ve been in line to hop on the bus, and a guy’s held out his arm to let me go first. And it’s not only guys my age trying to be flirty– I’m talking ages eight all the way up to eighty. The next person to tell me chivalry’s dead gets a smack to the head, because they’re clearly just not paying attention.

There has been a serious increase in the show of gallantry around here lately, and it deserves some legitimate praise. I’ve always been the type to hold doors for people, unfailingly let the elderly go first anywhere, and give up my seat often… but I do that for everyone. It’s what I was raised to maintain as common courtesy [though evidently isn’t so common anymore]. But these encounters lately go above and beyond simple civility– they are straight up gentlemen!


Last week, I was waiting for the Circulator on 14th to go to work, and a kid was waiting towards the front of the line. He couldn’t have been older than eleven, scrawny, mildly scruffy, and clearly just got out of school. He let every single woman go ahead of him. When I smiled and told him to go ahead and get on, he shook his head and said, “No no, ladies first!” I laughed and thanked him. He found an empty seat before me, since I fumbled with my wallet, and even hopped up to offer me his seat when I passed him. I wished his mama had been around so that I could thank her, too, because she’s clearly doing something right while raising him.

So this brings me to an interesting power struggle here in DC (no, I’m not talking about Obama/Romney, or the fact that CVS petitioning for a liquor license will put all our favorite bodegas out of business). No, the issue is…..

“The Battle of Feminism vs. Chivalry”

Every time a girl complains about the lack of gentlemen around, she blames guys for being lazy or having no manners. I don’t know how many times a girlfriend’s told me that a guy accepted some variety of favor from her, and then didn’t even offer to walk her to the metro/bus/just his front stoop. Whether it was sexual or simply cooking dinner, a girl definitely deserves more than a “goodbye– the metro’s a ten minute walk that-a-way”.

For the record: I do not necessarily agree with this,
it is simply evidence.

On the flipside, I hear men protest about women wanting to ‘further their feminist agendas’ AND have dinner bought for them (as if we can only have it one way or the other?). A few friends have even told me that when, being the sweethearts they are, they’ve opened doors for their dates or tried to pay the check, all it got them was an earful. That women have gone off on them about how chivalry offends them in various ways for ‘violating their independence by paying’, or ‘condescending their intelligence, as if they can’t open the car door themselves’.

Here are my two cents on chivalry vs. feminism: a man letting me on the bus first has nothing to do with the strength of my independence or value as a woman–so keep it up, boys! Seriously, all of those issues are complete bunk. Girls: if you’re seeing a man who won’t at least offer to walk you to the metro or kiss you the next morning, it isn’t because they don’t exist– you simply aren’t WITH one, so dump his ass. Guys:  gender equality and common courtesy are NOT mutually exclusive, they’re actually the same thing. So stop complaining that we want you to both cut back on the office harassment and pull out our chairs. Everyone needs to just grow up and be thoughtful.

Special note to the more aggressive feminists giving the few gentlemanly guys a hard time: KNOCK IT OFF. You’re being overly sensitive. The only reason his offer to buy you dinner offended you is because you have unresolved confidence issues, not because he thinks women are incapable of counting out correct change. If you think gallantry is contrived solely to lord his manliness over you, then what is your condescending feminist refusal trying to prove? Two-way streets can be a bitch if you don’t look both ways, so stop trying to jaywalk and just let him do something nice once in awhile. If you can’t manage that, then at least don’t scare him into never doing it again for a girl who will appreciate it, please.

And it isn’t just the young ones being all courtly around here lately– a seventy year old man adamantly insisted I get on the bus before him today, and he was using a cane to walk. In the past month, I have also had a man chase after me a block because I dropped my scarf, another give me his seat on the metro, and countless others insist I go first, whether at the bus, grocery store, bank, or various other social situations. I’ve been called miss, lady, ma’am– and once, even, ‘snowflake’ [I was wearing a dark dress and have very pale skin].

What is going on here?? The second you get downtown or even just to Dupont, people are rushing around all over each other to get to the ever-important place they’re going to first, and rarely look up from their Blackberries long enough to realize they’ve tripped someone. But up here in Columbia Heights? Oh no, the only dirty looks you’ll be getting these days are when you don’t offer a lady your seat or give her a hand with the door. Did Prince of Petworth send out some secret PSA this week to his male readers about minding their manners or something? And what does it say about me that my response to this chivalry has been baffled amazement? I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m not going to look a gift-horse in the mouth. I’m just going to keep riding this gallant wave, be grateful, and spread the word.

The secret to happiness, for both genders.

So here’s my advice:

  • to Washington girls: you want to be treated like a lady where you live? Move to Columbia Heights. One of the greatest ways to keep up your confidence is to purposefully keep yourself in a friendly atmosphere, and now you know where to find it.
  • to District guys: still looking for that amazing, special someone? Well, now you know where my friends and I will be.


9 thoughts on “The Gentlemen of Columbia Heights

  1. Amen! Everyone should be polite and accept politeness for what it is. I hold doors open for people of all ages and sexes, and I don’t think men are sexist when they do it. No agendas—just people being polite. What’s wrong with that?

    Posted by jmmcdowell | April 11, 2012, 7:18 pm
    • “gender equality and common courtesy are NOT mutually exclusive.” Agreed. However, chivalry is not common courtesy. That is the flaw in your argument.

      Chivalry is giving preferential treatment based strictly on gender, which is antithetical to the core ideology of feminism. Were chivalry merely common courtesy, women would be doing it just as often for men as men do for women.

      True feminism and chivalry are mutually exclusive. I frankly have more respect for feminists who are true to equality. At least they walk the walk, rather than claim to be for equality but are in actually in for as much unequal advantage possible.

