Elevator Inequality

I’m on elevators quite a bit in a wide variety of buildings.  From the 50 story downtown skyscraper (by Denver standards) to the 3 story building in a suburban office park.  From Hospitals to high-rise condos in SWPL central.

I have found that one of the most interesting places to observe male/female relations is in and around an elevator.  It is a rich environment to view the brief interactions of empowered career women, lowly proles, cube dwelling betas, high powered alphas and White Knights of all stripes.  The colliding of one generation with another is often on display and worth noticing.  I’ve ridden in elevators with people of all ages, ethnicities and socio economic status.  One standard that seems to apply in all situations, no matter where I am, is female entitlement uber alles.  I am always amazed at how universal it is.

Women of any age or station get on first and get off first.  This anachronism has managed to thrive in the new girl order of empowered, equality minded career women.  Of all the trivial double standards I see between the sexes, this is one I notice frequently, and probably irritates me most, depending on the circumstance.

It is also an unwritten rule that I don’t put any effort in “fighting” myself.  Number one, it is trivial.  In fact, it could just be a pet peeve of mine that others don’t notice as much.  Two, if I tried to get on an elevator before a member of the fairer sex, I would probably be trampled to death or subtly shamed by an older, chivalrous White Knight.  Three, I have a rule of not shitting where I eat.  This applies to all of my other “right wing extremist” views.

If one were to view my behavior in or around an elevator they would think I was a perfect, well mannered gentleman.  I’ve even been complimented by older women on my good manners before.  Little do they know.  Makes me feel like Eddie Haskell in front of Ward and June Cleaver. I often wonder if other males, especially men around my age, are thinking some of the same thoughts I am in this environment.

Usually, my irritation or contempt isn’t personal, but from an interaction that has nothing to do with me.  I routinely see young twentysomething career women (cube dwellers) egregiously butt in front of  nine dollar an hour, 60 year old, Mexican janitors.  Ive seen 45 year old hausfraus, wearing to much make up and perfume, rudely jump ahead of UPS guys holding 50 pound boxes.

Let me take you through a few of the more common scenarios in the elevator dance. Picture a 50 story building in Downtown Denver.  A place that houses professions and people of all types.  Big law firms, accounting offices and companies that extract natural resources are the norm.  A place where janitors, maintenance men, and mail room employees work along side the higher status folk.  Visualize a bank of 8 elevators in a lobby. Using this set, here are a few things that I routinely notice or experience.

Waiting on the ground floor for an elevator to open up…

A. If waiting with a man or a group of men, the man or men closest to the elevator get on first.  If both men are of equal distance, then deference usually goes to who had been waiting the longest.  Sometimes a bit of eye contact or subtle body language is used to sort things out. Ain’t that a novel concept?  The downside is that no one gets to feel pampered or important.  

This happens in 99% of  cases in this scenario.  Elderly or handicapped men will be deferred to.  Men usually hold a door open for the aforementioned janitor or UPS guy.  Status is generally irrelevant as well.   High powered lawyers and lowly bike messengers follow this protocol.  I’ve been on an elevator with well known attorneys, businessmen and politicians and the pattern holds.  The occasional prick that butts in is viewed as….well, a prick.

B. If waiting with a woman or a group of women, you better be a foot away from the open elevator because she/they will stampede across your mangled corpse before they give up this privilege.  Unless the closest women is 15 feet away, I usually defer and slowly get on last.

Status is irrelevant in this scenario as well.  Young, abrasive, uncouth, loud and proud, fat heifers will assume the honor of older, distinguished, middle aged men in suits.  They get it too. The trashiest of behavior is no obstacle in achieving special treatment.

The double standard is most egregious when a guy has been waiting for an elevator, and just as one opens up, a stream of chatty kathys come around the corner and stream into the elevator right in front of him, cutting off his path. Unless he is a big-shot or happens to work in the same office, he is completely ignored. No acknowledgement in the least for his deferential treatment.

A few other things that are common on the ground floor…

I can’t count how many times women will see the light come on to indicate an arriving elevator and immediately walk right in front of it, waiting for the door to open.  They are oblivious to the fact that there are probably people getting off.

