Many are familiar with the idea of an earlier era's trend making its way back into fashion. For example, side ponytails are no longer solely appropriate for 80's-themed parties. Rather, college women are now wearing their hair on the side when taking notes in psychology 101 lecture and when blasting the stair-master at the school gym. I'm not sure exactly how this phenomenon happens, but once in a while, an ancient way of the past slowly makes its way back into our oh-so-modern lives. So when I read the article "Teacher Emphasizes Old-Fashioned Etiquette" by David Knowles, I couldn't help but hope that Old School was trying to make another comeback.
Briefly, the story tells of a Latin teacher at Gilbert Classical Academy, Cord Ivanyi, who began teaching his students "old-fashioned etiquette". He believed something needed to be done about the harsh way that the boys were treating girls in school and devoted class time to teaching them proper manners. Sitting down with this article, I read about how the boys became accustomed to anything from pulling chairs out for the girls to sit, to standing up whenever a girl entered the room--something I hadn't come across since I read Pride and Prejudice last year. And I was happy to read that the girls loved it.
But some might not. As a women studies major who is familiar with feminist criticism, I have a good feeling that many would view these practices as sexist. Such behavior from men may imply that women are weaker and more helpless. That if women begin to accept this behavior as normal, they will believe in and become comfortable with their dependence on men. But I would like to offer another level of insight.
When men and women are seen as the same, men somehow always seem to get the upper-hand. Anatomically, men have a higher capacity to be physical and sexual aggressors. This is no surprise, as most people have read statistics on violence and rape against women and the countless number of organizations supporting women through these tragic experiences. It is in light of this that men should be taught Ivanyi's idea of etiquette--in order to learn a respect that will be stronger than their potential to harm women. Crimes against women do not come out of the blue. They result from a lack of respect for women and an inability to respect boundaries. When boys begin to treat girls harshly, violent action is never too far behind.
More than ever now we are realizing that men and women are not quite the same, after all. And Ivanyi's lessons from the past are finally being called in to shed light on a problem we have been unable to solve.