General Question

chelle21689's avatar

Should men walk on the outside of a sidewalk instead of the woman?

Asked by chelle21689 (7421points) January 11th, 2016 from iPhone

What do you think of men that have a woman walk on the outside of the sidewalk instead of having her walk on the inside? I never really thought about it until my boyfriend always had me walk on the inside. Apparently, a lot of people judge a man harshly if he doesn’t from what I see online after seeing this photo.
Some say that women want equality then it shouldn’t matter.

Very nice gesture of my bf, but why should my life be more important than his? Why can’t I decide to walk the outside and protect him? If a woman wants to protect her man what’s wrong with that?

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55 Answers

Seek's avatar

This is a holdover from the days when passing horse drawn carts might splash water, or some other tragedy befall an expensive, elaborate garment.

These days, when the dude I’m walking with and I are both in worn jeans and a heavy metal t-shirt, the gesture is basically meaningless.

JLeslie's avatar

My husband often makes sure I’m on the inside, away from the curb, but not always. It’s sweet. If he was a controlling, macho, idiot, it would probably bother me. Since he is none of those things I just see it as he learned those rules growing up, and does it out of caring for me.

Adagio's avatar

I’ve never even thought about it.

AdventureElephants's avatar

The man should be curbside.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I wouldn’t even think about it myself. I definitely don’t expect it. However, my husband is old school and he always walks closest to the curb. He opens my car door and opens doors when we approach a building. I would totally argue for equality, but I have to admit it feels very lovely when he takes such care of me.

Cruiser's avatar

God bless the woman who wants to give her husband a piggy back ride. The moment we all behave to others expectations of decorum we are toast.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Meh. It’s nice, sure, but it’s something I do with kids to keep them safer. As long as he’s cool with wanting to die more easily 50% of the time, then I’m cool with walking on the inside 50% of the time.

msh's avatar

I think it’s a matter of familial upbringing, for some. Those things were always around, but accepted as the norm for us. Your question falls under such courtesies, I believe.
I dated someone a titch older and more worldly than I, at one point early on. He was a Gentleman, in all mannerisms and sense of the word. It was how he was raised. Some ideas were difficult for me to remember, even though brought up with such. One was a point of discussion, that of his walking around the car to open my door. I was used to opening the door jumping out for myself, as in growing up. My parents handled it as he was doing, with each other. It hadn’t registered in my noggin yet. The discussion concerning this was logical and short-lived. I have ever loved him for imparting the gentlemanly treatment and mannerisms concerning courtesy in my life. His actions gave me a some knowledge that I was glad I had experienced, upon occasion. And yes, I notice it about others, still today. The US has lost a bit of it’s polish and it’s abilities in nuances, IMO. Other countries in certain areas still maintain these ideals. Some fail to understand that strong messages are sometimes sent or interwoven in delicate diplomatics via the outward deportment of those involved.
Being courteous does not put forth that things are not equal, nor lessen an IQ. But for me, it does make a difference, as I, in return, act courteously towards others.
Yet, I can still eloquently deliver a courteous ‘Fuck You’, when needed. The best of all worlds.

johnpowell's avatar

Never really thought about it. But I am a lefty and hand-holder. So that forces me on the right if we are walking with traffic.

And really.. Are we so scared that this is a Issue? If I thought walking on the left was a death sentence I would probably let the pizza hut guy take all the risk.

longgone's avatar

I would hate that. I’m annoyed by rules which do not serve a purpose. I am neither a child nor a lady straight out of Downton Abbey, so I don’t want to be treated like either one.

johnpowell's avatar

Actually DD brought up a good point. I used to walk my sisters twins to school every morning when they were K-2. And I did walk along the street so I could stop them when they were all “squirrel”.

But if I am having sex with you I would hope you wouldn’t randomly dart out into the street.

Pandora's avatar

Oh, I remember the days when my husband held my seat out or open the door and walked on the outside. Well he still does the last one but the first two have disappeared.