As a man, if you happen to be close to the arriving elevator, and the closest women is 30 feet away, you will feel her breathing down your neck as passengers exit.   She will not wait at a respectable distance.  My advice, if you are not feeling particularly chivalrous, is to avoid eye contact.  Any sign of acknowledging her existence will result in her butting right in.

Exiting an elevator….

A. As with getting on, men will get off in the same manner. Simple.

B. I know this might come as a shock, but women like to get off first as well.  In the cramped quarters of an elevator this is easier said than done. 

Think of the difficulty in letting women on first, especially in a crowded environment, and then letting them get off first.  This is not rocket science.  If they got on first that means they are in the back of the elevator when its time to get off.  Many times, on the way up, a group of people all get off on the same floor. On the way down, women are co-mingled throughout the elevator depending on what floors it stopped on.  It would be nice to have an even flow, exiting the elevator, without worry of violating some archaic, outdated standard.

In my personal experience…

When riding with one or two women, she/they always get off first. I can’t recall a time in my 1000s? of elevator rides where a woman motioned me to get off before her.  I like to find space in the back of the elevator to make the “tradition” even easier to navigate.

The crowded elevator of 5 or more is a bit tricky.  In this scenario I either like to have my nose practically pressed up against the doors, or be completely in the back.  The former allows me to exit the elevator first, without any subtle shaming, and the latter takes the guesswork out of it.

The worst position to be in is close to the door, but off to side by the buttons, with 2 or 3 women of varying distances, mixed in with other men behind me. Sometimes I will just stand there and wait for everyone to exit.  Other times I will step out of the elevator but hold the door open as the princesses get off.

White Knights can muck everything up.  Even when they are practically falling out of the elevator when the doors open up, they still manage to contort their bodies, often pressing their asses into me, to allow the ladies to squeeze by them.  Usually they are older, 50+ guys.  I fantasize about pushing their chivalrous ass out of my personal space and berating them for their naive stupidity.  Of course I never say a peep. 

I get  irritated when I let 2 or 3 women off first, only to have to slowly walk behind them, all the way to the building’s exit. They meander, 2 or 3 abreast, gossiping, and leave no room to pass.  It never occurs to them to let me off first, knowing they are in no hurry to get anywhere. 

Some other observations….

A group of women are ruder than a single woman.  Single women will occasionally show a bit of thanks for a mans deference.  The herd will be oblivious to his outdated elevator etiquette.  Perhaps they are subtly competing for princess status so any gesture of gratitude would somehow diminish them in front of their peers. 

A group of men are more polite then a single man.  The code of elevator chivalry is less likely to be broken by a  group of men than by a singular lone wolf.  Like other aspects of gender inequality, it’s the men who hold on to the outdated traditions the most.    

A group of men will generally lower their voice or shut down their conversation completely when getting on an elevator.  Women, not so much.  You will be forced to endure every mundane detail of their shitty office job on the ride in the 5ft X 6ft box.  Gossip about co workers and drivel about husbands and children are par for the course.

I have found women in their mid to late thirties to be the worst of the entitled elevator goddesses.  It doesn’t matter if they are human resources drones, upper management, lawyer or secretary.  They would think nothing of throwing me down an elevator shaft if it meant keeping their rightful place on the gender food chain.  Many are rude, smell of cigarette smoke, are 50 pounds overweight and have a hairdo that went out of style in 1989. 

The aging woman that looks like a cougar is especially bad, and a subset of the previous category.  She struts out of the elevator like a runway model.  I suppose she is just in a hurry to get to the club and show those young guys a “real” woman.

In my experience the least entitled are black women.  Not sure why this is.  They aren’t any better in a group, but a singular black woman is more likely to acknowledge my “good” behavior than women of other races.  Keep in mind these are elevators in office buildings not in housing projects.

Warpigs are just as entitled, if not more so.  I’ve had 300 pound Hippos practically run me over to “beat me” onto the elevator. 

