Long Live Chivalry

Long Live Chivalry. This is one of the best, most powerful articles I have read in a long time. It deserves to be read, because it tears away many of the half-truths, dismissals, sneers, and contradictory objections that have been leveled against even the idea of chivalry (when it comes to how men should treat women).

Whether it’s the historical instances of knights falling short of their calling, or the insistence that special respect toward women somehow amounts to talking down to them, I have never understood why so many people have said chivalry should die and stay dead.

The women I know are wonderful human beings, and fully capable of taking care of themselves. More power to them! And they absolutely should keep fighting for equality under the law, equal wages, and everything else that puts them on equal footing with men. But I want to be a man who holds the door open anyway, because I respect and value them. And I’m not going to stop reaching for that ideal just because a few women think it’s somehow chauvinistic and patronizing that some men act like they have a duty to treat them with special dignity.

Even if I can’t be an ideal knight, I can at least try to emulate a proper knight’s manners and sense of responsibility for how they should treat ladies.

Thanks for your time.

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3 thoughts on “Long Live Chivalry

  1. Tell you what: as soon as you’ve lived as a female for a good portion of your adult life, you can tell me whether I should feel infantilized and patronized by chivalry.

    That article reeked of mansplaining and failed to take into account that women, like all people, are allowed to have their own reactions to how they are treated. I personally like having doors opened for me (by women and men and even polite little children), but not all women do, and it is every woman’s right to like or dislike how she is treated. Please do not tell women, on the whole, how they are supposed to behave or react. We are individuals.

    Treating women differently because they are women and for no other reason isn’t chivalrous in 2013, it is sexist. In fact, that’s the definition of sexism – treating women differently because they are women – whether it has a positive or a negative result for the woman.

    Manners are manners, and they shouldn’t have anything to do with gender.

    • Individuality isn’t the issue here. Is setting up a standard of conduct and attitude *for myself* the same thing as treating all women as having no individuality (or saying their uniqueness doesn’t matter)? Of course not. A woman’s individuality should never be ignored, especially not by a chivalrous man.

      Chivalry isn’t the same thing as general manners/etiquette, which indeed apply to everyone. Chivalry is something else, as the original article states clearly.

      By the way, how come there isn’t nearly so public an uproar when a woman says something about *men* as a group? A yet bigger problem is that mansplaining is a term so plastic it can be shaped to fit (and cast into a negative light) anything a man says about women as a group, even if it is respectful, affirming, or just an accurate observation.

      Finally, let me see if I have this straight. The other label, that of sexism, applies to respectful and *positive* treatment that affirms women carry a value which men do not possess?

      That makes no sense. It’s an assertion that is either self-contradictory, or it redefines chivalry as something that is automatically negative. If it’s the latter, that’s circular reasoning — assuming the intrinsic negativity of chivalry before it is demonstrated.

      • Chivalry does not exist in a vacuum. It’s a policy regarding the treatment of others. I appreciate that you have good intentions, but those intentions are directed at other people, not just yourself, and you need to consider whether others want to be the recipients of your intentions. A guiding code is all well and good, but this particular code is not internal.

        I send thank-you notes to everyone who gives me a gift. Friends who have told me that thank-you notes make them uncomfortable have a little notation next to their names in my address book. I won’t treat others even with the politeness with which I was raised if they don’t want me to.

        Indeed I do think that sexism (which, again, is any system or behavior that treats one gender differently by virtue only of that gender) is inherently negative, whether it results in positive or negative treatment. I might be able to flirt my way to the front of a line, but that’s not at all a good thing and I would never do it. By a logical construction I’d say yes, chivalry is inherently negative, because it is certainly sexist. I would rather walk through the mud and stand up on the subway than have it be presumed that I don’t want to (or shouldn’t have to) do either because I’m female. That presumption involves slapping preferences on me that are not necessarily so due only to my gender.

        You may want only to be kind to me, and that kindness may taste great to you, but it’s bitter in my mouth because it presumes so much. Should I give you a football and a keg of beer for your birthday because you’re male? I only mean to be kind and give a gift, but I’m taking extreme stereotypes of masculinity (in this country) and presuming they apply to you. That is hurtful.

        Chivalry’s effects, especially on men, do not always have to be negative. Which is what I think you’re trying to demonstrate in this post, and I appreciate that all you want is a nice world. But the system can lead to outmoded all-or-nothing perspectives on women that tend to serve men very harmfully.

        As for a lack of uproar when women make public generalizations about men, I won’t defend such generalizations, as I try not to make them without couching them in my observations, education, or the words “I suspect”. I find toilet-seat-up jokes just as unfunny as bad-women-driver jokes. But I do know that black commentators and comedians are given a lot more room to talk about race in uncomfortable terms than white ones. Women’s voices and minority voices have been rarely heard against the great chorus of white male voices in Western culture for the last 3,000 years, so I think women and minorities are given a bit more leeway to make generalizations right now. Another hundred (or thousand) years, maybe not so much.

        And as for mansplaining, I think you’re missing the point of the term. Tapson is explaining to me, and to all the women who wrote articles denouncing it, how we’re misinterpreting chivalry. I well understand the term and my own reactions to it, but because my reactions don’t jibe with his, he explains why I’m wrong. His nonsense about “embracing [my] authentic nature” is what sent me over the edge, and if he hadn’t said such an atrociously sexist thing I would probably have accepted his opinion as simply different than mine and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. He calls me “resentful, confused and polarized” for “[d]enying age-old, hard-wired” gender roles, which are not emotional states in which I live my life, despite my feminism. That is mansplaining, telling me how I should be feeling and how my reactions are wrong because he is right about how I should be treated. It is not for Tapson to determine how I like to be treated. It is for me, since I am the one receiving the treatment.

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