Chair Pulling: Is It Sexy or Sexist?

Just a heads up, I am going to be a bit controversial. So here is the question, do you think it is sexist when a man pulls out a chair for a lady?

In the 18th century, women truly needed assistance getting through doors and sitting in chairs- think hoop skirts and corsets. Today, women balk at restrictive clothing. So, let’s recognize that a man could pull a chair for anyone out of politeness and masculine charm. It does not come into question if it’s his mom. Yet, these actions are often questioned and debated in modern dating. How is it that couples meet using advanced technology, and he still wants to pull her chair out?
I know women who love this, expect it, and consider men that act this way as more attractive and gentlemanly than other men. I also know women that have declined the offer and consider this man sexist and less attractive than other men. The latter group frequently informs men they do not have to help them, and it is an archaic ritual. Sometimes this situation escalates into a debate, and callous remarks exchange as independent women exert their rights to pull out their own chair.
When women have an issue with chair pullers, it seems to stem from a perceived attack on feminine independence and a throwback to a time when women were property. In her perception, rebuff could outwardly show that she is a thoroughly modern, confident woman. When we articulate this to our men, however lovingly, it says I don’t need you.
I argue that there is a level of greater confidence attached to a woman who can be thoroughly modern and not let a chair get in her way. Taking a man to task for offering to pull out a chair demonstrates rudeness and shows insecurity. Take the gift graciously. He knows that a woman can pull out her chair, but he still wants to do it. He gets to feel good about this gift, and you get to show your confidence by accepting it.
Chair pulls demonstrate the couple’s collective charm.
  • Shows the whole room how a man feels about this woman
  • Demonstrates a higher level of confidence and grace to give and receive this gift
  • He feels more masculine, confident, and secure in his actions
  • Expresses high values in the relationship
  • It can be a good ice breaker or table talk discussion
Quick tips follow to make chair pulls more graceful.
In upscale restaurants with a host/hostess that will seat you, the host will walk first and pull the chair out for the lady. The man would follow behind the lady and stand next to the host until the lady is seated. In a situation where the host does not pull the chair, it is still possible for the gentleman to step in and pull the chair for the lady. Ladies take a pause. It takes two people to make chair pulling look smooth. It is all about timing. Go with the flow here.
There are restaurants where it is clear the host will not pull the chair. In polite form, the man is walking behind the lady, and will she need a pause to make it easy for him to grab her chair. So ladies, walk to the chair closest to you. Walk around the back of the chair, putting the chair between you and the man. Turn and face the chair. Walking around the chair gives him time to reach the chair before you. If you stand in front of him, he cannot get to the chair without stumbling over you.

Another option is to follow traditional etiquette and always be seated from the left of the chair. However, you will need to pause and wait to allow him time to reach for the chair. Either option works to create the opportunity. Pick one strategy and be consistent.

Once you have a rhythm with your partner, you will see how smooth it becomes. Abandoning because it is a little awkward in the beginning lacks character. Great conversation starters are rarely this easy. Ask questions. Do you always (or have you ever) open doors or pull chairs for a woman? When did you start this? What does this mean to you, or is it just a habit? You get the idea.
Just like everything else, this action needs to be authentic in a relationship. If a guy feels like he must pull the chair, he will eventually see it as a chore and resent you for it. If a woman hates this, simply move on.
Personally, I never see door openers and chair pullers as an assault on my thoroughly modern style. When I do meet sexist men, their words tell the story long before they ever get close to my chair. I see the chair pull as a gift. I know I can do it. He knows I can do it. Yet, he still cares enough to continue to do it, reminding me each time of the gift.