Douchebag Decree: “Gentlemen” Hijack Women's History Month


Seeing as it’s National Women’s History Month I thought we might be short on douchebags this week. No chance.  Beyond the heaps of reappropriation and cause-branding companies stamping International Women’s Day discounts on “goods” ranging from totebags to mail-order brides, senior d-bags up for declaration are the Network of Enlightened Women and their annual Gentlemen’s Showcase. Misguided by the Palins and Thatchers of the right wing’s anti-feminist past and present, NeW replaces the women showcased during National Women’s History Month with men! 

The New Gentleman's Showase Promo Poster

Since their inception in 2004 at the University of Virginia, NeW have a total of 24 collegial, culturally conservative chapters at just as many US universities.  With extracurricular interests ranging from repealing abortion rights, protesting against The Vagina Monologues/V-Day, and baking cookies, to holding debates on the validity of Women’s Studies programs, NeW are “ladylike” in a manner that supports strategic opposition to feminism.

Perhaps feeling generous in the spirit of NWHM you’d like to think coincidence played a role in NeW’s choice to praise men with an award ceremony for helping a woman lift furniture. Don’t. The “Gentlemen’s Showcase” (which I’ll now call GS, so I don’t throw up) just so happens to run the entire length of March—the precise 31-day span of NWHM.

Gazing at the faceless man on NeW’s promo poster you may ask rhetorically or otherwise: who are these gentlemen?  Imagine a guy who is 99-times-out-of-100 white, opens doors for women (also known as people—the gents in the video will fill you in), buys a dozen red-roses (yawn) for his partner girlfriend, makes fun of gay men, pays attention to how he looks (rated #2 in one of NeW’s gent lists), pays for dinner and a movie (y-a-w-n), and “prides himself on good posture (even while fighting)“—do you know him?  I do, I met him in high school and college, and he was a complete douche. More importantly, is a man who lends a woman his photocopy card on campus more deserving of praise than (your favorite Adventures in Feministory here)? 

(Link to even douchier promo video on Facebook).

When a media outlet last week asked Lisa Potter whether or not chivalry had become extinct, she responded by saying:

“I did see that on a video where a girl said she’d never met a gentleman before, but I think if [you] don’t look for it, you don’t see it. If you yourself are in a positive place and open to seeing the good, you will see you’re surrounded by chivalry.”

These thin, straight, predominantly white, young women won’t let “radical feminists” squash chivalry any longer—rather NeW prefers to blame women (sadly including themselves and each other) for being treated without respect by men.

But what does NeW’s definition of respect mean?  Traditional, heteronormative gender roles of course!   In a blog post on the topic two days ago, Jessica Wakeman uses her own life to illustrate the point:

“[T]he ultimate problem I have with Gentlemen’s Showcase is the idea that there’s only one kind of respect women desire, which is a more conservative, anti-feminist definition of a man’s helpmate. But I want a guy who respects me enough to want for me what I want for myself, regardless of what that is. I personally am OK with being in a relationship with a dominant guy who is chivalrous and a gentleman and all that stuff. But if I wasn’t into that—if I was the dominant woman looking for a submissive guy, for instance—I would want to be respected for that choice.”

Granted, some of the men NeW are showcasing have behaved with helpful intentions (grumble, grumble), but giving these guys the entire month of March to bask in their door-opening award is downright disrespectful to women’s history. Let’s just hope that the women and men of NeW have a change of heart and decide to join up with a Women’s Center on their campus to take the spotlight off of men and onto women for National Women’s History Months to come.

by Mel Mundell
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15 Comments Have Been Posted


I heartily approve of this choice for the Douchebag Decree, although NeW actually started at the University of Virginia.


Thanks Beckett! I made the change.

I think we need an

I think we need an international "Women opening doors for men" day, just to balance this kind of thing out. It is a POLITE thing to open a door for someone, not a GENTLEMANLY thing. I do it all the time for men and women alike!

I totally agree with this. As

I totally agree with this. As a man, I hate when I'm expected to open the door for a woman just because I'm the man, even if she is in front of me and can open the door quicker and more effectively. I will always open the door for all people if I'm in the position to do so, like Jenn says, it's the polite thing to do. But I would also love it if other people did it for me, regardless of their sex or gender.

Agreed. We did that on my

Agreed. We did that on my campus, it was just considered good manners. One of my professors noted that a few years ago, it wasn't the case that people held the door for each other regardless of gender. Men being expected to open the door if they aren't the first to it just seems awkward and outdated. Chivalry shouldn't be a special gold star that only men get for upholding a bit politeness, the same politeness that usually goes unrecognized in women.

