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Chivalry is not dead, but it should be!
August 16, 2007, 12:57 pm
Filed under: chivalry, dates, dating, Feminism, feminists, gender roles, love, men, misogyny, relationships, women

Sitting in traffic this morning (sounds like an idea for a real good Fountains of Wayne song, huh?) I was browsing through the morning paper and saw a quite interesting story on “what women want.” Apparently, the number one desired goal out of their dates is, according to this writer who just crawled out from under a rock (think Encino Man), is chivalry.

You know exactly what chivalry means – it’s that crap of treating women like they’re fragile and princesses, as though they’re soft and nimble, and that without a man there to protect them, they would just fall of the face of the earth (because it is flat, you know) and die.

It is my assertion that while chivalry is not dead, it should be. In the end, for me, chivalry is nothing more than a means of treating women a certain way, to highlight the myth that they’re “different,” just to keep them down. Maybe that sounds a bit, oh, I don’t know, radical feministic of me, but it’s true.

To be sure, there are certain things that we ought to do for people, simply because we’re kind and cordial. But when those nice and cordial things are done for a person based on that person’s gender, I have a problem with it.

When we treat someone differently, based of their perceived abilities, it also makes sense that we make a statement of value to say that they lack the ability to do certain things, and that their “natural” environment is where they’d be most comfortable. In that, we also exclude them from certain environments in which they don’t traditionally belong. In this case, by treating women as soft and fragile, or as princesses and unable to “survive” in the public sphere without our “protective arms,” we downgrade their true human abilities to accomplish things.

Besides, it’s just freaking creepy. Why the hell would anyone want to kiss a woman’s hand as a way of greeting them? Why should I have to open a car door for a woman as if she’s not able to do it on her own?

The other day here at work, we had a big ceremony thing, and I was in charge of shaking hands and meeting people. A colonel ran up to me a few minutes into the ceremony, and said, “Sergeant, we need you to escort a young lady …” I was thinking, “What, she needs to go to the bathroom? How did you know I like …”

The next thing I knew, she was grabbing on to my arm and dragging me down the aisle to her seat. What the hell? Unless you’re missing three toes and can’t balance yourself to walk 30 feet, why the hell would you want to grab on to me just to get escorted?  Doesn’t it just show that you’re relying on me for the smallest of things? Why would you want to exemplify this in public? If you aren’t intimately involved with me, please do not grab on to my arms and drag me anywhere.

A few months ago, at the Young Feminist Leadership Conference in DC, I heard something amazing that stuck with me until this day. In addressing the women at the conference (who out numbered me by about 100 folds), Ellie Smeal of the Feminist Majority Foundation said this: “Never accept favors and privilege based on your gender. It might seem like you’re gaining from it at first, but in the end, scratch the surface, and you realize that it’s used as a way to, at a later time, keep you down.” I agree with her.

My point is this: chivalry is not dead, but it should be. If I had it in my power, I’d cut it off at the knees.

On the same note: what about paying when you’re out with the opposite sex? That’s the one bit of “chivalry” stuck in me that I still need to get rid of. While I love to pay, and always do, I feel guilty doing so, because I don’t want to send the message that perhaps such lady owes me something simply because I paid for dinner. She does not owe me anything.

In the end, besides physical interaction, we should be treating females as we would males. If a man is doing something for a woman that he wouldn’t otherwise do for another man, it’s chivalry, and it sucks.

23 Comments so far
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Yeah, ok. One aspect that you dont seem to understand is that women want both. They want to be strong and independent, treated as an equal. At the same time they also want to be taken care of, waited on, “escorted” etc.

This isnt going to change anytime soon. I myself dont have a problem opening doors for my wife. She hasnt had to open a restaurant door in 9 years. What’s it hurt? It doesnt be little me as a man. Also, doing something nice for someone isnt keeping them down unless “they” see it as being that way.

With the sexes being different there is no way your going to “cut chivalry off at the knees” just wont happen.

Men also have to relize that they dont have to act as cromagnon man to women either. I happen to have a 2.5 year old son. he will be taught that while women want to be treated as equals. It also doesnt hurt to pay for the meal and open a door.