Speaking of beating me, I sometimes think women view it as some sort of competition.  I’ll see a lady hurry on to an elevator only to move like molasses once she exits.  Is privilege preservation really that important?  Is it a subconscious thing?  I don’t know. 

Pretty young things keep the tradition going but don’t seem to have the eagerness about it the way the older gals do.  Occasionally I will see them defer to an elderly guy or someone carrying something heavy. 

Ugly young things seem to behave in a manner closer to their older 30 something sisters.

Old women, say 65+, will always exit first, but seem to do it in a more respectful and grateful fashion.  I really can’t put my finger on it.  The older they are, the more this tendency is apparent.

I am most annoyed when the elevator opens and in front of me is some worn down career woman impeding my exit.  Usually she will move out of the way, but occasionally, she will awkwardly butt in to the elevator before i can exit.  Once in awhile I will get the deer in the headlights look. 

I think elevator entitlement is still strongly entrenched in our culture, but may be changing  just a bit.  The younger guys, say under 40, don’t seem as enthused about the whole charade as the older guys are.  Most go along with it, like an automatron, but aren’t as likely to make a big display about it.

Why a $100,000 a year, 40 year old lawyer, who happens to be female, should automatically get off of an elevator before the guy that works in the mail room is beyond me.  The mail room guy suffers the indignity of being ignored completely by the women he works with.  Is it really necessary for him to be completely meek and deferential as well?  I wonder what George Sodini’s elevator etiquette was like.

Occasionally I will see a guy, usually under 25, completely disregard traditional norms and shoot out of the elevator first.  I’ve seen women visibly irritated by this show of equality too.  I suspect the perpetrators of such callous and aggressive acts are unaware of their sin, rather than trying to make any sort of statement. 

The last few observations would be keeping in pattern with some of Whiskey’s theories about changing cultural norms and the way men will slowly come to treat women.

I’ll give my usual disclaimer about exceptions to the rule and all the rest.  In this case, in my experience, there are very few.  Perhaps, others have a different take.  This is simply one mans observations and opinions.


Filed under alpha, american women, beta male, female nature, feminism, humor, Mens Issues

25 responses to “Elevator Inequality

  1. Grim

    Interesting, I had noticed that women have no order in getting on or off with regards to efficiency. I usually end up watching chicks to avoid having them run into me. It’s a bit stressful. And come to think of it, it’s very relaxed with just guys getting on or off. It’s all about efficiency, no one worried about getting off first.

    I was unaware that men used to let women off first, I always though women were simply pushy. It’s a fracking elevator, everyone just wants to get on and get off as fast as possible and that means the above mentioned system. It’s the fastest way for the whole group.

  2. .Hi Grim,
    I think its just another example of chivalrous behavior, similar to holding open doors and the like.
    Next time you are on an elevator with one or two women, try to get off first. Don’t rush it or get near the door before it opens. Simply pretend you are the only one in the elevator and casual start to walk out as it opens.
    a few things could happen…
    1.she will speed up to beat you out the door
    2.You will get to the door at the same time and either defer or look like a pushy dick and beat her out.
    3.You will feel a cold stare on your back as you walk down the hall

    That has been my experience whenever I have “challenged” (usually because I was spacing out or distracted) the natural order of things.

  3. Same in my experience. “Elevator chivalry” is very strong in the US.

    • Never seen elevator chivalry. But then I pretty much always take the stairs, and I don’t work in an urban high-rise. Buildings around airports rarely have more than three floors.

      Where I do see stuff like this is on the bus. The only person that gets my seat are older men, esp if a vet (they’ve earned it), really old women, and women so pregnant that they waddle to their seat. That’s it.

      I’ve never had a White Knight or anyone else browbeat me for my lack of chivalry. But then again, I’m 5’11”, 200 lbs, and reasonably fit. I probably could beat their ass into a pulp. So that keeps the uppity baby boomer benevolent sexists at bay.

  4. slwerner

    ”Women of any age or station get on first and get off first. This anachronism has managed to thrive in the new girl order of empowered, equality minded career women. Of all the trivial double standards I see between the sexes, this is one I notice frequently, and probably irritates me most, depending on the circumstance.”

