Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Modern Man

Sweden is known as a bastion of equality; it's a country with one of the lowest gender pay gaps and one of the highest numbers of female parliamentarians in the world. "Maternity leave" is a thing of the past, replaced by "parental leave" and fathers face a use-it-or-lose-it policy when it comes to doing their share of the time. Swedish men cook, clean and change diapers. All of this is great, and many American men could learn a thing or two from their Scandinavian counterparts when it comes to division of household labor. That said, sometimes I miss American men, and here's why:

Chivalry doesn't exist in Sweden. Don't expect to have the door held open, or you'll get hit in the face, and don't expect help up stairs with heavy luggage, because god damn it, you packed it, you can carry it. And above all, don't expect him to pay on the first date. And this is not necessarily the fault of the Strong, Silent, Nordic Type. He's afraid of getting slapped just for offering to help in this country of feminism gone awry. (Note on the above mentioned generalizations -- yes, there have been reported instances of Swedish guys holding the door, helping with luggage and paying for the first date, but these are the exceptions rather than the rule).

One of the things about living in a foreign country is that your own prejudices come to light. I realized this afternoon on the subway that I resent being the one to offer my seat to an old lady when there are three young men sitting there. In my opinion, age trumps youth, and femininity trumps masculinity. I actually appreciate a little bit of good old fashioned chivalry, and as I was reminded today, I also expect it. I don't take such overtures as oppressive or an insult to my femininity; I regard it as being polite. It's not that I can't open the door for myself, but the gesture is nice.

Just don't expect me to cook.