Comment by Frustrated Hubby

OMG, yes! The whole “door opening” thing always gets me. I live and work and am female in rural VA, and, being the nice person that I am, I often hold doors open for folks, male and female. But sometimes I get an old fart, who probably really does need a door held for him, and he acts insulted because *gasp* a woman held the door for him!

Oh, and when I’m walking toward a door, but not quite close yet, and some guy sees me coming and holds the door before I’m there, forcing me to practically run so I don’t have to keep him there for more than 60 seconds (or so he doesn’t leer at me while I walk toward him, ick) drives me absolutely batty.

As for paying on dates and such, I think the issue that you and a lot of other men (read: every man I’ve ever dated) is that it doesn’t seem like you’re doing something because you think the woman is weaker. It doesn’t deal with a woman’s physicality, but rather her financial situation. I think for a lot of men, this is the last hurdle, because it’s so nuanced. I’ve never been on a first date where the man has “let” me pay, or even pick up my half. I try not to hold it against you guys, but it always makes me feel awkward if there’s no second date for me to make up the difference.

Whew. Clearly, you hit a nerve!

Comment by Mary

I met a guy who insisted on paying for mostly everything. The second place we went to I paid the bill when he went to take a leak. He asked me why when he came back and I just shrugged and brushed it off. It was a sneaky thing to do but it wasn’t a date, we weren’t intent on impressing each other etc.. Point being, if it’s a date I believe the person who asks the other one out should pay, second time around the other one can pay, saves the embarassment of splitting the costs at the table. After that…you have to be able to discuss money if you plan to spend time together. It’s also different if you’re paying for a friend who’s temporarily short of money. Common sense I guess.

As for chivalry, it can often be mistaken for just plain politeness or helpfulness. A guy dropping me home late at night is simply concerned for my safety. As for the fake kissing on the hand thing…germs. It varies.

Comment by vintagefan

Tony, first of all, anyone who attempts to reply to something serious with “Yeah, okay” just loses all credibility, but that’s neither here nor there. I am guessing you’re the prime example of what it means to be in a meaningful relationship, right, given that your blog is all about how sexually frustrated you are with your relationship.

As if the sole purpose of your wife is to satisfy your sexual needs. Way to be misogynistic. That shit isn’t going to fly on a feminist blog, I hope you understand. Go read the post again, because your bitching had nothing to do with what I was getting at.

And lastly, don’t tell me what I “don’t seem to understand.” I am a women’s studies major, feminist and I’ve probably been with more women, romantically and otherwise, than you’ll ever fantasized about. But the women I am with are feminist and won’t lay down in submission to you, so I am guessing you’d stand no chance with them.

Way to speak for all women, too, with the whole “they want to be treated as equals” but are looking to be waited after. Clearly, you’ve got a very dillusional view of women and the world. But what am I bitching about? Most of society does.

Comment by profeministmale

Mary, you’re right. That’s why I don’t often want to put women I date into said situations; but at the same time, it just feels right. While we’re both in college, I think I do make a bit more than most other college students, so it only makes sense. This is not done as a way to insult women, but to just simply be the nice person. But, of course, I feel awkward because I don’t want to make said women feel as though they owe me anything — and, of course, they don’t. Maybe that’s why cooking together on the first date is a great idea. 🙂

Where in “rural Virginia?” I am in Norfolk (at ODU) and it feels so country here, too!

Comment by profeministmale

Vintagefan, you’re absolutely right. There are certain things that I do for my friends, simply because I love them, and not based on their gender. The dropping off is the perfect example.

I have a problem with it when guys treat women a certain way because they’re women. It strikes a super nerve in me!

Comment by profeministmale

Frustrated Hubby, dude, many women do not want to be taken care of. We are not children, we are adults, and being taken care of is insulting and infantilizing. And, by what you say, men don’t like to be taken care of, or “waited on” at all, which is the total opposite of my experience. Do you treat your wife with chivalry at home, as well? Do you “escort” her from room to room? Do you “wait on” her by bringing her dinner? Or do you only open doors and pull out chairs when you’re out in public? See what chivalry really means?

