Mind Your Manners

by Danelle on November 4, 2011 · 1 comment

This story out of Atlanta, GA – a place known for Southern hospitality, chivalry, and etiquette – discusses the implications of a lawsuit that began with a clash of the genders at a bar:
One August night, two men walked into a popular restaurant attached to this city’s fanciest shopping mall. They sat at the bar, ordered drinks and pondered the menu. Two women stood behind them. A bartender asked if they would mind offering their seats to the ladies. Yes, they would mind. Very much. Angry words came next, then a federal court date and a claim for more than $3 million in damages.
The two men – both African American – claimed the bartender was using chivalry as an excuse to racially discriminate against them. In the end, the jury ruled in favor of the bar, but the lawsuit brings about an interesting question. Are manners dead? First off, the two men obviously did not want to give up their seat. It was selfish when there were two people standing right behind them. Regardless of whether women, a couple, two other men, or young teens stood there, common courtesy dictates that you help other people and show respect. Chivalry and manners are not about lowering yourself and putting another on a pedestal – they are about respecting each other as people, no matter how different we are. Today’s society has lost the understanding of that concept and we are left these extremes on each side: The first is entitlement. This person who believes he/she is better than everyone naturally and does not have to do anything to earn the respect of others. This person feels that he/she is entitled to have that seat. The new article did not say that the women demanded the men give up the chair or that the bartender even demanded it. It was a suggestion, but the men took offense. The other extreme is dignity. This is the person who believes he/she is lowering him/herself by giving up the seat. The news article does talk about the men “minding very much” if the women took their seats and claimed they were being discriminated rather than just showing some respect to other people. The dignity extreme thinks, “Why should I care if these people don’t have seats? It’s not my problem.” This uncaring attitude disconnects people from society. If everyone only cares about themselves, there is no sense of community, no shared culture, no organization, and no common laws or justice. Manners, in a way, help put people on an equal playing field and unite them into a society under a common way of life. One person might open the door, the other person, as manners dictate, will say thank you. With giving up the seat, you show that the both of you are equal. Moral of the story? Have some consideration for others. It’s not degrading.

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kristina b November 7, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Why did the bartender ask the men to give up their seats? Were the women desperately in need of them? Usually in a place like a restaurant or a bar the customers that arrive first are seated and served first, and the customers arriving later take seats as they open up. It honestly seems like an attitude of entitlement on the part of the women rather than the men, as in “I’m a woman so you need to give me a seat – it is your responsibility to attend to my needs”.
Also, if the men had voluntarily and without being asked given up their seats for the women, that would have been good manners and showing respect on their part. Once they had been asked, it really wasn’t about good manners anymore – it was about other people treating them as inferior to the women. Good manners need to come from the person, not be externally applied from without (at least once a person is past the point of childhood). And the point you made about the same rules of courtesy applying if it were two other men behind them is disingenuous – you know as well as anybody else that the bartender would not have made that request if two male customers were standing. This is obvious in the simple fact that he asked male customers to stand to accommodate the women, rather than asking two other women.
Finally, maybe women could learn to show respect for men instead of expecting men to serve them and then shaming them when their actions aren’t quite up to par. These men weren’t the best in the world, for sure, and taking legal action against the bar was over the top, but I don’t think – especially in this day and age where women constantly trump how they are just as good as men in everything – that they were wrong in not wanting to give up their seats for these women.


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