Confusing a Generation of "Gentlemen"

Confusing a Generation of "Gentlemen"


Topics: courtship, Dating and relationships, feminism, love, men and women, modern love, new york times
Posted by aaelightsey Monday, February 25, 2013 - 19:51
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This week I wandered onto the New York Times page to check out their "End of Courtship" article by Alex Williams that has quickly, and ironically, been broadcast across social media sites with agreeable tags like "so true!" and "ugh, so my life". Ironic, because the article blames the end of the "traditional date" on a generation stuck in a "hookup culture" of college relationships that more resemble a "friends with benefits" style of interaction via quick texts, Facebook messages, emails, a tweet, or a late-night "what's happening?" query. Women quoted in the article complained that instead of a nice dinner out, or a pre-planned date, girls should just start lowering their expectations because current dating culture is one step below a date, and one step above a high-five," says 30 year old Shani Silver, a Philadelphia-based blog manager. “If you expect dinner at a romantic new bistro, forget it. Women in their 20’s these days are lucky to get a last-minute text to tag along.” It's a pretty sad, very true, and very frightening article that's worth checking out.

A logical question that follows this description of the "new dating culture" then is, are the people who are "dating" in this "modern" way happy about it? It doesn't seem so, one 24 year old woman bemoaned the "frustrating new romantic landscape" that was full of men who say that they don't like to "take girls out." Instead, one man says, he just likes to text a girl and have them "join in on whatever I'm doing." Like I said, the article points to many places to lay the blame for this new relationship ambiguity: a social media cyber culture, economic recession, and the equalization of male and female jobs and wages that makes "having the man pay" for, or plan, a date seem a little silly, unnecessary, and for some, offensive. All those reasons may have some viability, and I think they do, but after reading another article entitled "I Don't Want My Preschooler to be a Gentleman" on the New York Times parenting page called the "Motherlode," I think there may be a deeper, even more troubling, cause.

In her article about her four year old son Emmett's question about what her definition for a "gentleman" was, novelist Lynn Messina was horrified when her son's definition was that "a gentleman lets girls go first." She bemoans that her son's preschool teacher allows girls to use the bathroom after naptime before the boys, and sadly decries that her son "just got his first lesson in sexism."  She openly admits that she might be overreacting, but quickly follows that admission up with this whopper:

But I don’t think it’s an overreaction to resent the fact that your son is being given an extra set of rules to follow simply because he’s a boy. His behavior, already constrained by a series of societal norms, now has additional restrictions. Worse than that, he’s actively being taught to treat girls differently, something I thought we all agreed to stop doing, like, three decades ago. (Messina, “I Don’t Want my Preschooler to be a Gentleman”).

Did you get that? She's upset because her son is learning how to treat women like ladies, or, as she would describe it, learning how to give girls "empty courtesies that instill in women a sense of entitlement for meaningless things. Many women see gallantry as one of the benefits of their sex; I see it as one of its consolations."

Flash back to the "End of Courtship" article. The women in that article seemed to think the absence of these "empty courtesies" of gallantry rather sad. Anna Goldfarb, a 34 year old author in Moorestown, N. J. said that “I’ve seen men put more effort into finding a movie to watch on Netflix Instant than composing a coherent message to ask a woman out," and she hates it. Despite what the troubled mom in the "Preschooler" article believes, it seems the destruction of the idea of treating girls differently has already gotten quite a firm root in the men of today and the ladies (surprise, surprise) aren't liking it so much. Yet, if Lynn Messina's feminist mantra is what women have been striving for for the last forty years, when a man says he doesn't like to "take girls out" (read, treat them differently from his male friends), why should any of us be surprised, angry, or disgusted? He's simply treating you the way you want to be treated, right? Just like him, just like one of the guys, just like another individual with the only defining characteristic beyond biological differences is that perhaps you have a prettier profile than his hulking man-roommate. He probably won't tell you that though, in case you're offended. So, you're mad he put you in the friend-zone? That he texted you at 10:30 p.m. on a promised "date-night" to finally invite you to a keg-stand? Lynn Messina would probably cheer. We've made it ladies, we're off the pedestal of special treatment and down on the ground to roll around with all the guys.

"Preschooler" mom says her "heart aches" when she listens to her son "proudly explain what a gentleman is — because what he’s actually so proud of is his part in perpetuating millenniums of sexism." My heart ached when I began to see how a generation of new mothers may be creating a future world of genderless genders.  Like I said earlier, the New York Times mommy-blog "Motherlode" is where this article was posted. How terrifying is it if the opinion of this woman is the new 'principal vein' (which is the definition of a 'motherlode') of thought among young mothers? I'm hoping it's not, because if it is, the :end of courtship" is just the beginning, relationships as we know them may be in for a similar extinction.

    (see where this article was originally posted here)