Pro — I’ve heard the “it doesn’t feel right” thing before, too. I just say, try it and you’ll get used to it, and so will your wallet! The way I explain it to dates is thusly: Why should he have all the fun in treating a date to a yummy dinner? It feels good to treat someone to something special, and it should go both ways. Of course, cooking really is the most fun way around all of it! (P.S. I’m in Lex Vegas (Lexington) at W&L. Sadly, past my student days. But, I think I’ve got you beat here in SW VA in terms or rural! Coastal VA is much more normal.)

Comment by Mary

I kind of agree and disagree… well, ok, mostly I agree, based on the idea of the intent of the actions. I think it’s nice and polite and fine to do things like hold the door open for others, etc, and keep it as a 2-way street. To do something based solely on the other person’s gender does seem to cross a line.

However, there are differences in this world as to women and men, and how they have to act, etc. One example that comes to mind when someone mentioned the dropping off of friends is, if you go out at night and a friend has to walk to their car alone at night, do you walk them to the car? What if they’re a guy or girl? With a guy many people would probably let them be. With a girl, it’s almost a duty to keep her company to make sure she gets to the car safely. This isn’t an issue of “treating her like a princess” but sadly one of personal safety, knowing that she’s more likely to be violently attacked than a guy. In cases like this, sometimes you have to do something based on someone’s gender, and it’s necessary and thoughtful, not misogynistic.

Comment by Marcy

PS- Unfortunately, I also have to agree with Frustrated Hubby in that many women *do* want it both ways. Maybe not the loud feminists y’all encounter often, and no it’s not *every* woman, but many more conservative females, for sure, and those of us raised in the south. I will admit that, yes, I do enjoy having doors opened for me and men being nice, even if it is b/c I’m a woman. Does this go against my feminist beliefs? Yes. But who of us doesn’t have somewhat contradictory feelings or opinions about something or other?

And, sadly, many women simply want to be taken care of and not be seen as equals at all. They’d rather be a rich trophy wife with lots of servants. Turn on nearly any reality tv show and you’ll see that.

Comment by Marcy

I think that chivalry needs to be fazed out of our society and culture and just incorporate common decency and courtesy to each other, regardless of gender. I always open the door for older people and I will glady stand there and wait for them to reach the door, even if it takes longer than 60 seconds. I also hold open the door for men and women both if they are behind me. I wish that acts of kindness weren’t viewed as “chivalrous” but just common courtesy to our fellow human beings.

Frustrated Hubby – I am with Marc when I say that you don’t know a thing about Feminism and what women want. I don’t know any women in their right mind who want to be taken care off by men. Where is the self worth in a woman who wants that?

Comment by Trish

Allow me to explain. I understand and know that women in general dont want to be taken care of. I was implying that male or femal it’s a nice thing to do, opening doors, being polite. Whats wrong with that?

I do see my wife as an equal. She is not there to fulfill my sexual needs. Being sexual with the person you love is one aspect of a relationship. Or, do feminists dont see it that way?

My blog although started as a way to allow me to let out my frustrations. Also talks and deals with the aspects of my wifes abuse by her father and how I have stood there for the past 9 years, beside her through everything. It also discusses that I know and understand that her lack of sex drive is not of her doing but that of another, her father.

Do I treat her differently, I guess you could say I do. I do this because all of the other men in her life previous to ours treater her like crap. So, to open a door, to escort her in somewhere, to buy her what she wants, just to watch her smile is wrong?

I should have worded my first post differently. I made gerneral statement and that shouldn’t have happened.

Comment by Frustrated Hubby

And lastly, don’t tell me what I “don’t seem to understand.” I am a women’s studies major, feminist and I’ve probably been with more women, romantically and otherwise, than you’ll ever fantasized about. But the women I am with are feminist and won’t lay down in submission to you, so I am guessing you’d stand no chance with them.

Lets not go there shall we. It’s childish and not needed.

Comment by Frustrated Hubby

If you don’t understand what’s wrong with that, you’ve got a serious reading problem, and instead of sitting home watching porn as you claim to have liked to do, you should be taking up sone reading lessons.

