Chivalry seems to be making the rounds, with men explaining that women like old-fashioned men who treat women like "the weaker sex." While I do love some mansplaining that I want men to be patronizing, I honestly don't need men to run in front of me to ensure that they get to the door first, tripping me in the process. So I bring you 8 acts of politeness that all people should do for all people.
1) Open Doors for People and Hold Them Open
If you arrive at a door and there are other people in the area who might use the door, allow them to also go through it. You can even go through first! The important thing is that you keep them from having to try to catch a moving door that you didn't hold open for them, which is a pain. Don't do this because the person in question is a woman; do it because the person in question is a person and it's a nice thing to do. But what if you aren't naturally going to arrive at the door first? This is where chivalry gets it wrong. According to chivalry, if the person is a woman, you have to run around her to get there first, even at the expense of cutting her off, which by the way, is rude. What does politeness dictate?
Is the person injured or disabled? Is the person carrying a lot of bags? Is the person escorting or carrying children? Is there some reason that the person in question might have trouble opening the door? If so, feel free to say "oh, let me get that for you. You look like your hands are full" and run around to get the door. This is something that you do because according to the specific circumstances, the person might have trouble with the door; just that I'm a woman doesn't mean that I have trouble opening doors. Verbally alerting them that you are going to get the door allows them to stop walking if they need to, so you don't get in their way.
2) Hold Elevator Doors Open
Everyone hates when the elevator door closes right before they get there, making them wait for the next car. Argh! But more importantly, people going through an elevator door hate having the door close on them as they are passing through the door. If someone is elderly, is with small children, or has their hands full, they may not have the option of holding a hand on the elevator door to ensure that it doesn't start to close. If the door starts to close, it can hit them in the shoulder or even worse, on the hand holding their walker. Do you have the ability to stick your hand in the door to hold it open? Then please do so. It's very helpful. Also, if someone is approaching the door and there is room in the elevator, just hold it open for them. You know what it's like to be on the other side. Yes, it's just a convenience issue, but it's a nice thing to do.
3) If You Are on an Elevator, Make Room
Similarly, if you are on an elevator and you are in front of a person who is trying to get out, make as much room for them as they need. If they are in a walker and need lots of space, get off the elevator and hold the door open. This not only makes everyone's trip more convenient, it signals to the people inside the elevator that you intend to get back on. Then you don't get left behind. If you get onto an elevator at the second floor, going to the 10th floor, and there is a crowd in the elevator, there is a good chance that someone at the back of the elevator is going to want to get off before you. Step to the side if you can, so they can get to the door more easily. Is someone trying to get on and the elevator is slightly crowded? Move closer to someone else to make room.
It is efficient for people who are getting off last to be in the back and people who are getting off first to be in the front; but this is not how elevators load in reality, so shuffle yourselves around appropriately. If you get on early and are going to get off early, step to the side near the door. This will allow you to make room for others while staying near the door. If you get on early and you are going to get off late, go to the back corner. If you get on early and get off in the middle, move to the center of a side wall. The goal is efficiency.
ETA: Also do this on the bus. Let people on and off. Move away from the doors when you aren't going to use them. Thanks to burnermeh2 for bringing that up.
4) Give up Your Seat on the Bus/Train
If you are a seated, able-bodied person and you see someone who may not be as able-bodied as you having trouble keeping their balance while standing on a moving vehicle, give them your seat. This applies to the elderly, the handicapped, the injured, significantly pregnant women, anyone who looks dizzy or disoriented, anyone breathing more heavily than seems appropriate, anyone who appears to be in pain, or people who decided upon seriously impractical shoes. OK, maybe the impractical shoes person should learn to wear more practical shoes, but those shoes may be there for a reason other than "they look cool." You never know.
I have an invisible disability. This means that sometimes I will be on the bus while ill in a way that makes me physically weak, dizzy, and unbalanced. It would be really awesome to be able to sit down, not because I'm a woman, but because I'm having trouble standing.