Now it seems people take offense about any gesture. As if it is a way of saying the woman is weak. Well first of all. I am physically weaker than he is. Plus he had plenty of physical combat training when he was in the military. And second, I’ve never felt put down by him for being a woman. He is always takes my advice before any relative, friend, or respected co- worker. So walking on the inside does not mean anything to me except that he cares most for my welfare.
Why can’t people see it for what it is. It means the guy feels if something were to happen to you, that he would have a hard time living without you. Equality has nothing to do with the heart. My husband is always saying that he wants to go before me.
Everything has gotten so political.
BTW, nothing wrong with a woman walking on the outside wanting to protect her man as you say so long as the guy knows your aren’t doing it because you feel he is weak.
Of course some don’t care at all because they either were not raised that way or don’t feel protective.
But there are other ways to show one is protective. My husband knows I’m like a pit bull if someone says something something to him and I know he or my kids are not in a position to retaliate.

ucme's avatar

Old fashioned nonsense

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I don’t think the purpose was to prevent woman darting out into the street. I’ve always thought it was to prevent me being splashed up if a car drives through a puddle or something. I think it goes back to when there were horses and carriages.

johnpowell's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit :: You have clearly never lived in Oregon. A car here will get your great-grandchildren wet.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

:-) And I’ve been in situations where the puddles here would mean both of us would be drenched from head-to-toe too. I do think the origins go back to times when there were horses and carts (and all the disgusting mess that might entail). Gentlemen would put themselves in the line of fire. That some men still want to do this is just a display of chivalry (old-fashioned and rather irrelevant though it may be).

stanleybmanly's avatar

It varies with the vulnerability of the woman in question. A frail or elderly woman (or man for that matter) should be shielded by her or his fit companion (again the gender of that shield is irrelevant).

JLeslie's avatar

I also think it’s to prevent the splash from the street. I guess maybe also it had to do with if someone veered off the road the man would take the brunt of the collision, but that’s quite an unlikely occurrence. Having dirty street water sprayed on you is not so unusual. Although, in places like NYC some of the worst risk to be lashed is at the corners before crossing the street, which has little to do with who is curbside while walking down the street, because you both face front to the perpendicular street.

Pachy's avatar

Growing up I was taught to walk on the outside and always did so—but alas, it’s been so long since I walked alongside a woman on a sidewalk or elsewhere I’d almost forgotten the rule.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I was told that the tradition dated from the time that household refuse was tossed or poured (ugh!) from upper stories directly into the streets.

Seek's avatar

Gardy loo!

Silence04's avatar

i think it’s wrong to build expectations for behavior based on gender identity.

This should be up to the people walking together to decide.

JLeslie's avatar

@Silence04 I is up to the people in the end. There aren’t etiquette police around or anything.

Silence04's avatar

@JLeslie But there are etiquette police, it is that website and the people bringing attention to that photograph.

ibstubro's avatar

My mother was largely raised by her grandmother, and instilled with generally Victorian manners. That was passed on to us kids. For decades it drove me nuts for anyone but me to walk on the street side but me. I’m still mindful of it, but not obsessive.
As @Seek says, it harks back to the days of muddy streets and women in elaborate, floor length gowns.

If possible, I still insist on going down the stairs before a ‘lady’ [woman around my age or greater that expects to defer to a man], and up stairs after. You’d be surprised how many women ‘of a certain age’ fall into the pattern out of habit…as I do.
The expectation was that a man’s manly manliness would break the poor dear’s fall. It’s a deference I don’t mind giving.

Dipping my soup away from me at the back of the bowl is a chore and seems an affectation to me. And I’m going to tip the bowl to get the last couple spoon fulls.

ucme's avatar

Of course, for those of us lucky enough to be riding piggy back on the wife, this is a non-issue

JLeslie's avatar

@Silence04 No one is going to jail. People can ignore those who are all twisted in knots about breeches in etiquette. Plus, in this day and age most people aren’t concerned about these sorts of etiquette rules. Probably, most young men don’t know this rule, and that doesn’t bother me at all personally. When it comes to etiquette I’m more concerned people learn how to introduce themselves and others, shake hands well (although I would love to get rid of the handshake altogether) can hold a fork and knife properly, to hold a door for someone who is immediately behind you, those are my every day ones that come to mind.

