Why Manners Matter and are alive and well in the Modern South and Elsewhere

I was a bit taken aback this week when the media decided to make a news story that a university study had declared that  the simple act of a man opening a door for a woman was rife with the message that said man thought said woman was inferior.  WHAT!?  I was left scratching my head in confusion.  Had the proverbial wool been pulled over my eyes all these years?  Did all those men: dates, cousins, my Daddy, friends husbands and boyfriends who had held doors for me secretly think they were superior to me?  No, Daddy spent my whole childhood telling me I could be anything I wanted to be and I could do anything I put my mind to, that certainly did not jive with what this study said about his behavior. I always saw a door held as a sign of respect and just plain good manners.  I myself hold the door regularly for folks just behind me entering or departing from a building, not even taking their gender into account.  I will admit I make the extra effort for my elders, not because I see them as frail incapable beings, but I want to show my respect.  I understand that cultural norms of behavior change and evolve, but I would argue a culture devoid of civility and everyday courtesies runs the risk of ceasing to be a culture.  I decided to consult my reference book on etiquette, no it is not the version published in the 1920’s that belonged to my grandmother or the 1960’s version one my mother received as a bride, it was the one I received when I graduated from college in the 1990’s and I happen to know there are newer versions out there that address on-line etiquette as well as proper wedding invitations.  As I stated before, times change and call for adjustments in the norm for civil behavior, not the absence of civil behavior.  I pulled my book off the shelf and found the above paragraph.  Note where it points out such behavior is just common courtesy, not a statement on superiority or inferiority.  A lot has been made of this study’s findings here in the south, mostly that holding doors and offering arms to women is a badge of respectability and manners for a southern man what is wrong with everyone else?  We southerners sometimes think that we hold the market on manners and we do think it is part of a child’s essential education.  I would argue it is also true in places like New England, where one of my male cousins who grew up in rural Maine, opened doors and offered an arm on and off boats to women from three to one-hundred.  I find it hard to believe that any modern woman feels her intelligence suffers because a man held a door for her and if she does I would question her self-esteem, not if the man in question had a subversive plan to keep that little woman in her place.  In this day and age mutual respect between people, shown via common courtesies, regardless of a person’s gender, race, or other identifying qualifiers is what will make our culture thrive.  If we remove those acts of respect known as manners then the fabric of our society deteriorates.  Not only do manners matter, they are the thread that holds our society together.  So as a self-assured modern southern woman, let me finish by saying, “Thank you darlin’ for holding the door. Now, what kindness can I show you? Bless your heart.”

Some sound advice from Emily Post's Etiquette A Guide to Modern Manners (14th Edition)

Some sound advice from Emily Post’s Etiquette A Guide to Modern Manners (14th Edition)

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