    The difference is that where men once allowed the ladies to go first, as a sign of respect for the fairer sex – a respect returned to them by that fairer sex in other ways, they no longer have the chance to “allow” any of it.

    Now, the women go first because they feel entitled to do so – they’re better than everybody else, and you owe it to them. Even if you (from your POV) are “allowing” them to do so out of respect, they will NOT acknowledge it, and are never going to return any respect.

    Chivalry needs to be put out of it’s misery. It’s something than men can no longer choose to “give” to woman now that women simply “take” it pre-emptively.

    ”(by Denver standards)”

    I take it you’re in the Denver area? I am as well.

  5. I work in a 12 story building. No stairs (locked for security reasons). I have not seen what you describe. I will look for it more. I have noticed on the subway, women will stand in front of the doors, preventing riders from getting off, even though there are announcements EVERYTIME the train stops to get out of the way. In the elevators, people get off in order of their proximity to the door. If a person near the door (last on) is going to a higher floor, he usually gets off to let others out, then re-boards.

    I have also noticed that 2 black women will monopolize an entire hallway, slowly trundling along to get another doughnut or lottery ticket. But men will move out of the way to let faster walkers go by.

  6. GG

    If women usually push by you to get out of the elevator, then you’re probably moving too slow. If this kind of “elevator chivalry” is indeed alive and well in the US, then women have probably had to adapt by pushing on through while the men stand there waiting for them to go first. Which sounds like a pretty cumbersome tradition to me, since everyone would probably benefit from the first people exiting, then the next and so on. It would be a lot faster and involve less guess work.

    Same thing with opening doors — whoever gets to the door first should just go through it, with a gentle push to prop it open for the next person that follows. When people (women too) make such a show of their chivalry and just stand there holding a door open for everyone, it actually slows things down for a greater number of people. Women also go along with it because they don’t want to be seen as overly independent feminists.

    That’s the problem with so much sex-typed etiquette, it creates phony, unnecessary awkward inconveniences for everyone.

    btw – in some parts of the world, men are expected to get on the elevator first, so as to take the fall if there’s something mechanically wrong with it.

  7. Nova,
    Glad someone else sees it as well. It happens to be my biggest pet peeve as far as women and privileged behavior goes. Then again I don’t ride public transportation. I bet that would really be fertile ground for privilege princesses.

    Yeah for me it was something that took awhile to really notice. Once I saw how it worked I noticed some of things I wrote about more.
    Also the shaming is subtle. I could theoretically barge off the elevator 1st, without confrontation, all the time, but I would be viewed as an inconsiderate Ahole. The older men would think less of me and all the rest. The women might exchange knowing glances or go out of their way to thank the White Knight that wasn’t so inconsiderate. Most times I am on an elevator with strangers, so it is doable, but it seems uncomfortable all the same.
    Never ride the bus but agree on your standard completely.

    Yeah it feels like your graciousness is being abused. Sometimes I feel like I am robotically carrying on a tradition so little cocky feminine “men” can strut by me.
    Yeah the good ole mile high city. Not exactly sky scaper heaven. Always nice to find guys that live other places besides big coastal cities on these blogs.


    I usually see the stuff I am talking about when everyone exits the elevator at the same time or when a man and a woman both get on at the same time. Many times, like you say, elevators are exiting at different floors, the elevator gradually emptying the higher it goes. In that case the dynamic is muted or even eliminated.

    I agree about men getting out of the way before women do. Frankly, men in an office type setting, are more polite and considerate, on average, than women are.

  8. .GG,
    In my experience women move toward the door without acknowledging the mans existence. They aren’t “waiting” for anything.
    Agree with you about the door thing and practice it for the most part. Also agree about the sex related etiquette creating inconveniences.
    Nice factoid about men getting on 1st. In my neck of the woods an outbreak of malfunctioning elevators would be bad for the ladies.

    • GG

      “In my experience women move toward the door without acknowledging the mans existence. They aren’t “waiting” for anything.”

