The West

It's the simple gesture that can result in a nasty comment, a "thank-you" or complete indifference.

The once-chivalrous act of opening a door for a woman has become a social minefield for men, leaving many confused as to the correct etiquette.

While 50 years ago it was normal for a man to pay his date's way, hold the door open for a woman and pull her chair out at a restaurant, today's etiquette is not so simple.

Perth etiquette expert Louise Percy, who runs the Percy Institute of International Protocol, said it was a shame that some women now found such gestures sexist.

"I get phone calls about this all the time. A man once told me that he opened his date's car door and held an umbrella out for the woman, who then slammed the door closed and told him she was perfectly capable of opening her own door," Ms Percy said.

"It started from the mid-70s, when women started going to university and entering the workforce and this whole concept of feminism emerged but now it is confusing people."

One man who has had enough is Northam's David Hickling, who said in a letter to The West Australian this week that he was fed up with women refusing to acknowledge him as he opened doors for them. "Women today are not ladies and as far as I'm concerned they can open their own damn doors," he wrote.

His letter prompted many responses, and opinions were divided.

Stephen Humphries, of Scarborough, agreed, and said men were far more likely to acknowledge drivers who let them into busy traffic.

"I believe little girls are being treated like princesses by their parents and this is being carried over into adulthood," he wrote.

However, others said men should not seek thanks for displaying good manners.

Ms Percy said most women remained gracious, and she was pleasantly surprised by Generation Y men. "They seem to be much more comfortable in their own skin, and if they want to open a door and pull a chair out it is appreciated, and not awkward," she said.

For Year 11 Wesley College students Harry Main, Chris Stewart and Tom Linnette, opening the door for a woman is standard practice. "It's just like a general standard of decency that you offer everybody," Harry said. "And if you're not sure, take the precautionary measure and do it anyway."

Their teacher Claire McSparron agreed. "I absolutely expect it, always. The boys do it here without even thinking, and then that translates to outside of school. But you always say thanks - it's just good manners."

The West Australian

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