It tends to be seen as an ‘all the way, or none of the way‘ issue. I consider myself a feminist, in that I view women of absolute equal worth (actually, probably greater worth in most situations). Professionally speaking, I think it’s a ridiculous issue. A female doing the same job as a male should obviously make exactly the same amount of money; it seems irrelevant to mention, but I know that there are still scores of people who’d disagree; but where the issue becomes troublesome is not in professional feminism, but rather, in social feminism.
I’ll hold a door for a lady, sure… but I’ll also hold a door for a man, or a kid, or an elderly person. I’ll hold a door for anyone, because it’s good manners. Being a feminist doesn’t mean that I’ll ask my girlfriend to carry stuff for me if I can’t be bothered, or pay for dinners out; nor does it mean that I’ll punch her if she gets on my nerves, or behave in a manner that is inconsiderate to the obvious differences in our gender. I don’t not do these things because I consider her to be in any way weaker than me, and therefore unable to deal with it; I simply do it because I retain an enjoyment in displaying good manners, and perhaps also an old-fashioned sense of chivalry. Having said that, I tend not to ever punch people in general, and if I were gay, I’d probably try to insist on paying for dinners out with my boyfriend as well. The distinction comes in your motivation to behave a certain way. In you are ‘overly nice’ to women because you enjoy being so, and you think it polite and considerate, then that’s fine. If, however, you do it because you feel that you unwillingly have to, then no, that isn’t. Women are every bit as capable of anything as men. Obviously. A stiff breeze won’t knock them down, and a loud noise won’t make them faint. Feminism is about viewing women as beings of equal importance, which I do; chivalry is about being courteous and polite to anyone, which (I like to think) I am.
Because respectful towards women because you perceive them to be delicate flowers in need of protection doesn’t make you chivalrous, or compassionate, or polite; nor does it make you a feminist. It makes you an idiot.