      I wasn’t talking about the women waiting, I was talking about the men waiting (for the women to push forward and be the first to leave or get on). Actually, no one should be waiting, everyone should make haste to get on or off the elevator.

      • Fair enough. Let me change that then.
        In my experience men have no need to wait because the woman is moving the second the doors open.

        I will say though that White Knights who could easily get off 1st will wait for the women in back of them to get off.

        Let me also say that the White Knight experience isn’t something I witness all the time either. The moments I do though, it stands out, and thats why I wrote about it.

        My most common exiting experience is either being right next to, or slightly behind 1 or 2 women, and having them exit automatically without pause or second thought.

  9. jz

    That was an entertaining read; thanks.

    This stuck me :

    Pretty young things keep the tradition going but don’t seem to have the eagerness about it the way the older gals do. Occasionally I will see them defer to an elderly guy or someone carrying something heavy.

    Ugly young things seem to behave in a manner closer to their older 30 something sisters.

    Men naturally attribute goodness, purity, kindness, and ……gracious elevator behavior to young attractive women. You’ve dichotomized her from older or ugly women. Do you really believe that, or do you think men see what they want to see?

    I’m a woman and when in the elevator group, I assume the favored spot because that’s what Mr. Chivalrous White Knight insists upon. There’s no point to dissent, because he will have it no other way. He sets the pattern and all others fall in line. I agree with you that young men don’t insist on the chivalrous patterns.

    When alone in an elevator, Mr. Black Professional will always greet, making eye contact. His way to state, “I’m not going to rob you.”

    Parent-with-stroller is another person in the crowd who desires every bit of special courtesy. Doors, esp. double doors are tough to negotiate.

    • JZ,
      Hi, congrats on being, what I believe to be, my first female commenter. I’m sure this news will fill you with pride and honor. The trophy and certificate are in the mail.

      “Men naturally attribute goodness, purity, kindness, and ……gracious elevator behavior to young attractive women. You’ve dichotomized her from older or ugly women. Do you really believe that, or do you think men see what they want to see?”

      Interesting point. I think with many men this could be true. Of course, I’ll disagree in my case. heh. There are other circumstances where I will point out the crappy behavior of prettier women to the older or uglier womans benefit.
      I could be guilty of comparing pretty under 25s to ugly 30 year olds though. Many other factors involved with such an age difference.
      I think an under 25, pretty woman is already so flushed with attention that she isn’t chomping at the bit for chivalrous deference though. In my experience this is only in degree, plenty of hot young girls automatically enter or exit without a second thought.

      I think your point about the White Knights dererence is worth noting and a completely fair assumption on your part.

      The professional black guy might want to assure you he is harmless. He could want to bang you in the elevator as well. Most black guys in a professional setting, dressed appropriately are already assumed to be non threatening.

      As long as the kid isn’t screaming and crying I will defer to the stroller as well…heh.

  10. I get run over daily by college students getting on and off elevators (I work on one of the upper floors in my building). I notice no difference in the elevator behavior of college girls based on their looks, though I confess I am not often checking them out either. I guess I just notice the rude ones and they are just as likely to be pretty as not.

    I take it you don’t ride many elevators with physicians or medical students? The rudest people I have ever encountered on elevators are physicians and medical students, including the males. Medical students are also champs at blocking hall ways. The nicest on elevators? Pharmaceutical sales reps of either gender.

    My favorite are students who stand in the middle of the elevator and text (yes, 95% of the time females) instead of stepping back so more people can enter.

    • Hi learner,
      I think college age students or the college environment in general would be pretty exempt from my observations. I would say rudeness and a lack of awareness of ones surroundings is pretty common no matter the looks, or gender for that matter.

      As for rides with medical students or doctors….I have, but not enough of a sample size to make a judgement. I have encounters doctors in other areas afflicted with a God complex though. What you say about the sales reps isn’t surprising either in my view.

      My favorite is the person, usually a woman, but not always, talking on their cell phone. They struggle to maintain their connection as the signal goes bad in the elevator. I could swear i have witnessed people keep talking even when they know they have been cutoff. Couldn’t prove it though.

