A friend recently put up a status update on facebook about the fact that when reversing her 4WD out of a parking space, a couple of men began directing her, even though she was not having trouble backing the car out. She was quite annoyed and put out, feeling this implied that she was somehow incapable of safely removing her own car from the space.
I immediately commented on the status agreeing with her. I have had this happen several times, even though I do not and have never owned a 4WD.
Other comments were rapidly made, too. The general consensus, by both male and female friends of my friend was that it was a compliment and did not warrant her annoyance. My friend definitely sits on the gorgeous side of the fence, and was told that that was a factor in her receiving unsolicited ‘help’ from men in parking a car.
Now, as this has happened to me, more than once, I must disagree that it has anything to do with looks. (And just by the way, the notion that her looks were the reason and that she should be flattered and take it as a compliment is more insulting than the help itself! “Oh, they helped because they think I look good? Well, that’s okay then.” Blaaaahhhh, I had that sort of shallow thinking!) NB (late thought): And, I also thought it quite an insult to men to suggest that they would only help if the woman was good looking! The majority of men I know, aren’t that shallow and it’s generalisations like this that set us all back, men and women.
I told my husband of the incident my friend had experienced and thus ensued a ‘chat’.
Husband: Men don’t know what they are supposed to do these days. They were only trying to help.
Me: But she didn’t ask for, or need, the help! That’s got nothing to do with chivalry or feminism and everything to do with men thinking women aren’t capable of parking or reversing their cars.
Husband: What if it was nothing to do with that? What if it was simply someone helping someone else out?
So, it got me thinking. Had I been unfair in my thoughts towards those who had ‘helped’ me in the past? Was it not at all to do with a perceived judgement on my driving skills but simply a random act of kindness as my husband suggested?
I don’t get upset when men hold the door open for me, or offer to carry something heavy to the car for me, or give up a seat for me. And I don’t have a problem with the fact that there are things men do better than women and vice versa.
So, it’s not my feministic feathers that are ruffled.
I’m all for helping someone out; for surprising people with gifts or a visit, if they are in need of some TLC. And I am not above accepting help when I need it, either.
So, it’s not that I am uncharitable and don’t see the need for helping out our fellow man/woman.
It’s the assumption that I need help. And then help being given without me asking for it. Would it make a difference to me if the men (notice it’s never women who try to help you back your car out, though…) asked if I wanted assistance? Yes, it would.
Our children are all great helpers and particularly when younger, were eager to help with any given task at any given time. Trouble with that is, they would barge on in, without asking first if their help was needed. On seeing a sibling struggle with a puzzle, it’s easy to ‘take-over’ and then cry “But I was only trying to help!” when the sibling is unhappy when presented with a completed puzzle.
I have sought to teach my children the balance between always being ready and available to help and respecting someone’s need to do things themselves, unassisted.
Offering help is always welcome. Bullying your way in, on the assumption that someone can’t do something, is not.
Am I being over the top? Should we just be grateful for any help, regardless of how it comes to us?