      Posted by BarryMayor | April 13, 2012, 2:00 am
      • I agree with you, Barry– to an extent. If you want to be a true feminist, then you’re right, you cannot also expect preferential treatment from men based on your gender.

        But if you want to argue about the true meaning of feminism, then you have to be fair and use the true meaning of chivalry– which you aren’t. Chivalry does NOT mean “giving preferential treatment based strictly on gender”. It is a combination of qualities that make up a knightly figure: courage, honor, courtesy, justice. The only group of people they give strict preferential treatment to are the particularly oppressed or needy, and that’s merely to stress their whole “defender of the weak” schtick.

        Yes, the chivalrous go in and save damsels in distress, which might grate at feminist nerves– but they also save men under attack by gangs and the like. Instead of digging at the way society misrepresents “feminism”, maybe we should try something new and realize how sadly we’re limiting the meaning of true chivalry. I consider myself a chivalrous person to people in general, regardless of their gender, and I’m a woman. I don’t expect men to treat me differently BECAUSE I’m a woman; I’m just pointing out that I’ve had some rather gallant treatment lately, and I’m showing appreciation. If they decided to be courteous because I’m a lady, that’s their decision– I just thought it’s been lovely.

        So I argue back now, sir, that TRUE feminism and TRUE chivalry are not mutually exclusive. Which is what I said in the first place, simply clarified.

        [I love the discussion, though, thanks!]

        Posted by Jules in DC | April 13, 2012, 3:03 am
        • Sorry but I haven’t seen male firefighters or police officers (e.g., saving men from gangs) or soldiers who have performed rescues of men EVER referred to as chivalrous (in the last several hundred years), only men opening doors and giving up seats and buying dinner for women.

          When people use the term chivalry is dead, it’s not because firefighters, police officers, and soldiers no longer rescue people. It’s noting that we have more equality today where women and men are no longer given gender-based preferential treatment. For example, in your article you didn’t refer to a single instance of males being recipients of such acts of chivalry, or even recommend such, only exhorting men to continue deferring to women “so keep it up, boys!”). That is the gender-based preferential treatment I was referring to. Again, I’m sorry but I simply didn’t see an equality message here.

          I hope you don’t feel I am criticizing you. I simply don’t believe that chivalry (as virtually everyone uses the term) and feminism/equality are compatible.

          Posted by BarryMayor | April 13, 2012, 3:36 am
          • Yes, the service men [and WOMEN] are of course chivalrous– the exceptional ones are even awarded the Medal of Honor or the Medal of Valor. I’m pretty sure those are the exact words used to describe knights. But that’s also their JOB. It’s a chivalrous job, to be sure, but it’s still their job. The reason people think of pulling out chairs and the like is because they’re unwarranted gestures of courtesy that make someone feel special.

            My article DID, in fact, comment on men being recipients by specifying that I do it myself. Constantly, and without bias of gender. “I’ve always been the type to hold doors for people, unfailingly let the elderly go first anywhere, and give up my seat often… but I do that for everyone.” You’re still hung up on the concept that only men can be chivalrous, and only women can benefit. The entire point of my article is that PEOPLE should be chivalrous and stop being self-absorbed assholes. The reason all my examples are of men showing me courtesy is because I am myself a woman, and the statistics for a guy calling me ma’am are just higher than a woman. [I should specify, since I didn’t there, that I was called ‘snowflake’ by a woman who let me jump ahead in line at Giant because she had a million more items than me. Woman-on-woman chivalry. BAM.]

            A lot of people have a completely unrealistic concept of the term feminism, too, thinking that it means we hate men and all sorts of ridiculous things. I think it’s just one-sided of you to stick to the actual meaning of one term [feminism as true gender equity], but then use the socially misconstrued meaning of the other [chivalry as you’ve decided to take it as an exhortative practice in favor of women]. Yes, I do single guys out in that one section on purpose. It’s a reflection on the DC-specific males that have dropped all pretenses at romance with Washington girls. The whole point of my blog is a social analysis of the DC dating world, so I pick on both genders constantly. In this case, I’m giving encouragement– and if you’ll notice, I nag at females equally.

            This one page is not an entirely complete look at feminism vs. chivalry, or male-female power struggles, but a very small section of what life is like in DC. Yes, I talk about equality, courtesy, and all sorts of fun progressive social agenda-y things in my blog– but that’s not the main focus of this specific post. As titled, it’s an appreciation for the fellas around my neighborhood who have repeatedly brightened this girl’s day lately. And being the nice girl I am, I took the time out of my day to publicly thank them.

            How chivalrous of me!

            Posted by Jules in DC | April 13, 2012, 4:06 am
          • What I WILL agree with you on being incompatible is true feminism vs. the EXPECTATION of chivalry from men as a woman. Those are completely conflicting ideals. You can’t both be a true feminist and also expect men to treat you special simply because you have a uterus [or more visible lady parts]. My argument is that one can be a feminist while appreciating the special gestures people make, regardless of anyone’s genders.

            Posted by Jules in DC | April 13, 2012, 4:13 am
  2. Well, as a gentleman in Columbia Heights, I thank you for writing this post. Very nice.

    Posted by Eric | May 11, 2012, 11:39 pm
    • You are VERY welcome, Eric! We ladies of Columbia Heights are definitely appreciative, so I’m glad my thanks found you through the internet. Hopefully chance gets me to a door first to hold open for you, too!

      Posted by Jules in DC | May 11, 2012, 11:58 pm
  3. I enjoyed your professional manner of writing the post. Thanks, you have made it easy for me to understand. I would like to say thanks a lot for discussing this useful information

    Posted by tipsondatings | November 20, 2013, 10:33 am

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