Finally an honest column about the reason why men are reticent to show the usual kindness towards women:
Offering a seat to a pregnant woman on the Tube (or elsewhere in life) is too often confused with "sexism" – as equalities minister Jo Swinson unhelpfully reminded us earlier this year when she said it would have been sexist for her male colleagues in Parliament to offer her a seat, heavily pregnant, because they thought she 'needed' it. Equally, holding a door open for a woman can be wrongfully seen by some sexist behaviour: 'how dare the man think I'm the weaker sex and do this for me; as if I need it, I'm independent ... blah blah'.
We've forgotten the art of manners in this country. It's got nothing to do with sexism; it's often just the right thing to do to hold a door or offer a seat to someone who may need it more than you. Or forget *need* and admit it's just a nice, polite, lovely thing to do, to be kind to your fellow citizens whom you otherwise will probably never see again.
Men are so afraid of being accused of being sexist pigs they give up. Plenty of my male friends have openly admitted they don't even sit down in an empty seat on the Tube anymore for fear of a pregnant woman getting on at the next stop and having the awkward 'do you want my seat/ No, I don't/ I really don't mind/ I don't need it' tussle where both parties end up feeling silly. They'd rather leave it vacant for another man to deal with the inevitable.
The reason men are no longer as polite as they used to be? They're scared of getting it wrong, on the whole. There's also the argument that traditional acts of chivalry are frowned upon as "suspicious". Men are nervous their acts of kindness will be taken the wrong way – or send the wrong signal (either that he thinks he's better than her, or that he wants to date her, or both).
At my age, there is no cause for confusion on the last point, so I can just offer a motherly smile and hearty thank you for every chivalrous action. (I can also give the hairy eyeball to those who neglect me -- I've even just stood there to allow them a second chance!) Perhaps this would make a good new year's resolution -- the next generation of women will benefit tremendously from thoughtful men.