Can Chivalry And Equality Co-Exist?
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This – is never a question I thought I would find myself asking. However, I have learned about many different viewpoints in the world after writing previous blogs on the topic of chivalry and respect, and I find that many of them are opposite of my own.
Chivalry, by definition, is as follows:
Note: Courtesy, generosity, and valor – in particular.
I find, when the occurrence does happen that people are ‘offended’ in some way by chivalry, there are some consistent reasons:
Women tend to feel that chivalry is outdated, and even chauvinistic. That it was born in an era where men did these types of things for women because they didn’t feel that the woman was physically capable of doing them. Perhaps hundreds of years ago, this was the view.
In modern day society – not so much.
Men feel as though it will put them in the ‘nice guy’ category, or the friend zone. These men, I’ve found, have not yet experienced a mature woman who appreciates integrity and dignity in her choice of a partner. That, or they have gone overboard in the past. Being chivalrous does not mean being a doormat.
Chivalry, to me, is about respect. For me to open a woman’s car door or pull out her chair because I literally don’t think she is capable of doing it, would put me in a class of indescribable stupidity.
I do it because I care. Because I respect her. Because I want to find small things throughout the day that I can do, that send her a message. And any man worth his salt – does these things for the same reason.
Chivalry, as I’ve stated before, is manners. It’s politeness, and it isn’t only something men do for women.
Next time you see a man hold the door for another man, he is being chivalrous. Next time you come home from work and your significant other has dinner and wine ready for you, they are being chivalrous. Next time you see a parent carrying something for their child, they are being chivalrous.
Chivalry, I would argue, is not the enemy of equality – but a catalyst of it. Respect for others. Treating people right. Showing them that you care.
I’ve already pledged my efforts to lead the charge of The New Chivalry Movement – where I am dedicated to being polite and doing nice things for people, man or woman, on a daily basis.
So – do not be offended by kindness, for you will slowly strangle it in modern society. Do not be intolerant towards those with good intentions, who want to help you – not because you need it, but because they want to. Do not infect the kind-hearted with negativity and skepticism.
Simply embrace one another, and see chivalry for what it is – the mark of one human being performing a small act of kindness for another, with good intentions. There is enough negativity in the world, celebrate the positive.
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I am a intelligent, independent, and highly capable individual and my boyfriend is the epitome of chivalrous and views it in the same light as yourself. We actually had this conversation yesterday–women can read intention and sense the difference between consistent respect and caring, versus trying to impress or win a lady over. He is thus the first man I have allowed to open doors, pay for meals, and lead me, because he shows me through his actions that he *know* that I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself, and sees my allowing him to care for me as a privilege and a gift. You line–“Chivalry, I would argue, is not the enemy of equality – but a catalyst of it.”–is pure brilliance. Thank you for sharing!
Paying for meals and opening doors is not a privilege. If it is about respect then you should open car spots and extend the same things to men. This is not the case
beautifully written. As a mature independent woman, I totally agree. Manners never go out of style in my opinion so I agree with your statements one hundred percent! Thanks:)
Manners will never go out of style. And a mature woman will understand that and not view it as sexist.
Chivalry isn’t sexist, as you stated. Such fine writing, and wonderfully stated! When I’m stepping out of a store, and hold the door open for someone else walking in, they say “thank you” with that tone that says “holy moly, people are actually POLITE!?!?” I see it as just natural reflexes. To be kind to someone else. I have such little faith in the world until someone holds a door open for me, even when it’s a perfect stranger performing that act, it says “there’s still manners in the world.” thank you for sharing 🙂
Great thoughts! I definitely agree that chivalry is the epitome of equality. If we treat everyone well, then everyone gets treated the same. I know that I am an independent woman but it is nice to have the door opened for me. But I am also as likely to then hold the door for the person behind me. Chivalry rules.
I’m not even interested in defending chivalry this way. My friendships aren’t power struggles. I made the mistake of dating one woman who saw everything through some ridiculous feminist lens, and eventually it occurred to me that friendship doesn’t work that way… that, given her worldview, we couldn’t be friends much less anything more than that. So, I’ll be respectful and be myself, and if she wants to be angry about it, I’ll move on. I won’t waste my time explaining what I mean by holding the door or paying for her movie ticket.
James, you are awesome! I agree with your article wholeheartedly. I just found your writings on the net, and the few articles of yours that I have read are all right on. It is nice to have someone who agrees with me, and supports points of view that I have had for a long time, views about which I often get chided by “mainstream” society. I have been chivalrous for years, and I do it for men, women, and children, as you mention in your article.
Chivalry is such a dying art. I would never frown on the guy that wants to hold the door open for me. Instead, thank him with a smile. Great article!
