The Fashion Magpie Courtesy vs Gender Politics

Weekend Vibes, Edition No. 108: The One on Courtesy Vs. Gender Politics.

My Latest Snag: A New Headband.

Amidst my flurry of delivery preparations last week, I strategized about the all-important (har har) coming-home outfit for myself. I am packing two: one loose-fitting dress (it will likely be late May!) and one leggings look, as I recall that last time, I preferred the support/encasement (??) of leggings paired with a loose-fitting cardigan. On the former front, I am looking at either this Mi Golondrina tunic or this S.Z. Blockprints caftan. I know neither are nursing-friendly, but I’m going for something easy to toss on and pull off and both look perfectly roomy for a post-partem figure. For the latter look, I already ordered this baby blue linen-weave cardigan, this nursing-friendly henley, and my favorite maternity leggings. The piece de resistance for either look? A brand new denim headband that I am going to save as a present to myself until I get to the hospital. Get the look for less with this striped style. (Also love this floral style!)

You’re Sooooo Popular: The Pearl Slide.

The most popular items on the blog this week:

+These Chanel-esque parl slides.

+These uber-trendy, uber-chic rose-colored jeans. I’m envisioning them with a boho blouse.

+An elegant white jumpsuit. Great option for a bride-to-be!

+An insta-classic for any gal’s closet. Love it in that mid blue hue. I’d pair with my Aquazzura for De Gournay slides (<<sold out everywhere as they were last season, but still findable on The Real Real!)

+An absolutely stunning evening gown. I don’t normally go for stark black, but this is a knockout.

+Every lady needs a tortoise headband in her life.

+The prettiest striped blouse for spring.

+The lovely Pam Munson sent me this bag for spring and I am dying — dying — over it. I’ve been wearing it everywhere despite the fact that we’re still lingering in the 30s and 40s many days in New York. It’s roomy and structured and pretty much perfect in every way.

#Turbothot: Courtesy Versus Gender Politics.

The other day, I lumbered onto a crowded subway car. I was uncomfortable and I knew I looked it. The baby was moving in all kinds of strange ways — he’s blessedly head down for now, though mini flipped to breech position around week 34 or so, and I’m not holding my breath — and he has a habit of kicking me right in the ribs in his current placement. I was on my way to an ultrasound across town, on the Upper East Side. There’s no particularly easy way to get there from the Columbus Circle area — you either take a subway north and commit to a 15-minute walk through the Park, or you navigate multiple Subway transfers by first heading south, which always feels frustratingly counter-productive. I often take a cab but was determined, on that spring-like afternoon, to make my way via public transit and save the $20 on taxi fare. At any rate, I waddled onto the Subway car at the pace of a snail, scanning for a seat. There were probably twenty able-bodied men and fifteen teens sitting on the benches, and I waited for half a second for someone to gesture me into his seat. No offer materialized.

I was put off by this. I realize it’s a potentially controversial opinion to have, but if I see a pregnant woman, or a mother with small children, or an elderly individual, or someone with a clear handicap or injury, I will always cede my seat — even in my nearly-eight-month-pregnant state. It occurred to me, though, that perhaps these gentlemen had been chastened by other experiences and interactions. Not too long ago, I was out on my own without mini (and not visibly pregnant), and I stopped to help a mother working hard to prop a door open in order to wheel her stroller out.

“Here, I got you!” I offered, running to hold the door for her. She looked at me in exasperation.

“I’m used to handling it on my own.”

Oh.

I don’t know whether she meant it as a joke (but she somehow forgot to add the comedic wink-wink-nudge-nudge), or if she was having a bad day and needed to snap at somebody, or was offended by my gesture. Maybe she saw me as a childless 30-something woman and was annoyed by the implication that I would feel she needed my help? Maybe she found it patronizing? Maybe she was determined to prove to herself, that day, that she could do it all on her own? Maybe she was just plain rude?