Yes and no

I totally agree that if you reach the door first, you should open it, regardless of gender. I don't know if we need to "balance out" misguided ideas about gender roles by flipping them, though, even for one day. I'm afraid that an international day on which only women are supposed to open doors would just feed the idea that it's women's job to serve men!

When dealing with strangers

When dealing with strangers or someone you just ran into, I think it's acceptable that whoever is closer to the door should go right ahead and hold it open. I do think, however, that if you're walking with a female acquaintance, then the polite thing to do is to always open the door for her.


Great nomination for the Douchebag Decree... I had never heard of this group before so through this entire post, I didn't know whether to laugh or weep.

Praising Healthy Masculinity and Allies

One of the young men in this video said, "there shouldn't be a classification for a gentlemen but what a man should be....humbleness, politeness, everything a man should be." In my opinion, he is making a very powerful statement about the importance of healthy masculinity that is not centered around aggression, power, and control. I want men, women, trans, and gender queer people to stand as allies not as enemies and not to be in this constant pissing contest that only creates dichotomies. If anything, we should praise the men in our day-to-day life that display healthy masculinity.
I understand this little shindig these young women are throwing does defy Women's History Month in more ways than one by centering on men and by blaming women's rights for unhealthy masculinity (which is absurd). I don't appreciate their rhetoric about the so-called short comings of the women's rights movement that allowed them to even get the education they are able to receive. They are victimizing men and making excuses for domineering behavior that shouldn't be acceptable for ANYONE.

Lastly, if these men are really chivalrous, they should also be humble enough to recognize the strength of women in their lives and find a way to work with women on their campus to stop violence against women or peek their heads into a GLBTQ group to learn more. It's a challenge every one of them should be given, not a fucking award for being "nice guys".
Everyone needs to step it up and work together is the message I would send to people during a time where we remember what so many women have fought for in this country and continue to here and elsewhere in the world.

This. This. A thousand

This. This. A thousand times over, this. I could not possibly agree with you more.

Holding a door or not letting

Holding a door or not letting it slam in someone's face...??
Literally and metaphorically,whether a man is holding it for a woman,a woman for a man,or a man for a man,it is a two person job.
When I personally am going through a doorway,I hold the door for the person in front of,or behind me until they catch up to take over the job.Unless someone could really use a hand getting themselves and their packages through the door,then I am completely happy to help them all the way.
My boyfriend learned about respect the hard way one day when we went out for lunch.Whenever I was first through the door,he would never grab a hold of it behind me.He would just keep on mindlessly walking through until my arm was almost twisted behind my back trying to make sure the door didn't hit him in the face.
It took many years but I finally figured out why I don't get the respect I deserve from anyone.I Never Demanded to be treated with respect,you have to respect yourself and take NO less from others.
I heard a thump and curse behind me that day when I let go of the door,and I tried not to giggle too loud as I walked away.He wanted to know why the hell I let the door hit him.I explained I was tired of twisting my arm behind my back for him,and if I wasn't getting the respect I deserved,he would no longer be politely asked if he could show it.He would be told to.
I don't call it 'chivalry' I call it respect and it doesn't happen solely between a man & woman,and the holding of a door.It should be universal between any combination of the sexes.
If I catch a 'door in the face' I stop and make sure I didn't ask for it first by not holding on to my fair share.....


It sickens me to know that there is a group that calls themselves the "Network of Enlightened Women" who are not feminists. Surprised I've never heard of this group before, thanks for bringing it to my attention.

I'm curious if there is there a reason why "enlightened" is not capitalized in the acronym? I have a few choice opinions of my own on the possible reason behind it.


I think I just threw up a little in my mouth. I am really getting tired of the worn out women need to be this and that to have a man. What exactly do men need to do to have a woman? Oh that's right, they don't give a shit - you need to take them as they are because they aint changing but you my dear lady, you need to change.

Don't change a thing. I didn't. I figured it a man wanted me he had better want me for exactly who I am and if that's not good enough, well he wasn't worth my time anyway and he can just move along.


Gag. I made it about 27 seconds through the video before I had to stop.


I hate all this crap about chivalry being dead...and it's dead because WE killed it apparently. I consider myself a feminist and I have never once snapped at a man (or woman) for opening or holding the door for me. I smile, say thank you, and think "What a nice fella." Anyway, there are so many things wrong with this group I don't even know where to begin...don't they realize that their college education is a result of feminism? That the fact they're allowed to wear JEANS is due in part to feminism? It's disgusting how some women will take what feminism has given them and use it against other women. It's like, "Yeah sorry you were raped, imprisoned, and even sometimes killed for fighting for my right to vote, but I'm going to go ahead and vote against everything else you fought for..."

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