Are the days of the damsel in distress gone?

Patricia Feehily


Patricia Feehily

Are the days of the damsel in distress gone?

WOMEN are getting very bolshie these days, and I honestly don’t know whether this assertiveness is a good thing or a bad thing. Sometimes – and only sometimes, mind you - I long for the days when someone would acknowledge my feminine frailty and run and open the passenger door of the car for me or give me his coat when I might be shivering from the cold.

There is, however, no place for chivalry in the new order. Any man who would dare indulge in such patronising poppycock and risk the ire of the feminists would only have himself to blame if his old world etiquette blew up in his face. But, as I said, there’s a lot to be said for it too.

Only the other day, I was driving along happy as the day is long when suddenly I felt a drag on the steering. I pulled over, got out and saw that I had a front wheel that was – as they say in this neck of the woods – as flat as a pancake.

Well, what do you think? I wasn’t going to change it myself, was I? I’m a disaster with nuts and bolts. The only alternative I had, having been reared as a helpless female who wouldn’t know a jack from the king of spades, was to stand there and muster the most forlorn look possible until a knight in shining armour came along. I’m too old to be a damsel in distress, so I put on my best ‘granny in dire straits’ act instead. Several vehicles passed but nobody stopped. The age of chivalry is dead, I said to myself.

What did they think I was doing anyway, standing there by the side of the road in the rain staring forlornly at a flat wheel? A spot of mindfulness or what?

I had to call the garage man eventually, and even he looked bemused at my helplessness. So much so, that I was afraid he was going to ask me to hoist the car up in the air with my bare hands so that he wouldn’t have to bother with a jack.

Later I was informed by someone in the know that there is no such thing as a damsel in distress anymore. And the grannies are no longer in dire straits either. The damsels are all wannabe Countess Markievicz types donning Citizen Army shirts and slouch hats, while the grannies are all down at the gym strengthening their muscles with the aid of aerobics trying to make up for lost time as weaklings. Chivalrous knights are a thing of the past too. The last one was emasculated by a platoon of militant feminists shouting their new mantra ‘there is nothing a man can do that we can’t do better’.

If that’s the case, then I have an awful lot of catching up to do. I’m going to have to learn how to change a wheel for a start, and I’m going to have to climb up on the roof the next time we’re hit by a hurricane of Ophelia ferocity and replace a couple of slates myself instead of badgering himself to do it before the roof falls in on us. How I’m going to conquer the vertigo is anyone’s guess, and I’m not sure if the feminists have the answer either.

What concerns me most, however, is the prospect of conscription in the event of war. We’re all Amazons now but I’d never stick the pace. I’d be a deserter before anyone shouted ‘Fire’. It scared the daylights out of me, to be honest, when I saw a few of the Oireachtas women dressing up like Countess Markievicz for the anniversary last week. Will someone please tell those die-hards that the war is over and there are more urgent issues to be tackled by Parliamentarians right now. Better still, maybe someone should remind them of what Sean O’Casey thought of the war mongering Countess, who advised the women of her day to leave their jewels in the bank and buy a revolver.

One other thing, I’ll never chance another cruise as long as I live, because in this new age of gender equality there can be no question of ‘women and children first’ if we hit an iceberg. I wouldn’t be one bit happy with that, to be honest. I’d have to take my chances with every able bodied seaman on board and I can’t even swim. A young man I know told me recently that he wouldn’t dream of giving up his seat on a bus to a woman now for fear he’d offend her stamina. I could hardly expect him to part with his life jacket then, could I?

I hope now that I’m not coming across as a traitor to the cause of women’s liberation and equality.

God knows, we’ve been downtrodden for long enough and I’m delighted with how far we’ve come, particularly in recent years. Anyway the last thing in the world I’d want to do is to offend the gender police.

All I’m saying is that some of us still long for a bit of old world courtesy and someone to carry the shopping bags when our arms are aching. But then, I suppose, you can’t have your cake and eat it.