By Carolyn Weinstein
Maybe you’ve walked into a building before. If it’s a dorm, you swipe your card and go about your business. If it’s an academic building, you walk right in because security is unnecessary in Oberlin, Ohio. What could you possibly steal from a building like King? Poems about birds as a metaphor for broken childhoods from the Creative Writing department? White guilt from CAST? Seriously. Anyway, besides the lone geology major creeping around Carnegie after midnight, you’re usually not the only one walking around campus (unless it’s the rare geo major with a boyfriend who wants to mess around after hours in one of the labs. But how many geo majors do you see with significant others? They chose to study rocks in college). This means that there will almost always be someone walking behind you who is about to walk into the same building. This brings up the issue of door etiquette, which is a delicious cesspool of manners, sexism, and, of course, awkwardness.
“Sexism?” you might ask. Yes, absolutely sexism! This is Oberlin; there is no such thing as an altruistic deed. Everything is some sort of –ism. But seriously, men holding doors open for women is a centuries-old act of chivalry (citation needed). Interestingly enough, this practice is still seen at the institution of stuck up liberals that we all go to. I am a neo-feminist and I have no problem with this. Actually, I think it’s awesome. I’ve probably opened the door three times since I’ve been here. This caters perfectly to my oppressive laziness. Also, I exaggerate a lot.
At what point does having manners turn into being sexist? Guy holding doors open for girls is just polite… and so is girls holding doors open for guys, dudes holding doors open for fellow dudes, people holding doors open for people of undefined gender… you get the point. My lovely editor, Erica, told me about this situation she found herself in while trying to get through the double doors of the Science Center. A male who was walking behind her reached over and opened the door for her—okay, no big deal, so he went a little out of his way to be polite. Then, he ran in front of her to open the second door…and the third, and the fourth. Seriously? Did he not think that she could physically open the doors for herself? Going out of one’s way really obviously isn’t good manners; it’s just kind of weird. Girls can open doors, too, you chivalrous zealot. I heard someone say once that chivalry is just polite sexism—whether or not I agree with that is irrelevant. The point is that holding the door open four times in a row is pretty goddamn awkward.
What about holding doors open for other people? – full of delicious awkwardness, of course! How do you decide how far away the person has to be? At what point would it be uncomfortable to stand with the door patiently waiting in your hand? At what distance would it be rude not to hold the door for them? And what do you do if there is someone directly behind you on a bike? Do you wait for them to lock up their bike? Not if you don’t know them—that’s not even awkward, it’s just fucking weird. But they’re right behind you! They can see the door closing in their face! Too bad. Now there is a person on this campus (who you will inevitable run into a million times after this happens even though you’ve never seen them before) who thinks you’re rude. That’s what you get for going to a tiny school full of bike-riding hippies.
Also, I don’t hate Oberlin.