And secondly, I’ll go wherever the hell I want on this blog. If you don’t like it, I don’t know what to tell you, bro.

So, let me guess, what do you want for standing by your wife? A cookie? To be truthful, you’re not all that interesting and shouldn’t be exalted for doing something you’re supposed to do in the first place.

Comment by profeministmale

I think chivalry is chivalry, not courtesy, and therefore problematic when:
-men do things for women that they wouldn’t want women to do for them
-women want men to do things for them that they wouldn’t want to do for men
-men expect something in return
-men do it for women but not for anyone else because they think women need the help because they’re weak, fragile, bad with money, whatever

I think a lot of people agree that the second two are wrong but don’t think about the first two. The first one especially bothers me, because I think it’s a sign of pride in the status that the man has over the woman, as the one able to help her. If there was nothing fishy going on there, men wouldn’t feel emasculated when women don’t let them pay. Whether a guy thinks the woman needs his help or not, paying for her is related to power. Then people tell us we’re the ones that have the power because we can get guys to buy us stuff. But that just means that our power is in our sex appeal – that’s how the gold-digger scenario works. And sex-appeal power doesn’t have a very good track record, in my opinion. I think it’s the illusory power that patriarchy allows women (but then sometimes punishes them for).

Comment by judgesnineteen

I completely agree with you, Profeministmale. Chivalry is a sexist, antiquated concept. It just perpetuates sexual stereotypes and hinders progress. Courtesy to ALL people, no matter their gender, is what’s important.
Chivalry assumes women are the “Other” who need to be treated a certain way; in exchange they’re expected to submit to their men.
I open doors for people all the time because it’s the polite thing to do. Don’t open a door for me simply because I’m a woman and then let it slam in some man’s face.
I find that a lot of men like making a big show about how chivalrous they are – racing to reach a door before the woman in front of him and staring her up and down as she walks through, just that self-congratulatory attitude a lot of “chivalrous” (i.e. chauvenist) guys have. Ugh.

Comment by SarahMC

I live in the real world champ, not America, but the real world, Australia!

II dont understand, there are simply things which each sex CANNOT do the same as others. This is not about God, as you might like to think, it is about reality. Men DO NOT communicate in the same way as females, we have tried to create that culture, its called emo, men are feminine, but they still do not relate in the same way.

Similarly, there are things which men are more suited for over women. I wont list them, but they are not simply going to be work and sex.

I am not on about equality in gender roles, simply equality in gender worth! Our women need to be liberated from the pressure to be a man and a woman in this world, and be allowed, pressure free, to be the women they are. (PS this will be different for each woman, and they ought to be given the opportunity to do as they wish – but feminism has simply asked women to take on two roles, and has placed them under undue pressure and stress. Liberate women today!)

Comment by Steve

“but feminism has simply asked women to take on two roles, and has placed them under undue pressure and stress. Liberate women today!”

As a feminist, who has heard the same opinion from other feminists, here’s what I want: for women to be able to have a family AND a job, just like men can (why is it two roles for a woman but just normal life for a man?), and for men to help with the childcare and housework so that women don’t get unduly stressed. This generally requires companies to stop treating their employees as if they have a wife at home to take care of everything besides work, so it will take time and change to fully work. I don’t want to force anyone to work who doesn’t want to, I agree with you about how people are different and should be able to do what they wish, but I do think women should have the option to be working mothers the way men have the option to be working fathers.

As for your comment about emo culture – seriously? You think that proves something?

I’d advise you not to argue with feminists about gender roles unless you have evidence that some specific difference is biological rather than socialized. Pointing to differences that currently exist doesn’t prove that they exist because of nature rather than nurture. Anyway, if the ideal is for people to live their lives the way they want without pressure, why would we want to tell them “this is how women do it and this is how men do it”? Couldn’t we just give everyone all the options and let them pick what they want? That’s what I want as a feminist.

Comment by judgesnineteen

I want to be a mass murderer, is that an okay choice?