Other times that it might be good to give up your seat: if someone's hands are full and this makes it difficult for them to hold on (the package exception), and if someone is traveling with small children who fit on a lap. It can be hard to keep track of children or packages on a crowded bus while standing and trying to hold onto a rail. By allowing such people to sit, you are making the trip easier on everyone because the reality is that everyone has to maneuver around those packages and those children.
5) Don't Get Mad That a Specific Person Didn't Give up Their Seat
Again, back to the invisible disability—you don't know if someone is ill by looking at them and a person that they are able-bodied. The idea that people should be chastised for not giving up their seat is based on an assumption that they are able-bodied. Now, if there are 30 people who appear to be able bodied in seats and one heavily pregnant woman having trouble holding on, chances are that there is at least one person who could feasibly stand for a while. Feel free to yell out that the pregnant lady should get a seat. But on an individual basis, you don't know that a specific person is actually able-bodied.
That person may have been standing for the last 10 hours at work. That person may have 3 broken toes. (I've been there!) That person may have vertigo and get dizzy if they try to stand on a moving vehicle. You never know the circumstances of the people around you. You imagine them. Your imagination will probably be wrong a lot.
6) Keep Your Assumptions and Your Insults to Yourself
I'm fat. I'm fat because I'm sick. If I have trouble keeping my balance on the bus, it's not because I'm fat; it's because I'm sick today. I have been so sick while standing on a bus that I slumped down against the pole and people laughed because I'm so fat that I fell down. No, assholes, I was having an allergic emergency and had blood pressure near shock levels. The last thing that I needed right then was to have people call me names based on their false assumptions about my body. Quite frankly, if I'd had the energy, I would have started yelling, but if I had the energy, I wouldn't be on the floor.
I have a friend who has a prosthetic leg, a cosmetic one that is shaped like a leg so that it doesn't draw attention to her disability. One day, we parked in a handicapped parking spot because there weren't any other parking spots. Then we put her handicapped placard up. An elderly couple without a handicapped placard rolled down their car window and yelled "yeah, you look really handicapped!" to which I responded, "Celeste, take off your leg and beat them with it." Don't be that couple. That couple was rude.
Is a woman walking slowly in high heels? That doesn't make her a slut that's holding everyone up; that could make her a restaurant hostess who has blisters. Is the guy sitting in the corner flamboyant in a way that makes you think he's gay? Not sure why you think that's your business. Does the guy who just got on the bus have on a hoodie while black? He might be prone to pain if his ears get cold; I am. Is there a woman trying to keep up with 5 children on the bus? She may be a teacher taking troubled kids for ice cream. That person with a dog on the bus? Some people have service animals to help them with the anxiety of riding a bus after being attacked on one. ETA: and maybe that woman in heels is a slut and maybe that woman with 5 kids is with her own kids and they all have different fathers; none of your business. Zip it. Thanks to MyPrettyFloralBonnet for bringing that up.
7) If Someone is Polite, Don't Allow Them to be Penalized for It
Let's say that someone opens the door for you because they see that your hands are full and that right on the other side of that door is a line that both of you want to get into. That person who held the door for you could have gotten in line instead of holding the door. Offer to let them go in front of you in line. They may turn you down, but make the offer because no one should be penalized for being nice. If someone gets off the elevator to let a grandma through and they appear to be waiting to get back on, hold the door for them. Don't leave them stranded on the third floor waiting for the next car; that's rude.
If someone offers you a seat on the bus because you have packages or children but you're getting off at the next stop, thank them and decline. There's nothing rude about allowing someone who will be on the bus longer to retain a seat just because they were polite enough to offer it.
8) Err on the side of being nice.
All of these tips sum up to one overall tip: be sympathetic towards the people around you and act accordingly. Be accommodating, shut it, and smile.
Chivalry is the idea that these things should be done for women because we are women, typically with the implication that women need help with minor physical labor that I promise you, we do all on our own when you're not around. Politeness is the idea that we should be nice to people because we're all just trying to make it through the day and sometimes, a small act of kindness goes a long way.
Chivalry is condescending; politeness is awesome.