As far as gender, men should know even the old rules I think, and then they can always offer and give the woman the choose to refuse. Can I help you with your coat? Can I help you with your chair? Would you like me to get the car door for you? Can I help you with your suitcase? Men don’t only do these for women. We, men and women, can do these for each other depending on the circumstances. However, there are some valid reasons why some of the rules take gender into consideration. When the etiquette rules are taught it makes it easier than waiting for someone to figuring out how to be helpful on their own.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

In modern times a gentleman walks on the curbside for a lady’s protection from things like puddle splashes to wayward vehicles.

In times past men walked the inside to protect women from bedpan contents tossed from windows.

Strauss's avatar

When I lived in New Orleans, I was informed that in times past, if a “gentleman” is escorting a “lady” on the curb side of the sidewalk, it was an indication that he was offering her services for hire. Urban legend? who knows?

Love_my_doggie's avatar

It doesn’t really matter during this 21st century, but I do find that most men prefer to walk on the outside. I couldn’t care less. War, famine, homelessness, child neglect and endangerment, and animal abuse get me on my soapbox; sidewalk etiquette doesn’t.

dappled_leaves's avatar

Absolutely. He should also lay down his cloak in any puddles that they cross, lest the lady get her feet wet and later die of consumption.

ibstubro's avatar

Alas. My cloak hath disappeared.

msh's avatar

Yes, let’s make every day crappy for all!
“You’re on your own Sweetie, I choose to value my own welfare and person above yours.”
I’m a big person now, let me conquer life’s toughest manners on my own!!! Hear me roar! Wait, wrong connotation for that song. Sorry.
Best watch action with the cape- that gentleman later had his head cut off by the same monarch.
Go for it. Mayhap you’ll end up carrying your genitals in your wallet. But you won’t ever condone abject rudeness in your still-attached brain* ever again. (*the larger one)

Seek's avatar

@stu, it’s also a good way to avoid stepping on her hem.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

In a similar vein:

A gentleman will enter a revolving door first in order to rotate it saving the lady the effort.

He will also enter a cab first and slide to the opposite side saving the woman from a possible moment of unladylike posture.

Strauss's avatar

@SecondHandStoke Mayhap you’ll end up carrying your genitals in your wallet.
Mayhap I’ll need a larger wallet! LOL-eth!

msh's avatar

Nah @Yetanotheruser, they’d pop first.

Mariah's avatar

Antiquated and unnecessary.

ibstubro's avatar

Someone has to walk on the outside.
Why not just let it be the guy?
Deference to a woman does not have to be chauvinism.

longgone's avatar


“Someone has to walk on the outside.”

Why does there have to be a rule declaring who will, though? It’s not like I shove males away from the street side, when they do happen to walk there. I’m trying to get rid of (now) arbitrary rules, not create new ones.

ibstubro's avatar

I don’t consider it a “rule”, @longgone.
If I am with someone on the street, I automatically migrate to the street-side.
Someone has to walk on the outside.
That would be me.
As you say, you’d never even notice. I would. I don’t see where that’s a problem.

It’s not like I look at other men walking on the inside with a woman, and ‘tsk, tsk.’
It’s ingrained in me, personally, that I should be street-side if I’m walking on a street with a woman.
What was once a rule is now personal courtesy.

Mariah's avatar

Agreed with @longgone. Yes, someone has to walk on the outside. To me it really, really does not matter who that is, though.

Love_my_doggie's avatar

@Mariah Yes, unless two people walk single-file, one of them has to be nearer the street. If I’m with a guy whose grandmother taught him that a gentleman should always be on the outside, and should protect a lady from mud splatters or whatever, why should I get on some feminist high-horse? The convention may be dated, but so what?

Mariah's avatar

Yes…...I never argued you should make a big deal and refuse to let him walk on the outside. I said it doesn’t matter to me at all one way or the other…..if he walks on the outside, fine, if I walk on the outside, fine.

Mariah's avatar

Why are people assuming that those of us who don’t think the man HAS to walk on the outside are going to jump down the man’s throat and accuse them of being chauvinists? Walking on the outside of the sidewalk is not exactly a radical feminist concept…

Strauss's avatar

I always walk on the street side of the sidewalk when I’m with the wife, my sister, my daughter, or even a woman friend. It’s just a habit for me, from my pre-women’s-lib youth. I also open the door for my wife, unless she gets there first and holds it open for me!

longgone's avatar

@ibstubro If you and I were partners, you can bet I would notice your always walking on the outside – just like I’d notice if you were skipping the cracks, or touching every street sign we pass.

