A recent Twitter exchange from writer and poet Caroline Rothstein has set the internet on fire and folks on both sides of this “issue” are weighing in. We are not strangers to a little controversy and we’d like to get your thoughts, opinions and insights.
Here’s the post from Rothstein:
Saying, “No thank you, I got it,” to the middle-aged white man on the airplane who offered—and began—to take my suitcase out of the overhead compartment for me was a quickly calculated act of resistance.
— Caroline Rothstein (@cerothstein) July 31, 2019
Rothstein is, of course, referring to a new conundrum facing travelers both male and female and how (or if) this is an issue of manners or another instance of toxic masculinity:
- Is it offensive to offer a woman assistance in stowing / retrieving her bags on a plane?
- Is ok to let a man assist you with your bags?
Full Disclosure: I am a 43 year old white male from Southern California.
I give you my opinion at the end.
Responses to Rothstein’s tweet (which at time of publishing had been retweeted nearly 500 times and had almost 2.5k likes) have been all over the map, but mostly in protest to Rothstein’s comments. For example, Erielle Davidson, a contributor at the Federalist noted in response (which has 26k likes and 3.5k retweets:
Dear men on airplanes who offer to lift my bag: please keep doing so. I am grateful for the assistance, and I’m not bitter or miserable about it. https://t.co/S6t261ahgu
— Erielle Davidson (@politicalelle) August 5, 2019
Even Reporter Soledad O’Brien weighed in:
Torn rotator cuffs, so I always says yes and REALLY appreciate. (Just an fyi to strong people on my flight!) https://t.co/ZApqdRZBh3
— Soledad O’Brien (@soledadobrien) August 4, 2019
Others, like Rebecca noted:
I was struggling with my suitcase down a case of stairs at the station last week and a young man in his teens offered to help and I was extremely grateful to him and would like to praise his parents for raising a courteous and polite young man
— Rebecca (@rebecca9014s) August 4, 2019
Someone Named Milton said:
I wish men like this would just stop at home, we don’t need politeness and helpfulness in our society
— Lord Milton Dameral (@LordGammonB) August 4, 2019
While @klmccook offer this:
I am a petite person and cannot reach the overhead so help from taller people is a way to keep everyone safe instead of my climbing on the seat and jumping toward my bag. I will always appreciate the help. I do not see it as condescending, just pragmatic.
— Librarian, KN4IJM (@klmccook) August 4, 2019
Here are a few other responses:
I love a gentleman. It’s called manners. You give women a bad name. Don’t listen to her, guys!!! Most women really appreciate you offering to help!
— cornwall7000 (@cornwall70001) August 4, 2019
You would still complain if he didn’t offer to help you. You can’t be an empowered badass then switch to a damsel in distress when it’s convenient. He was trying to be nice. Politely decline his offer, move on, get over gender & skin color and stop being so god damn miserable.
— TommyJoe Ratliff (@TommyJoeRatliff) August 5, 2019
I’m a feminist-but this is just being kind. I’m tall and strong, so I often lift things for other women/children/the elderly. And if a man wants to do the same for me-have at ‘er. Kindness and graciousness is what makes this planet tolerable;sometimes even pleasant
— Trace (@JustTrace9) August 5, 2019
On four flights today & yesterday, I not only accepted help from the nice white man who hoisted my carry-on into the overhead, my 105lb, 5’4 self smiled & ASKED for help… because I’m a woman & I’m secure in my womanhood. 😉
— Liz Wheeler (@Liz_Wheeler) August 5, 2019
I looked (and looked) for tweets that wholeheartedly supported her position and struggled to find many. After reading and re-reading many of the responses it seems that Twiter has come down on the side of the man who attempted to help her. But, if you find any that make a useful counter argument, tweet me and I will add a few.
Rothstein recently tweeted this response in reply to the backlash her original tweet received:
I clearly miscalculated the impact this Tweet would have. I really appreciate your words and what you do and share on Twitter and have for quite some time. My Tweet was meant to be tongue and cheek but clearly that was not at all the impact. Hearing your thoughts here.
— Caroline Rothstein (@cerothstein) August 5, 2019
Here’s where we come down (and remember…I am a 43 year old white male from California)
I was raised a certain way. To hold doors open for people, particularly women and taught that manners matter. Yes m’am. No sir. Please. Thank you. etc. Historically, I will offer to help women with their bags, but I never presume they need help and I never jump in without their permission. Many women, in fact, ask for help. Some, politely reject my request which is fine. Others gladly accept it.
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This is just how I was raised and I know, personally, in my heart of hearts, I don’t feel any sort of sexism in my offer (maybe I am just wrong, though). I’ve also helped elderly men with their bags, or moms with a kid on her hip, or military folks with far too much gear. I hold doors open for men, for women, for my boss, or my subordinates and colleagues. My friends, my wife, my kids, etc. And if someone does the same for me, that’s cool. To me, it’s an issue of manners and nothing more.
But, I will tell you, that lately I’ve been a little gun shy. And it’s because of responses like those noted in Rothstein’s tweet. I know I am not a sexist pig. I wasn’t raised that way either. But, I also don’t want to get into some brouhaha on a plane with someone who thinks I am oppressing her by asking to lift her clearly overstuffed bag (ok, I embellished the overstuffed part).
So, personally, I wish everyone would just chill the heck out, use some more manners, and if you want to reject the help, cool. No hard feelings on my side. And I hope you don’t have any on your side towards me and my request.
PS…I also don’t know Rothstein and am going to give her the polite benefit of the doubt here and assume she did mean it tongue and cheek.
What are your thoughts? Should a man offer to help a woman with her bags? Should she accept it? It offering sexist? Is rejecting it rude? Is accepting it accepting toxic masculinity? What say you!?
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I will say if there is no romantic interest or quid pro quo expectation men are usually nicer and kinder than women are, even to other men. The nurturing, caring nature of women is a huge myth. They are %&%&&^^. I think they are used to having guys run after them, they can go through life without being kind.
This. Men are generally very helpful when going about their day. Women very often take advantage of this with friend zoning and it’s not in a man’s interest to get into this territory without any benefit.
I myself found myself in this situation with a 30ish Asian women in business class from Europe to NY. Because of feminism I didn’t offer to retrieve the heavy suitcase from the bin. I waited until asked and did so. It’s sad that society has moved where men are concerned about overtones from helping a woman with a task that usually requires effort because the media is relentless about attacking men. Oh well.
I will always ask someone if they’d like me to put their bag up for them. I don’t see it as sexist since I’d ask anyone who looked like they were having trouble with their bag. I’m not going to stop having manners just because 1 out of 1000 people need to go on a SJW power trip. Being nice on plane, especially in first class is a HUGE rarity – so why not try to be pleasant?