I don’t know — but it occurred to me, as I reflected on that interaction, that maybe these gentlemen had been through similar experiences and had learned the tough way to just keep to themselves.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s always right to offer up my seat or hold open a door. Sure, I might run into hostility every now and then, but it’s simply the generous thing to do. I’d rather respond with kindness than with apathy, even if that gesture is declined.

What are your thoughts, ladies? How do you react when a man holds open a door for you, pregnant or not? How do you feel about offering a seat to someone who looks like they might need it? How do we draw the lines between courtesy and a kind of dangerous gender politicking?

Blast from the Past.

About a year ago, I was musing on lessons learned from Lee Radziwill, sharing mini’s favorite books (she was so little, my God!), and reading a lot of books myself.

#Shopaholic: Striped Linen Pants.

+One of my post-pregnancy resolutions is to wear more interesting pants. I wear a lot of dresses (when weather permits), but almost always default to jeans. I love the look of these striped linen pants with this discounted Free People pullover in the neutral/beige color.

+One of my favorite indie jewelry designers, Nicola Bathie, is now carried by Anthro!

+Love a Missoni moment.

+Cute toddler sheets for a little boy.

+I’m not going to go crazy or stress too much about this now, but I am determined to get back into shape after this baby is born. I have not had a consistent exercise routine since before mini was born (!!!). I am toying with the idea of hiring a trainer to help. But before we get there, I thought this wellness journal was an interesting way to start getting back into a habit of mindfulness when it comes to sleep, food, and exercise.

+This floral ballcap is so cute! I’d wear this to walk Tilly on the weekends with jeans and a white tee or a simple denim dress.

+Speaking of Liberty florals — this bib!!!

+These Riviera chairs in the new sky blue colorway! OMG! (Also, everything at Serena & Lily is 20% off right now…!)

+These LR slides are only $118!!!

+Love this simple striped blush-and-white tee — marked down to $5?! Cute with white jeans/overalls and a pastel anorak for an easy spring look.

+So into the design of these Yamazaki Home organizational products. Chic!

24 Comments

  1. I agree with Rachel & Claire here — “all people should be courteous to all other people”. YES! This. I think it is really interesting to think about regionality and the disconnection that our tech-focused lifestyle engenders as well — I often take notice of this when I’m traveling (as I have been doing quite frequently of late). Personally, I am always on the lookout for someone that needs a seat/needs help, and I think it’s partially because I’m often on the bus or subway with small children and am ever-grateful for people that give up their seats so the kids can sit down. I can think of a couple of instances that people were offended/borderline rude about my offering help, but I try not to dwell on those instances, as I find that the majority of people are quite grateful for the helping hand. On the flip side, I always appreciate a door held open for me, and always hold the door for those behind me — man, woman, or otherwise!

    I have been waffling on that SZ Blockprints Kitty caftan for weeks now — I love the print so much more than the current-season ones at J.Crew, and find the midi length so graceful! Ahhhh. May finally buy it this week; we’ll see.

    The wellness journal is also right up my alley! xo

    1. Right, I agree with you and so many of the other ladies here — better to err on the side of kindness and just shrug it off if the gesture is returned with coldness. I’d rather feel like I’ve done the right thing.

      xx

  2. I’d always rather err on the side of kindness! It almost seems such a simple gesture but it can certainly go a long way for someone in need.
    I find regional differences interesting as well. I spent more than 10 years in the Midwest and I cannot remember an incident in which the person in front of me didn’t hold the door open at least till I caught it. I don’t see it as frequently in the Bay Area (2 and 1/2 years in). Not to reinforce stereotypes, but just an observation.

    1. So interesting that several of you have raised this point! Agree with you — better to err on the side of generosity. xxx

  3. I think the subway issue is less about gender politics than it is about the way people are more disengaged/self-absorbed, largely due to tech devises. I take the train to and from work every day and maybe one in ten times I am offered a seat. I’m very pregnant, arrive on the train out of breath and people stare at their phones to avoid looking at l me. Even when my pregnant belly is inches from their face. Before everyone had cell phones and wore headphones everywhere you had to engage with people around you.