  11. Dave from Hawaii

    Bah…I purposely violate the code of chivalry when it comes to elevators and public transport….when it comes to career women. I purposely dart in front of them…I deliberately get in their way or make sure I exit or enter an elevator first. Is it rude? Yeah…but I like to consider myself a rebel of the modern matriarchy. Hard charging career women want to be treated as equals, I want to ensure I treat them as such.

    I always do so with the mindset of “chivalry is dead. you want chivalry, you shouldn’t be wearing a power suit with shoulder pads and spending your days in a cubicle preparing power point presentations. You should be at home, raising children…only then do you deserve chivalric consideration for your gender.

    I once had a woman tell me I was rude for not giving way to her on the elevator. I looked her right in the eyes and said “chivalry is dead…feminism killed it.” Than turned around and walked out. She didn’t respond at all…she had nothing to say.

    The look on her face when I said that was quite satisfying.

    • slwerner

      Dave from Hawaii – “I once had a woman tell me I was rude for not giving way to her on the elevator.”

      Recently, while waiting to de-plane (seated towards back, and it was gettin’ hot-n-stuffy), a woman in the row ahead of me was taking her own sweet time about getting her stuff together, and holding the rest us up with that certain “everyone’s just going to have to wait till I’m ready” arrogance.

      As she pulled her bag from the overhead bin, it pulled her out of the isle and back into her seat row.

      I took the opportunity to move past her, really not thinking about it being in anyway impolite (I wasn’t the one thoughtlessly impeding her).

      She shouted at me, “How rude!”, and was audibly muttering to herself all the way off the plane about what an *sshole I was.

      I thought about turning around and telling her off, but elected to just be on my way.

      Now, I’m wishing I had taken her to task.

  12. Hey Dave,
    Good to see you.
    Of course you are right. Like the snotty woman in your story, I have nothing much to add either. The notion that American working women, who claim to want equal treatment, deserve chivalrous behavior is absurd.

    I could probably get away with making a similar stand in certain situations, but it could be potentially counter productive for my bottom line in many others.

  13. Forgot to add that I’ve had women let doors slam in my face rather than hold them open for me if I’m behind them.

    I don’t know if it’s purposeful rudeness, or a simple lack of consideration.

    Men are taught to be polite. Or at least I was, and I pound it into my sons’ heads. I think we as a society fail to smash the same lessons into our daughter’s heads.

    I used to let female rudeness just go, out of concern for making a scene. Now I’ve been calling them out on it. Most recently was last week, when a 30 yo single SWPL woman was exiting the mall from Dillard’s. I was behind her. She let the door slam back in my face; my wife and S3 were immediately behind me.

    I announced, loud enough for her to hear, “thanks for holding the door” as I held it open for my family.

    slwerner, I would have liked to tell that woman on the plane off; unfortunately, it would have been just as rude to hold up everyone else in order to give her the what-for as she was in making everyone else wait because she was unprepared.

  14. slwerner, ew
    Good stories. I can relate to both of them. Similar things have happened to me as well. A couple that might be worth their own blog post at some point.

  15. Door holding ettiquete has been tempered somewhat by the double sets of doors most businesses now have. Holding open the first set guarantees you will be behind the woman for the second set. Then you have to knock her out of the way to open the door for her, kind of defeating the whole point. Then there is the glass door that swings the wrong way. To open it for a woman coming the other way, you have to block the entry with your body to open the door for her. Again, self-defeating. For large office environments, everyone needs to use the same doors. Things work better if everyone goes through when it is their turn and holds it open just long enough for the next person to grab it. Gender agnostic.

  16. GG

    “In my experience men have no need to wait because the woman is moving the second the doors open…My most common exiting experience is either being right next to, or slightly behind 1 or 2 women, and having them exit automatically without pause or second thought.”

    That’s what everyone should do.

    “I will say though that White Knights who could easily get off 1st will wait for the women in back of them to get off.”

    That’s just plain stupid.

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