Shivers from Chivalry?

As a 90’s child, I have been brought up in quite a confusing era. The mix of traditional values mixed with liberal progression has put us all, especially women, in a huge predicament.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about chivalry and ‘Gentlemanly’ behaviour. I’ve spent a lot of time living in different British cities as well as abroad in Boston. I’ve also extensively travelled in the East. The same thoughts always enter my mind when I encounter a situation when a man opens a door for me and even when they don’t. Should a man feel obliged to open a door for me? As a feminist, should I allow them to do it or does this signify a weakness or inferiority? Do I have to offer to open the door for him? I JUST WANT TO GET THROUGH THE BLOODY DOOR!

9_chivalry-lessons-from-legendary-gentleman-flashAlas, this ‘palava’ occurs almost daily, especially as I enter the world of work. Just this morning, a man opened the door and signaled me to enter first. I declined and said ‘oh no, after you!’ but he insisted and I yielded.  Furthermore, my brother would shave his sideburns before allowing me to carry my own suitcase, and believe me, he loves his sideburns…

A few points I have thought about and have read on this issue…

I’ve tried to think objectively when assessing whether there are gender issues at play. Hard, I know, but I have to try. I have began to use Caitlin Moran‘s test for whether something is sexist or not – simply – ‘Are the men doing it?’. If they are not, then something must be wrong in the gender balance that needs to be assessed. In this case, are the men worried about chivalrous women or alternatively, are women extending the same ‘gentle-womanly’ courtesy to men. I would argue that they do and therefore chivalry is not benevolent sexism. In a post-feminist society, where women are (or should be) just as likely to offer to pay the bill or open the door, I think it is more appropriate to assess chivalrous behaviour as just simple politeness.  One person extending a courtesy to another based on their common decency. I might even go as far to say women seem to be expected to do these kind of things whereas men seem to want a gold star for helping a girl with her coat. I fully understand that this is quite a Western concept of manners, however. No one in China will give up a seat for you even if you were pregnant and/or on crutches…

Another, probably more controversial argument for the return of chivalry is to protect women from the fact that, whether we like it or not, we are generally the physically weaker sex. Personally, I do agree with this notion but I understand why many women may object to this statement. I’ve read that the original point of chivalry in the Middle Ages was to ensure the protection of women from men who could do them harm, had they not had the respect and civility that we can chivalry. This social construct was created to prevent violence, domestic abuse and general hostility. We all know that this may not have been wholly successful, but I fully believe that the construct of this ‘kind’ behaviour may have prevented many males from having a hostile nature towards women. We can see, for example,  a current trend  in lack of this social expectation and a dangerous increase in ‘Lad” culture.

A story from the life of Samuel Proctor (d. 1997) comes to mind here, that I read in The Atlantic. Proctor was the  pastor of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church. The story goes, he was in the elevator one day when a young woman came in. Proctor tipped his hat at her. She was offended and said, “What is that supposed to mean?”

The pastor’s response: “Madame, by tipping my hat I was telling you several things. That I would not harm you in any way. That if someone came into this elevator and threatened you, I would defend you. That if you fell ill, I would tend to you and if necessary carry you to safety. I was telling you that even though I am a man and physically stronger than you, I will treat you with both respect and solicitude. But frankly, Madame, it would have taken too much time to tell you all of that; so, instead, I just tipped my hat.”

What a babe.

633768982298016740-chivalryI figured, that as a young women, I needed to establish my position on issues such as these. I choose to view chivalry not as an act of condescension, but as a kindly respect of men for their counterparts. Sometimes I think women need to have a little less pride and men a bit more tact. This isn’t to say I would think badly of a man if he didn’t hold my door open. I would probably start blushing if he tucked in my chair at dinner or opened my car door. But, it does allow me to appreciate the awkwardnesses and limitations of both our sexes within the ever changing society we are growing up in. None of us know what we are doing and we are stuck in etiquette-limbo…

I would absolutely LOVE to hear your views on this, more than anything else i’ve written. I’ve not covered all bases, just a few quick thoughts (or whims!), so comment away!

Over and Out.

If you haven’t already, find out what adoseofpersonalwhim is about in About Sanum Jain

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s