    Some interesting gender based observations I’ve made while pregnant is that it is usually women who offer their seat to me and the only random comments I’ve received about my body have been from men. A guy on the elevator yesterday told me I should “lay off the beer” and last week another man told me I must be having a girl because I was carrying “high and wide.” I’m having a boy but thanks.

    1. AHHHH. AHHH! It has always struck me as deeply uncomfortable that one of the tenderest, most private (and often most fraught!) time of our lives — pregnancy! preparing for a child! — is so darned public owing to its physical manifestation. It seems like it should be obvious that NO ONE SHOULD EVER COMMENT ON A PREGNANT WOMAN’S BELLY. I mean, the number of ways it can backfire is staggering. Anyway, I’m sorry you had to go through those awkward interactions. I wish I could have been over your shoulder — or, better yet, Christina could have been, to issue some sort of appropriate comeuppance. Grumble! “High and wide”?!?!?!?

      This is a really good point about technology as a deterrent for common courtesy. I do think it’s often the culprit; people are absorbed in their own worlds, behind the glow of a screen.

      xxx

  4. One of my favorite sayings: “Never suppress a generous thought.” It perfectly describes what I think about in those situations. I’m grateful when someone is willing to do the generous thing, regardless of whether or not what I felt like I wanted. Similarly, I try not to suppress my own impulses to do good. I hadn’t considered the gendered aspect of this practice, but I know I’m grateful for the kindness shown to me by anyone who is willing.

    1. Love this quote! Love. I have often had a similar thought — “you’ll never regret reacting with kindness.” Never. I’ve never once looked back and regretted it, even when the generosity was undeserved or declined. Anyway, thanks for writing this! Love the way you phrased that.

      xx

  5. I’m with you! I really struggle with trying to be courteous without offending someone. Sometimes it’s difficult here in Chicago to tell if someone is actually pregnant or just wearing a puffy coat. I recently offered my seat to a woman who appeared to be in her 60s or early 70s and she looked at me-very offended-and said “I had no idea I looked that OLD today!” Yikes.

    1. AHHH! I hear you – that is SO tricky. And kind of hilarious about Chicago, too, that it’s interminably cold winters contribute to that particular problem. I think in general it’s better to be kind and make the offer.

      XX

  6. Yes, let us not allow gender politics to kill common courtesy! I am all for giving up a seat and holding doors for anyone coming right behind me. When I was downtown Ann Arbor recently and heading into a coffee shop pushing the stroller, the girl in front of me pretty much let the door slam in our faces. I’m sure I did a huge eye roll and a man sitting right by the door jumped up to help. Much appreciated, sir.

    Also, working out with a trainer is the BEST…you should do it!

    1. I’ve had that experience more times than I can count, too — I try to assume the person was oblivious but…

      There was one time a few weeks ago where I was finagling my way out of a maze of doors (you know how in urban areas restaurants/cafes/shops add a little fabric portico outside of a door area to help keep the warm air in? It was one of those situations, where I had to prop open three back to back doors in a row with the stroller in tow) and this mom with a maybe eight year old son came barreling up behind me and literally STEPPED OVER the stroller so she could get out the door around us. I looked at her in confusion and dismay. I mean, maybe I could see a teen doing that. MAYBE someone who had never pushed a stroller. But a mom?! AHHH. It was one of a few times in my life where I almost said something nasty. She looked back at me and said, “Gotta catch a bus!!!” I guess…that’s…OK…

      Ugh, it still gets under my skin.

