Monday, January 25, 2016

Gentlemanly behaviour

Don't be a gentleman.

Not to say that everything associated with the word gentleman is questionable, or even evil... but an awful lot of it is.

I just read an article about how to be a gentleman on your first date with a woman, and it made me sad as anything.  It includes things like insisting on paying for the date regardless of what your partner says or wants, making the actual dinner reservations as your divinely ordained right, walking only on her left side while on the sidewalk, and guiding her through crowds.  It feels like something that would have been published fifty years ago, but sadly not so.

Apparently being a gentleman mostly involves treating women like they are weak, fragile, in desperate need of rescuing, foolish, and completely lacking in initiative.  I suppose a gentleman, by this definition, is utterly convinced of his own superiority and knows that women desperately need him to run their lives.

It isn't just online articles aimed at old fashioned bigots though.  This past weekend I watched Kingsman:  The Secret Service, a movie that came out a couple years ago, and its portrayal of gentlemanly behaviour was just awful.  For most of the movie things were fine, as the main protagonist was a struggling twenty something from a poor family dealing with an outrageous spy plot more overdone than Bond ever was.  Then he put on a fancy suit, starting talking like rich man, and turned into an asshole.  Having arrived in the villain's secret fortress he found a princess trapped in a cell.  He could have freed her, that would have been fine.  He also could have run off to save the world from the dastardly plot.  Eminently reasonable!  Instead he used her captivity to leverage promises of sexual favours in exchange for rescue, and *then* he ran off.  After saving the world in style he came back to claim his payment for letting her out.  I suddenly had a lot less sympathy for his suffering throughout the film when he turned out to be a opportunistic rapist.

It all pisses me off.  Somehow misogyny seems baked into the idea of being a gentleman, that the concept is mired in the idea of maintaining a veneer of respect towards men, all men, and no respect at all towards women, all women.

Indeed I think from now I should treat anyone calling me a gentleman as an insult.  If what someone means is that a person is gentle, well mannered, kind, or refined, they can use those words.  Gentleman just has too much baggage.


  1. I think you may have misinterpreted the intent of the scene. And if I recall correctly, I believe she was quite excited to have him return and in no rush to leave the cell.

  2. She did appear perfectly happy about it at the end, no question. However, leading off with the "I will only let you out if you kiss me" thing totally wrecks consent. You can't later on say "Well, she seemed pretty happy about it, after I made it clear that her freedom depended on my sexual satisfaction!"

    I bet the writers intended that it be lighthearted and consensual... they just don't get consent at all though, it doesn't work that way.