A while ago a respected friend of mine posted a discussion note on Facebook titled "Chivalry should be DEAD," and so naturally, I stopped to read. Shortly after beginning, I learned that the post was in response to an article she had read titled On Chivalry and Internalized Misogyny, written by Amanda Hess of WashingtonCityPaper.com. Normally, based on the title alone, I would have cast this off as another propaganda piece from a dilettante Internet-sociologist touting the counter-productive virtues of fanatical feminism, but my respected colleague's remarks gave me pause. She agreed with the author, making the following statement:
"Chivalry puts the protection of the woman's honor onto any man associated with her. Chivalry is NOT something to strive for. Chivalry assumes that a woman cannot do or think or act of her own volition because she needs to defer to a man in those situations. It breeds misogyny of women because it assumes women are inferior to men."
So I read further, discovering that in the article, Hess uses a combination of historical horror stories and circular logic to levy charges of inherent sexism against the practice of chivalry, casting a damning light on the Western behavior entirely.
She implies that men are historically selfish brutes seeking to control women, and manifesting their desires through chivalrous acts. Failing to realize her own hypocrisy by making such sweeping generalizations about the entire male gender, the author assumes we should strive to eradicate the concept all together, claiming it perpetuates misogny.
True reason was scarce, but there was a definition. The author characterizes chivalry as follows:
Ah, chivalry: That old code of behavior that men must follow in order to protect the “honor” of women they know. Through chivalry, a woman’s honor becomes a man’s responsibility; her honor brings honor to him, and her shame brings him shame. Chivalry isn’t just offensive because it forces men to protect women, but also because traditional ideas of what brings “honor” and “shame” to women are often highly sexist. And so, chivalry also works to encourage women to internalize misogyny in order to preempt shame from befalling men.
Maybe it's cultural, but in the South we have some of the strongest women I've ever encountered and our men revere that strength and nobly seek to honor us in small chivalric gestures, which almost denotes a superiority. I can't remember the last time I opened a door for myself, and if a man doesn't attempt, I think he's rude.
Of course, I am perfectly capable of opening a door for myself and could probably do so quicker than him in my four-inch stilettos, but it is a polite courtesy to me—to show respect, and not a testament to his feeling I'm incapable of opening a door.
Furthermore, we can develop these ideas and constructs for mental sport, but if we're throwing in equality, the fact is that men and women are equally talented in capability and possibility, but some feminist "thinkers" seek to deny our unique disposition differences.
Women have their inherent strengths and men have theirs, and I wouldn't trade mine for theirs any day. Seeking equality in regards to importance is paramount, and I am thankful for the strides women before me have made, for the fight they endured so that I could taste independence.
But we should pay homage to their struggle by being secure in our differences, by promoting better gender relations to preserve their legacy. That doesn't mean pretending those differences don't exist!
That article is the product of critical theory; the practice of deconstructing social concepts to a most ridiculous degree, frequently with a violator/victim mentality. One that has infected Western institutions since the counter-culture revolution. Men aren't courteous! They are chauvinistic for assuming feeble women can't open doors for themselves!
The sad thing is, such hostility sets women further back than most of us realize, because so often men go out of their way to accommodate us, to earn favor, and in turn, we make broad generalizations about respect, equivocating archaic references of feminine subjugation to simple courtesies meant to honor us.
It is the opinion of this dilletante Internet-sociologist that to honor a woman is to act in service to her, to hold her in high regard and to go out of one's way to accommodate her. Just as a good woman does for a good man. Chivalry is what sets apart cretin from gentleman. It is respectful; a microcasm of the highest values instituted by an advanced society: respect and civility. As a woman secure in my feminine power, I see chivalry for what it is, and appreciate it.
And for the record, there are far more legitimate definitions of chivalry, such as:
- A set of ideas about how a good knight should behave. These included treating women with respect, defending the weak and the poor and fighting fairly. www.abdn.ac.uk/english/lion/glossary.shtml
- The rules for polite and honorable behavior that knights were expected to follow. castleandpalacehotels.com/home_pages/glossary.html
- Being attentive to women like an ideal knight. wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn
- Honorable, especially to women; involving chivalry. en.wiktionary.org/wiki/chivalrous
No wonder men are confused about what women want. So am I! Because one thing is for sure: chivalry might be dead for the women that have killed it, but it's alive and well in Texas! And if there are any gentleman reading this post, thank you for opening my doors. Please continue to do so, or I'm going to think you have no manners.