It is an outdated phrase from when women were considered the lesser sex, and needed to be treated 'delicately' because they are more fragile. For a man to give women right of way was considered a form of respect, and a gentlemanly thing to do. I don't think it has any place in today's society, and actually get annoyed when things like that are said, or when the chair is lifted out for me.
You may not like it for yourself, but the world would be a sad place without it.
Manners are part of society, once they go.......it will be a free-for--all.In other words grandmothers will be having doors slammed in their faces, left right and centre...pregnant women will struggle, and life will just become unpleasant.
Manners don't have to be sexist. It's just a matter of having consideration for others in general, not women in particular. Pregnant women sometimes do need more help, as do the elderly, but us able bodied women shouldn't be treated like invalids just because we have a vagina.
There is nothing wrong with manners, but why does it have to be ladies first? Why not men first? Being pregnant or elderly is an entirely different matter all together; it is not based on the fact that you are a woman, but on the fact that it is more difficult/uncomfortable for you to get around. Saying ladies first suggests that we need more help than men do.
It's a token way of honouring women without actually giving them any rights. You can go through doorways first but you can't vote. Don't worry your pretty little head about opening doors etc. I'll take care of you as long as you don't expect equal pay or to make decisions for yourself that matter. I'm glad those days are for the most part behind us.
I think Jennifer and Bryony have hit the nail on the head. Ladies first comes from the idea that women are less than men, so they need to be treated like fragile creatures. Yes it's not generally said with this specific intention, but that's where it comes from.