Monday, January 30, 2012


I often wonder if more people stayed awake in English class, would there be fewer grammar fails like this?
I finally remembered the word for thinking you can control another person's behavior like this: "codependency".

A friend of mine posted this picture recently on Facebook, and I did not want to interrupt the flow of “so true” comments to say, “Grammar fail! Victim blaming!”

That’s why I have a blog, after all. So let’s take the smallest issue first. What on earth does, “I often wonder if more girls were willing to be ladies, more guys would feel challenged to be gentlemen” even mean? I think that last clause is supposed to be “would more guys be challenged to be gentlemen” or possibly “if  more guys would be challenged to be gentlemen” or perhaps in the first clause "wonder" should have been "think", but as it stands reading it is an exercise in WTF? On so many levels.

Then of course there is a larger issue (no, not the largest one, not yet) - is it women’s fault if men do not behave as gentlemen toward other men? Because, I mean, Republican debates. Michelle Bachman is out of it now, so we can’t blame her. Maybe we can blame their mamas. Their wives. The catering help. Or maybe we can expand the concept of politeness to cover how we relate to everyone, in any context, not just potential romantic partners in a dating situation. It just seems to me that if you always respect the rights of other people to be different from you, whether they are explaining their (oh so different from yours) politics or telling you no, they don’t want to come up for coffee, it would be more obvious that a man always has the choice to be a gentleman. In fact, he’s the only one who can make that choice for himself.

Men themselves have pondered the question of how a gentleman treats another man. There's the story that President Herbert Hoover's Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson shut down the office in the U.S. State Department responsible for breaking codes to read messages sent between embassies of other countries and their capitals in 1929, saying, "Gentlemen don't read other gentlemen's mail." The idea that a man being a gentleman only counts in his interactions with women doesn’t make sense, considering that until recently, matters of diplomacy were only conducted among men, whether gentle or not.

Then of course there is the obvious largest issue of victim blaming. To be fair, the blogger who originally posted this picture (and identified it as reblogged . . . from dapperdean, originally from alovefromabove) did say “I fully believe this goes Vice Versa as well”

(I’ve revised this whole last section because what I had written before seemed both obvious and puerile.)

Of course the worst thing about the caption is that it falls into that whole category of “if only women would” speculations about how the world would be a better place “if only women would” make some change that is either very difficult, vaguely defined, or completely counter to what some other person thinks women should do to make the world a better place, if not all three. This is not to say that the world couldn’t be a better place if we women made some changes in our behavior, but that’s because the world would be a better place if we people made a difference in our behavior. Reducing our carbon footprint, thinking about what charitable gestures would better serve their recipients instead of our own convenience, learning more about the character and abilities of the people we vote for rather than just their allegiances, those are a few of the things on my list of how to make the world a better place. Not one of them requires wearing a crinoline.

For that matter, being kinder to people around you, being magnanimous when others seem unkind, noticing if there is some small thing you can do that would make someone around you more comfortable, like giving up your seat or holding open a door, are also actions that might make the world a better place. These are the actions of a lady. They are also the actions of a gentleman.  

All that is needed for a man to be a gentleman is for him to make the choice to be a gentleman. He’s the only one who can make that choice for himself.


  1. Amen! :D This kind of thing drives me up a tree. In addition, I don't want men to be gentlemen in the sense of "wears a suit on dates, pulls out my chair for me" (even if I were interested in dating men, which I'm not), I want them to be decent people to me whether they're romantically interested in me or not.

    (On the latter point, I had an interesting discussion with a cousin who's recently had a baby girl. She wanted to know what people thought dads should teach their daughters about interacting with me. The first seven or eight comments were all about how fathers should teach their daughters about how to tell good boyfriend candidates from bad ones (with an undercurrent of "men only want one thing"). I finally said, "You know, 90% of the men a woman meets in her life aren't going to be men she dates. They're going to be her coworkers and bosses and fellow students and political candidates and customers and bus drivers and-- So what should dads teach their daughters about interactions with men in those roles?" My cousin chimed in to say that that's actually what she was interested in hearing about! But everyone defaulted to "dating" as the most important thing for a girl until someone said otherwise.

  2. I also like Oscar Wilde's: "A gentleman never wounds another...unintentionally."

    When I saw the picture, my first question was "...annnd what do you mean by 'ladies', exactly?" (I mean, I know: not asserting ourselves, not having sex--or not enjoying it--not wearing "immodest" clothing, not running, not swearing, not having fun.)

    And then I thought of awesome suffragette poetry that a friend linked a little while back, on "Chivalry":

    It's treating a woman politely
    As long as she isn't a fright:
    It's guarding the girls who act rightly,
    If you can be judge of what's right;
    It's being—not just, but so pleasant;
    It's tipping while wages are low;
    It's making a beautiful present,
    And failing to pay what you owe.

    (Alice Duer Miller,

  3. i think grammar tis useless and communication is the key.

  4. Anonymous, grammar is the difference between knowing your shit and knowing you're shit.

  5. Why does society insist on separating women and men from one another? We are both on the same side. The responsibility of being a good person lies within ourselves individually. Most of the world is full of well mannered self respecting people. It is the few encounters we have with what we would consider,based on their behavior in a bad situation, a bad person, that creates a negative perception. Our world is mostly what we make it to be. Yes, horrible things happen, but that is reality. Good things happen too. This is where societies focus should be. Coming together to build a more positive understanding of each other, not perpetuating useless blame.