October 28th, 2008


Confessions of a Door Holder

My name is Kevin Rhodes, and I am a door holder.

If someone has their hands full, or is otherwise limited in their ability to open a door and maneuver their way through the doorway, I'll open and hold the door for this person. Gender does not enter into it. It's just the right thing to do, and it is second nature for me to do it.

It doesn't stop at door holding. If someone, regardless of gender, is carrying something heavy and cumbersome, I'll offer to help. If the same person is about to fall over from the burden of their load, I'll move to stabilize them. And so on.

This does not make me a rapist.

attack_laurel posted an article inspired by a man who tried to help her with her bags. After she had told him no multiple times, he actually picked up her bags and started putting them into the car. She went on to describe other interactions with men, and stated that in social conversations, men would try to justify or defend such behavior, further elaborating that even worse behavior (rape, in particular) is also defended by men.

I don't know these men, and if I did, I'd not want to associate with them. However, as a door holder, I understand the need to defend the "help" instinct. For longer than I can remember, door holding has been denounced by some feminists as demeaning to women. The same feminists make the same leap that attack_laurel did, from door holding to sexual harassment and rape. attack_laurel took it one step further by lumping in those who try to defend door holding with those who defend rapists.

As I read the article, I felt that bag-guy's initial motivations were pure, and it was only after he didn't take no for an answer that he switched from being a nice guy to being a jerk. Yet I still felt myself defending him, not because of his actions, but because I could see where the story was leading. I have come to the conclusion that if the type of men in her post who would defend bag-guy aren't jerks, then they're probably door holders like me who feel that their own desire to help is under attack by feminists armed with anecdotes.

Yes, there are jerks. Yes, there are a lot of them. Yes, they do all sorts of things, from the unpleasant to the unconscionable. But don't lump me in with the jerks just because I do something that may look superficially like something a jerk did elsewhere. A jerk holding a door isn't a jerk because he's holding a door. He's a jerk because he refuses to listen to the person for whom he's holding the door.

To all my feminist friends: if I hold a door open for you, it is because I'm trying to help. It is not my intention to imply that you are unable to open or hold the door for yourself, nor do I mean to impose centuries of patriarchal social misogyny onto you. I'm not trying to assert my dominance as a male, or rape you. I'm just holding a damn door. If you don't want me to, tell me in a way that won't make me feel like a jerk. And know that if you struggle getting through the door that I'm not holding, I'm going to feel like a jerk anyway.

I heard on the radio while driving in to work today that a local man had intervened when a woman was being molested on the street, and had been stabbed multiple times by the assailants for getting involved. With the exception of the stabbing, I want to be this guy. His courage to step in and help a fellow human being in the face of very real danger is something to be praised forever. Unfortunately, all too many of us door holders are this guy, wounds and all; the stabs come not from the assailants, but from the woman herself.