All these would become apparent (and annoying) equally soon. So yes, your needing to walk outside would bother me. Not because I’d think you’re a chauvinist (I don’t), but simply because it is a habit which limits my choices. If you have to walk on the outside, there is only one option left for me.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@longgone, I haven’t noticed the men who say they do this saying they insist on this. It’s obviously something they have been conditioned to do. As I mentioned, my husband will usually (I don’t think he always does it) do this. He also opens doors for me. However, I’m a staunch feminist. If he tried to control me or impose his will on me I’d give him short shrift very quickly. He’d never do that though. Actions such as opening doors are simply part of how he shows his love and care for me. It is never intended to be about controlling me or demeaning to me as a woman. He knows full well I can take care of myself.

I wonder, would the man’s age make a difference? If it was a old man rather than a young man, would you and others who are offended by this behaviour, feel differently?

I think there are real issues in terms of equality for women. We still don’t have equal pay or conditions. If my husband wants to open my car door, I’m not going to get my knickers in a knot. If he tries to make me give up my job or suggests it’s my job to sweep the floor, he’d better make sure he’s wearing chain mail.

longgone's avatar


I’m not offended, and I agree that there are much more pressing issues. I don’t mean to imply that this issue would necessarily be a deal-breaker for me – whereas any suggestion of women being better suited to sweep floors certainly would.

I don’t think the man’s age would make much of a difference, unless you’re thinking about men who could be my grandfathers. In that case, maybe.

I’ve been thinking more along the lines of a dating situation. Let’s say I went on a date with a colleague. While we get to know each other, I notice he always tries to get between me and the streets.

It would take a while for me to realize this is more than just a tic, and understand that he is trying to protect me. At which point, there would be red flags. I would not assume this guy is a macho. I would wonder whether we are well suited, though, because all those rules are extremely foreign to me.

If, like your husband or @ibstubro, my date could convince me he does not mean anything by this habit, fine.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@longgone, he doesn’t push or shuffle me out of the way to get into position. I really don’t even notice it. I also don’t think he does it every time. Then he doesn’t always open doors for me (tuts! Shame on him!~). If it was really overtly done, I think I’d find it weird too. In our case, it’s very subtle. When I notice it, it feels sweet more than annoying.
I wondered about age because I think it’s more likely to be older men who do this. I asked my husband if he can remember being told to do this as a child, he can’t. In saying that, I have had quite young men open doors for me. However, I think such behaviours are things older men are more likely to do. No proof of this. It’s a bit like when you’re on a bus and see an older person standing. I was always taught to get up and let the older person sit. Nowadays many young people do not do this. I don’t feel that’s a positive change.

ibstubro's avatar

I instinctively do the same no matter the sex of the person I’m walking with.
Walk on the outside and open doors if possible.

It’s like putting the lid down on the toilet when I’m not at home…it’s easier to just do it, than to think about it.

Edit: if I was walking with a healthy older man, I would defer the street side position to him if he moved that way.

Interesting that walking street side automatically puts a man on the left – perfect position for opening most doors. lol

longgone's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit From previous posts, I got the impression that the relationship between you and your husband is an exceptionally healthy one, so I don’t doubt that it’s working well for you. We all have habits, and we all have to deal with other people’s.

I agree older men are probably way more likely to do this.

@ibstubro I’m confused by two things in your last post:

“Edit: if I was walking with a healthy older man, I would defer the street side position to him if he moved that way.”

What if a woman “moved that way”? Wouldn’t you automatically change position? For me, that’s an unconscious and immediate reaction.

“Interesting that walking street side automatically puts a man on the left – perfect position for opening most doors.”

Why would walking street side always mean walking left?

ibstubro's avatar

“Why would walking street side always mean walking left?”

Duh. I was walking with traffic in my mental eye.

msh's avatar

Each person should type up a list of rules and just hand it out to Everyone around them to follow. Some will be able to addendum to their heart’s content as they grow or change their minds. Then on to editions, volumes and The Library of Congress.

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