Male Chivalry Or Sexism?
August 11, 2012
By: Meg Fozzard
I had to draw a blank with him there; I’m just as confused as he is when it comes to the rules and regulations of sexism.
For instance, many would look at modern society today and cry ‘chivalry is dead!’! But do women want chivalry to be alive and kicking, or is it adhering to some outdated notion that is unbalancing the sexes? One study led by the feminist Society for the Psychology of Women (based in Washington DC) goes as far as to suggest that acts of chivalry like opening a door for a women, helping her pick a new computer and even calling both woman and men ‘guys,’ merely puts women in the position of ‘victims of “benevolent sexism”.
As trusty Wikipedia will tell you the word Chivalry or ‘the chivalric code’ is ‘the traditional code of conduct associated with the medieval institution of knighthood.’ It relates to courtly love and the idea that a knight has a duty to his lady, whilst also acting with courteousness to all other women. This duty includes defending their ladies honour and serving them. Many feminists argue that this meaning of the word comes from a time in which women were not fully independent if they required a man to ‘serve’ them. From some point of views, without even noticing it we are abiding by social constructs that are holding women back. If we continue to have male chivalry in the modern world, we are subtly ingraining the idea that women are weaker than men and ‘need’ them. From the perspective of some women I have spoken to, it is the idea of weakness that is implied in these acts that offends them, not the act itself.
Another aspect that I think contributes towards modern ideas of male chivalry: what I call ‘nice guys come last’ syndrome. For those who don’t know what I’m
really, if you are being a nice guy simply to get something in return and complain about it if you don’t, then are you genuinely being a nice guy? Surely the whole idea of chivalry is for chivalry’s own sake, not to gain anything, but merely to be polite.
This is what it boils down to in my opinion: politeness. Politeness from both sexes towards each otherfor it’s own sake, anything gained from this to be thought of as a bonus. This applies to both parties; we can’t have our cake and eat it. For example, I mean a man opening a door for a woman without expecting her to go on a date with him, but if she wants to then it would be a bonus. And if a woman goes for a meal with a man, she doesn’t assume he is going to pay for the entire bill, but if he wants to and she is comfortable with it then it would be a bonus. One male feminist I spoke to agrees with me that there is a confusion between the ‘somewhat ridiculous concept of chivalry that helps contribute to men thinking women are the ‘weaker’ sex’ and what is ‘just called good manners and should be applied to everybody you come across’. What is interesting when you look at the actual meaning of the phrase ‘chivalry’, it derives from more than just attitudes to women but a general code of conduct for knights also regarding their duties to their fellow countrymen, Christianity and the Lord. It’s more about how to be a dutiful person, but it’s only the chivalrous love aspect that we make a big deal out of.
And if chivalry means being a better person, then I’m all up for it. I would be happy for a man to open the door for me and not expect anything in return in the same way that I would open the door for him. Maybe the concept of ‘male’ chivalry belongs in the Middle Ages, but the concept of chivalry, regardless of your gender, can exist in modern society. A world where people are generally just nicer to each other can’t be that bad, can it?