No Place for ‘Ladies First’

Polite or prejudiced? Courteous or condescending? Molly Alessandra Coopers opens up the discussion on an outdated tradition in this piece of creative non-fiction.

by Molly Alessandra Cooper

No, no, you go first. You were here first, you deserve to go first, as per the rules of British Queuing Etiquette. No thank you, but thank you for offering; I insist you board first that’s the fairest way.

Really it’s okay, I would not find you at all rude for getting on before me. Really, it’s okay; you go first.

I know, I know, it’s just a little thing. [maybe I should just board this train without question] It’s your generation I guess. [maybe I should be careful picking my battles] Although, may I ask why you just commented that you ‘have to do it’? I don’t think that’s true, why do you feel you have to?

Honestly, I mean it! You do not ‘have to do it’ at all. It’s okay, I’m smiling still, I won’t be offended if you board first.

Please, I would really rather you didn’t insist, and I know that you were referring to my gender when you said you had to help me out. I’m just a bit surprised that you’re referencing that now . . . I didn’t think it was relevant? [do you think women still need to be handed favours because of their gender?]



Really, please just board first. I understand that you think this is the way a ‘gentleman’ should behave, but I am starting to feel quite bothered now. [
do you think the gentleman still has a role in 2016?]

I’m sorry that I feel bothered, I know you have no cruel intentions here. It’s only that I don’t want women to expect this behaviour from men. [I believe there are women who are holding us back by believing in ‘ladies first’]

No, the fact that I am a woman does not mean I deserve first pick of the seats, or to get out of the cold quicker than you.

I deserve the same as you deserve. [no, I don’t mean to be treated like a man; to be treated like a human]

I realise this isn’t what you have been brought up to know, but you have to realise this is an ancient courtesy. It was correct by society for you to be extra kind to all women. But please try to understand me: there is no reason for your dated manners here. [I can do it on my own]

I know, thank you. You were just being kind, but my issue is that you don’t understand why you are performing this gesture for me – a complete stranger.

Don’t you realise that these gestures put us on a pedestal? Could you tell me why you think we deserve to be up there? These kind of things make some of us feel wrongfully entitled. [I don’t think any man would be able to answer this question without referring to our past status as a woman, the once ‘weaker’ gender]

Please believe me, I am not being ungrateful. I appreciate the offer, and I understand its roots, but I worry that if I accept all male acts of chivalry, I may come to expect this sort of ‘help’. I don’t want women to be offended if a man boards before her. I hope that women of my generation and those who follow me never expect to be treated by the rule ‘ladies first’, or given any special treatment in any circumstance. [yes, that means we won’t be offended if you don’t pay for our meals – we can pay for ourselves now too]

Okay, fine. I will board before you, the train is about to leave. Don’t you think this whole thing was silly? I was just trying to board a train. How did my gender come into this?

I know, yes. It might seem like I’m overreacting – after all, you meant no harm and it was a simple offer for me to board before you. I just can’t always let these things go unnoticed. I just want you to understand. Being female doesn’t give me the right, nor does it give you the right. We want to live without the support of you when we don’t need it.

No, please don’t take it like that. Of course I still want your help if I am in trouble, I’m not suggesting you never help me unless I ask. That’s not it. [there will of course be times when I need you as much as you need me]

Sorry to have made you feel this way about something which you hadn’t realised may affect me. [I don’t want to say sorry anymore]

I want you to know that I don’t expect this from you, you needn’t trouble yourself; I’m just the same as you in this moment.

I will never expect you to go out of your way to help me, we are equals. I’ve got your back as a friend, and I hope you’ve got mine, as a mate.

Molly Alessandra Cooper | @Mollyalessandra

Photography graduate and Junior Product Developer; appreciates Reebok Classics, yoga and glitter. Find Molly on Instagram @mollyalessandra_, Tumblr ( and Blogger (