Recently Acculturated’s Mark Judge posted a seemingly reasonable piece entitled A Lesson in Graciously Turning Down a Man, in which he urged women who reject polite, non-aggressive would-be suitors to do so with civility and graciousness rather than rudeness and scorn. I say “seemingly” because when his plea caught the attention of Jezebel.com, he was excoriated for daring to offer advice to women. The article ended up sparking a firestorm of angry comments from women who complained that, in their experience, men respond even to polite rejection badly, escalating to annoying persistence or vile insults or even outright violence.
Then Acculturated’s Ashley McGuire followed up with a part two in which she defended Judge against their overreaction. She took the position that “good manners are a two-way street” and that a polite admirer deserves a polite response, not pre-emptive hostility. But many female readers seemed to resent that the onus should be on the woman to take the leap of faith in this courtship interaction. “Where’s [Judge’s] advice to men,” one commenter demanded, “on how to graciously accept a polite rejection?”
What this tempest in a teacup reveals is the visceral anger that now marks the state of the sexes today, at least between younger generations. I’ve never seen such a distrustful, warring gender divide before, not even during the ascendant feminism of the ‘60s and ‘70s; with fewer and fewer exceptions, young men and women are now entrenched beyond a no (wo)man’s land that neither side will take the first step to cross. Women claim the right to act like the most vulgar, promiscuous men, and yet complain that men aren’t gentlemanly enough; meanwhile, men say they’ll start acting like gentlemen only when women start acting like ladies. Stalemate.
Someone has to take the lead and begin bringing the sexes back to some sane level of complementary balance, and that can be done only by individuals—men and women—who commit to honorable, civil behavior. “Ladies” and “gentlemen” may be increasingly quaint relics of the past, but those standards have to be revived among younger generations if human beings are ever going to get beyond our current defensive stances and treat each other decently.
While I couldn’t agree more with Ashley McGuire that women bear some responsibility because they normally are a civilizing influence on men, I also agree in principle, if not in tone, with some of the female commenters that it is incumbent upon men to stop acting like obnoxious jerks or worse. It’s long past time for another quaint relic of the past to make a comeback: chivalry.
The very word “chivalry,” a code of male behavior that used to be admired and appreciated by women, now sets off angry fireworks from women and men. I’ve written about that for Acculturated before. Chivalry is an ideal that is unfairly demonized today, but a revival of it will go a long way toward busting through the War of the Sexes stalemate. But again, it’s a two-way street, ladies.
So, “Where’s that advice to men on how to graciously accept a polite rejection?” Here it is, though it won’t go over well with predators or players or drunk losers: A woman turns you down politely? Apologize for intruding and wish her a good evening. A woman you approached turned you down because she has a husband or boyfriend? Leave it at that. Show her you’re a man who respects relationships. A woman turned you down rudely in front of her friends? Embarrassing, sure, but how is it manly behavior to spew insults at her in return? It’s not—it’s petulant and childish. So instead of confirming their low suspicion of you, deliver a gentlemanly signoff—“No worries, then. Have a good evening, ladies”—and then walk away with your dignity intact.
That’s how a man handles rejection—like a man. And maybe it will make the woman and her friends wish they had given you a chance.