I use to feel uncomfortable with a male date paying for my dinner, thinking it wasn’t fair on him, so I would always offer to pay for half. They would decline with courtesy and I would accept with courtesy. They would open the door for me etc and I saw it as showing manners. I do the same to others and still do. Apart from one boyfriend who wouldn’t let me pay for anything, despite me wanting to pay when he didn’t have a job. In the end I realised he did not respect anything I had to offer or did offer. My husband at 21, 20 years ago was trained ‘old school’ and still is, and to me, for him to be able to show such chivalry / manners at such a young age was and still is such a turn on! Chilvary is showing manners. Showing manners is showing at the least, basic respect to another person without a automatic demand for something in return. Something so sadly lacking since people demand that respect in all forms “must be earned” before they themselves will bother to show any respect for anyone or anything. Those that don’t appreciate chivalry simply do not know how to do such.
I think too often, I have seen chivalry as being sexist in the reverse. If I don’t hold a door for my sister she will complain, but she is never expected to hold the door. Women sometimes use chivalry as a tool to make men do something for them. I have no problem being chivalrous, but I do have a problem when it’s seem as rude to not be.
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I think the problem is the term. What is being described isn’t chivalry, but simple politeness. By the technical definition, you wouldn’t be a chivalrous man because you have not achieved the dictionary definition of valor, nor have you (very likely–and if you have most haven’t) achieved dexterity with arms.
Generosity and politeness are not the sole listed knightly attributes because they have always been part of every functioning society. These are (when allowed) cultural and human norms. Except that, somehow, recently the idea of both attributes have taken on negative connotations, to the point we now have started looking for ways to rename them. And I think the real question is why? What changed to make us view them in such a negative light, and why are we trying to reclaim an ancient system of honor that was only put in place to control brutish thugs and keep them from destroying the peasantry? (And considering how we largely treat each other now, why is that so appropriate?)
I think also, the idea of chivalry as being gendered (being a largely male-only honor code) works against it. However, “politeness” is gender neutral. Chivalry is classically done by full grown men–and men only–which, as a tradition, leaves out women, children, the disabled, minorities, and many other groups. It’s a reputation that it will not overcome overnight. I think it would be far more effective to try and reclaim a code of politeness than an ancient honor code with a spotty and fractured history.
Kat, your argument is rendered invalid as you are debating the semantics of the English language and clearly don’t have a complete comprehension of it as demonstrated by your lack of understanding of the term, “valor”.
It simply means to show great courage in the face of adversity. I’m sure the about author has done that 🙂
In Kat’s defense, academic and philosophical debate is ENTIRELY a matter of semantics. And she is spot on, the author is talking more about politeness and good manners, while completely ignoring the historical context of chivalry, instead presenting an idealized version of it. Holding a door for someone, or helping them shoulder a heavy load is not chivalrous. It is simply good manners.
Chivalry was a code of conduct developed during the time of feudal monarchies. It is the remnant of a dead era where the nobility SEVERELY oppressed the peasantry. And the chivalric code, in practice, would only typically extend to other noble families (rape and murder of defenseless peasants was a fact of life. But don’t go raping the noble ladies, because that would be unchivalrous).
So, sure, take the good parts of the chivalric code and use them in your life. But make damn sure you actually understand the system as a whole, and not just a dictionary definition that leaves out the entirety of the historical context – in short, a system created by the powers-that-be in an era known as THE FUCKING DARK AGES to oppress those in lower classes under the guise of a code of conduct.
“Women tend to feel that chivalry is outdated, and even chauvinistic.”
No, women in general don’t, feminists do.
Of course, chivalry is about respect and care. Women who don’t like men see this differently but please don’t automatically assume that all women or even the majority see it that way. One thing is for sure, personally I wouldn’t meet a man who doesn’t open a door for me or pay for dinner again.
Also, what does “equality” mean? Does it mean that men and women have to be alike like feminists would like to have it or does it mean that they have the same value while not being alike but complimentory.
I believe in the latter. And no, I don’t believe that a woman necessarily needs to have a masters degree and a successful carreer to be high value in a man’s eye. I think a woman should only strive for these things if this is what truly makes her happy.
I completely agree with everything you say about chivalry… in the way that you are using the word chivalry. However I don’t believe it is generally accepted that a man opening a door for another man is being chivalrous, just because you use a word one way doesn’t mean that when you say it people will hear it that way. Part of the premise of chivalry is that it is something done by the knight in service and in respect to the weaker. Historically this was extended to children, the elderly, the infirm, and women. I believe what you are describing can more accurately described as courtesy, appreciation, or just plain respect. It may seem like semantics, but the language we use serves as a signal to our underlying beliefs. If we continue to use terms that are loaded in this way, we perpetuate the normalization of sexism. It just doesn’t seem worth it. Not only do your actions send messages, but so do the terms you use.
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