Somewhere along the line, we must stand up for issues of right and wrong, and our society pressures women to live a high powered life, and have a family. The sad thing is, last time I checked, I don’t have a uterus. There are differences between us as sexes, and women feel the pressure, once they have kids, to live in a certain way. Men could and should help out around the house, but womens roles are always going to be different in the home, not because of their tasks, but because of their anatomy!

I dont have an issue with working mothers, but I know plenty who feel pressured to be so, becasue it in some way ‘çompletes’ them as a person. It should be okay to have an identity as one or the other without society pressuring them to be both.

Choices are fine, but we must realise that choice is not the be all and end all of life. Some choices are downright unhelpful, such as the desire to murder. But we have not only given women the choice (which we should be happy with), but have pressured them to make the choice we want them to make. This is why I call it militant feminism, becasue the women feel pressured to choose family, career, social involvement, beauty and many other things. Lets allow our women to be content at what they choose, not what they are pushed into

Comment by Steve

“I want to be a mass murderer, is that an okay choice?”

Well I thought it was implied that we were talking about more benign gender role stuff, like to work or not to work, but if you want the full version, I think people should be free to make informed choices with as little pressure on them as possible until the point when they infringe on the rights of another person. Killing someone would be infringing on their rights. So no, that’s not ok.

You see pressure on women to work. I see pressure on women to be “womanly” and “feminine.” I’m sure we’re both right in some ways. I think both of those kinds of pressure should be decreased as much as possible. Here’s a good way NOT to decrease pressure: raise girls to believe that they have to be “feminine” to be moral and well-liked.

By the way, once a woman gives birth and finishes breast feeding if she decided to, her anatomy does not make her more suited to parenting or less suited to work than a man is, or if it does in some way, you have yet to show that. And are you aware of the discrimination against pregnant women and working mothers in their jobs? *That’s* where a lot of the pressure comes from. If employers would change, and a lot of feminists think they should, to accept that women can have families and still be responsible, competent employees, women would find it a lot easier to have what they want.

As you said, you don’t have a uterus. Well I do. And I want both. I see no good reason why I can’t have a family and a job. I am good at my field and I want to do something in it. It makes me happy. The idea of having a husband and a kid or two makes me happy too. Why is it so hard for me to have both, when my male friends don’t even have to consider that as an issue? Do you respect that? Or do you think I must just feel that way because militant feminists have pressured me into thinking I should be that way?

Comment by judgesnineteen

Steve is operating under the assumption that working outside the home is “manly” while being a homemaker is “womanly.” He is arguing from a gender essentialist POV, whether he knows it or not.
Steve, you’re not going to convince feminists of your argument when you advocate narrow gender roles like that. When you advocate that “nature” somehow made men for one career/job/role and women for the opposite. Men have families and jobs; do you want to “liberate” them as well? Or is it only us women you’d like to “free” from participation in the public sphere. You’re repackaging constraints as “freedom” and we’re not buying it.
Oh, and it’s feminism that aims to free women from the time-consuming, expensive, oppressive and sexist beauty rituals you speak of. Patriarchy expects us all to conform to the “feminine” appearance.

Comment by SarahMC

Oh, and you know what? I don’t really feel like working either. I’d rather stay home and hang out with my dog. But reality dictates that I’ve got to support myself financially. Families live in that same reality. OK – you “free” a bunch of women who’d rather not work outside the home, and now their families are living under the poverty line.

Comment by SarahMC

What is wrong with chivalry??? I love a man to open the door for me. I am a girly girl … but not too much. I like to be treated like a lady!!! Perhaps I am old fashioned but I expect it!!

Comment by myblog4luv

Well, that’s cool if you like it, myblog4luv, there are guys out there who like giving it.

For others of us however, this is not the case, and so treating all women with a blanket approach will not work. Basically, men and women need to get to know each other and adjust their behaviors accordingly, i.e. communicate respectfully. If a woman likes chivalric behavior, cool, find a guy who likes it too. If a woman doesn’t like it, however, she shouldn’t be forced to accept it, no matter how nice or considerate it may seem on the surface.

Treat people how they want to be treated, not the way you deem that they SHOULD want to be treated based on their gender.

Comment by Liyaz

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