Chivalry Isn’t Dead

Posted By on May 5, 2018

I was listening to the Drew Mariani show on Relevant Radio, and he talked about a time when a barista took offense because he offered to buy someone’s coffee. The someone was a female. As is often the case, in the name of progress, someone took umbrage at a kind gesture. On the show, he talked a little about chivalry, and then posed: Is chivalry really dead? Do women really dislike having doors open for them, or having their date pay for dinner?

It occurs to me that chivalry really isn’t at all what we think it is. It’s not about subjugation. It’s not even about kindness. It’s about respect. Chivalry teaches respect.

There is no getting around it, men have opportunities women don’t have. Most men are taller, stronger, and better paid than most women. (I am not arguing that it’s ok. It is not ok for women to get paid less if they are doing the same job, and it is not ok for women to be passed over for raises or promotion, if they are equally qualified.) It is far too easy for men to lord it over women, It is also easy for men to become passive and cease to pay any attention to women’s abilities, needs, and personalities. That, of course, breeds selfishness and narcissism. And the narcissist is going to want women to pay attention only to his abilities, needs, and personality. When men don’t respect women, we open the door for a harmful level of self-centeredness in society. And if women don’t receive care, they will start relying only on themselves and caring for only themselves. I’ve said before that love isn’t give and take. It’s give and give. When it’s each partner for his/herself, it’s take and take. Which isn’t love at all, it’s just two people using each other.

The thing is, we all have potential fatal flaws, and some tend to be more present in men, and some tend to be more present in women. And, at the risk of sounding like I’m anti-man, I want to talk about men here.

Men often don’t know what’s going on in the world around them outside of their careers. Men like my Charming and Patient Husband have a lot on their plates. In the typical nuclear family, men are making a living 40 hours a week.  That’s a lot of hours to be away from the home. Right from the start, they have less opportunity for bonding, even with paternity leave, if Mom nurses. I applaud the families that have overcome that risk, but it’s not common enough. (Have I mentioned how awesome my son in law is?)

Disconnected men often don’t know what’s going on in their families. They aren’t there to see everything, and are often too tired to take over when they are home. even in my family, with my emphatically connected husband, “where’s the…” is always prefaced with “Mom?” They expect me to be the one who can locate things. (I tell them that if they would clean, they would know where everything is, but they don’t believe me. Again, that’s for another time!) It’s never “Dad? Where’s the tape?” or “Dad, can I go to my friend’s house?” As I hope I’ve made abundantly clear, it is not because my husband is a slacker, but because I’m the one they are most used to.

Now, imagine a world where men never care for women. Let’s say they are told never to do something for a woman, because it will offend, so they stop doing.  If they stop doing these things, they become less respectful and caring, not more. The phrase “Do unto others before they do unto you” has taken root in many homes. It makes husband and wife adversaries instead of partners. When a man feels unnecessary to anyone but himself, he will act unnecessary.

Chivalry fights that. Chivalry means a man opens the door, because he is reminded that he cares for women. Chivalry puts women and children first, because he is reminded that women and children are of tremendous value. Chivalry reminds a man that he is capable of being kind, helpful, and useful. And that he can reach that box on the top shelf at the store. Chivalry isn’t to take away a woman’s agency, it is to remind her, and himself, that she matters. Far too many women have lived lives where they were treated like they didn’t matter. Far too many women still do. If we want to get rid of disrespect for women, there are a lot of things we need to do. We need to teach boys that no means no. We need to teach men that fatherhood means Daddyhood. We need to prepare young women for careers, so that they know that they are able to support themselves; and so that their husbands know. We need to teach all children that we take care of those who are smaller or weaker. Having a cat is a great idea. And we need to teach boys and young man honor. That they do for others because it’s the honorable thing to do. And that honor is a defining characteristic. Honor means not putting yourself first, and without an opportunity to learn honorable behavior, men will skip out on parental responsibilities, take advantage of women, and fear a woman who is career-prepared.

Chivalry isn’t dead. I know because I married my knight. But the world needs a whole lot more of it.


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