      Anyway, enough on that. I’m sure we all have 208098908 stories along the same lines and it’s better to let it go and change things by modeling the behavior we want to see.

      xxxx

  7. I’m on team help people who need help and don’t let doors slam in people’s faces, regardless of gender. I agree with Rachel’s point above, that often men’s attempt at chivalry can come off as performative and obnoxiously inefficient. Those vestiges of archaic norms are part of a code that reinforces women’s “otherness” in public and I’m not about that. But, I try to assume positive intent.
    I’m a fiercely independent person. My mother loves to tell stories of me as a toddler refusing help and the disasters that resulted. A few years ago I’d just split with a live-in boyfriend and was setting up a new apartment. I had a rug delivered to the mail room and the doorman insisted on helping me wrangle it into the elevator. I really did not need his help, he jumped in without asking and honestly was making things harder, and I found myself snapping at him. I felt awful and once I’d gotten the rug into my apartment I went down to apologize, and I still remember him saying “it’s ok, I can tell you like to do things yourself, you’re strong.” And I loved that, especially in that moment of resestablishing my home and identity as a single person. I DO love to do things on my own because it cements such a central part of how I see myself. I’m also slowly learning that it’s ok to ask for help (thank you therapy). I have no trouble offering help to others, although I’ve found it’s often better received if I ask if they need a hand before jumping in. It’s a constant reminder to myself that offering and accepting help isn’t about highlighting a lack of capability, it’s just about offering a little bit of ease and recognizing that we’re all in this together.

    1. Wow – so many great observations and points here that I had not considered. One thing you’ve made me think about is verbally offering before jumping in and assuming someone needs help. The only downside there, though, is that I know myself and I often decline someone’s help, not wanting to be an imposition, though when someone just jumps in and helps, I’m always grateful. Maybe that’s more my own baggage though — ha! — and I just need to learn to say “yes, please.” Anyway, thanks for giving me a new angle to consider.

      xxx

  8. I absolutely believe all people should be courteous to all other people. We should give up our subway seats for the elderly and pregnant and we should hold doors open for people carrying strollers, or really anything that looks like they could use some help. But there are situations where I find it frustrating when men try to bend over backwards to “be polite”. When I’m already holding the door open for someone, it bothers me when a man refuses to walk through the door and insists on instead holding it open for me. Or when I’m in the back of a crowded elevator full of men and they refuse to exit the elevator until I get off first. I’m not pregnant and I’m healthy and in my 20s and these situations happen to me on a weekly basis in my mostly male office building. It’s just inefficient! Let’s all just walk through the door and treat all people the same.

    1. Hi Rachel! Thanks for weighing in on this. I hadn’t thought about the efficiency or showmanship angle of things, though I do think it would be hard for a man (or woman, to that end) to figure out where to draw the line sometimes. This actually made me think about something that happened later on my trek over to my ultrasound: I was waiting to cross a bicycle path in the park at a designated pedestrian crossing and a mother and her five-year-old daughter were approaching. The daughter was sniffling back tears (maybe she’d fallen off earlier?) and the mother seemed watchful and determined in that specific way mothers are — it seemed as if she was trying to ignore her daughter’s sniffling to make a point. Anyway, the five year old was pedaling and about to cut through the pedestrian walkway though I had the right of way (a blinking white signal). “Stop, stop!” called the mother. I said, “No, go ahead.” And she replied, “No, really — go ahead, go ahead.” And we kind of stood there for too long navigating that moment. I thought I was being helpful but obviously the mother was trying to teach her daughter a lesson about following the rules. Anyway, just food for thought about all of this. Sometimes gestures of helpfulness are actually counterproductive…

      xxx

  9. Gender politics never even occurred to me in this situation. Always, ALWAYS offer your seat/open the door/etc. It’s just common courtesy. I would do it for a disabled or elderly man or a pregnancy woman equally. Perhaps it’s the Midwestern values in me? I’m a bit surprised because I have generally found even in New York people tend to be helpful if I’m pregnancy or with my small children. And I’m always so thankful for it.

    1. Hi Amy – I have often shared your experience on the subway: generally, people are friendly and accommodating. Maybe that was why I was so startled the other afternoon? I’m completely on your page here though — “always offer!”

      xxx

    2. I had the same thought about regional differences. I live in the South and it seems crazy to me that nobody would give up their seat for you. But I do agree with what others have pointed out – in some situations chivalry is just inefficient and awkward.

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