Is Chivalry dead? Who knows.

Posted: February 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

Ah, chivalry, that old bastion of common courtesy. Chivalry’s been around as long as I can remember, when I was young I was told to hold doors open for women, get out of my seat on the bus and offer it to the elderly (I haven’t been on a bus since I was about 14) and other such gentlemanly things. I never batted an eyelid when I was younger, it was just something you did. It was in television programmes, in films, I saw people do it every day, it was just one of those things I saw as accepted and, almost, expected on a daily basis.

Then, something happened when I was at University. I tried to open a door for a woman and was thoroughly shamed for doing it. No words were spoken between us, but the look I got and the tut I received as she walked past made me feel like I’d been an unhelpful prick.

Apparently, despite my upbringing, despite everything I had been taught, chivalry was sexist. The more I thought about it, the more I kind of agreed. Of course, everyone I spoke to said it was sexist towards women, but I couldn’t completely agree. It’s sexist towards everyone. It’s sexist towards men and women, but of course it’s the women who we are told are the real victims.

I think it’s sexist for two reason – 1) it does paint women as weak, it implies they are incapable of doing a simple thing like opening the door or pulling a chair out in a restaurant. It implies that they need to be protected and looked after, that they are incapable of even being responsible for their own safety. 2) and here’s something I never really see people think of, it also implies that all women are judgmental bitches who don’t want to do anything on their own. Some women hate chivalry, some would think you less of a ‘real’ man if you didn’t open the car door for her on a date. Either way, women are presented in a derogatory way, either as weak or as entitled.

It affects men in much the same way. It reinforces male disposability. It reinforces the idea that, no matter how strong, or brave, or courageous, or powerful, if he doesn’t open a door for a woman, or pull her chair out for her in a restaurant or, more drastically, put his body in front of hers should the occasion call for it then he’s less of a man.

I never really realised it before, but the assumption that I should open a door for a woman, simply because I’m a man, and simply because she’s a woman is really sexist. While it’s not something that bothered me too much personally, I could see why feminists would get upset, it allows them to, once again, claim an entitled sense of victimhood and paint themselves to be the perennial victims they love being.

After my experiences at university, it just became another thing in the ether, nothing to worry too much about. But now and then it crops up, chivalry is sexist, it implies women are weak, and in this age of equality-for-all that’s not acceptable. I’ve read comments on websites from women saying they’ve loudly admonished men for holding doors open for them, beaten them down verbally and called them a sexist pig simply for having the gall to let a women do something first.

The thing is, there are women out there who still think chivalry should be practiced. It’s one of the great double standards of equality, one of the great hypocrisies of our time, the benevolent sexism that allows women to discard all the negative aspects of sexism (being forced to stay inside, not being paid as much, not having the vote, etc) and keep all the positive aspects that actually benefit them (men paying on dates, etc). It’s a no-win situation for men, and it entirely depends on the woman you’re interacting with. Some women will expect you to still hold the door open for them, some will think nothing of embarrassing you in front of a crowd for doing it.

So, it’s no wonder that chivalry seems to be dying on its arse. A quick look at a rudimentary Google search shows that people really are conflicted as to whether chivalry is expected or accepted any more:

And plenty of websites that are of the opinion that chivalry is, at least to some degree, sexist:

What’s worse is that no-one seems to agree. Some people still think it’s acceptable, some people think it’s a sign that we still live in a horrendously misogynistic society. We get articles saying that we should stop being chivalrous and let women make their own way in life, but then we get articles like this one:

An article that shames men for not being chivalrous. And not only that, but puts it squarely at the feet of men, blaming them for being lazy! So, when we are chivalrous, it’s sexist and we should be thoroughly ashamed, but, on the flipside, when we aren’t chivalrous it’s because we’re are lazy and just want to ‘prove[s] that fairytales don’t exist.’ Can you tell me where men can win in this situation? Damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

Looking at the article above, this is why I say chivalry promotes a sense of entitlement in women:

‘But I do expect basic courtesy like holding a door open, pulling a chair back for me if he’s close, and little things like that.’

Common courtesy, apparently, is now synonymous with chivalry, the idea that a man should afford special treatment to a woman simply because she has a vagina is no longer a sexist idea, but one that should just be accepted as something that happens. Damned if you do…

One thing that is worrying about this idea of chivalry, and it should make women feel ashamed of playing the victim, is the idea of male disposability. Men, through the code of chivalry, are expected to literally die for women, to protect them:

‘Women like feeling protected. Men like protecting.’

That’s right, it’s sexist for the code of chivalry to promote the idea of women needing protecting, it’s against biology, it’s gender stereotyping, yet women like feeling protected, and men like being the protectors. Damned if you do…

But what happens when that protection is taken to the extreme? What happens when that level of chivalry is taken to the point that men are expected to die to protect their women, even if it costs them dearly in other aspects?

I’m in no way trying to trivialize or debase the tragedy of the cinema shooting in Aurora during the Dark Knight Rises screening, but I’ve come across a couple of articles that confuse and anger me somewhat, all dealing with the three young men who literally shielded their girlfriends with their own body, dying in the process.

Chivalry is sexist, yet we have articles the like the ones above who, implicitly, shame men who aren’t prepared to lay down their lives for a woman:

‘By all appearances, these men believed that a man has a responsibility to protect a woman, even to the point of death.’

Now, I’m not one to downplay their heroism, the fact that people died at all is horrendous, the fact these 3 men died while protecting another human is absolutely worthy of commendation, and hey deserve every piece of recognition they get. But the idea that it’s a mans responsibility to protect a woman, even ‘to the point of death’ takes us right back to the benevolent sexism idea. When men die to protect a woman, simply because she’s a woman, it’s seen as valiant and courageous and brave and absolutely the right thing to do, yet when a man opens a door for a woman it’s seen as sexist and an example of patriarchal domination. They are both part of the ‘code’ of chivalry, so why is one, the one that ends with a human dying, seen as so much more acceptable than the other, which ‘hurts’ a woman’s feelings?

All that aside, the shaming in that article is absolutely dripping with misandry:

‘This is especially important given the state of many men today. Record numbers of men aren’t working or even looking for work. Record numbers aren’t marrying or even acting as fathers to their children’

So, in order for men to get back on track, stop being deadbeats, stop being out of work losers, they need to start adhering to a centuries old code of conduct that actively endorses their deaths for the protection of women? That’s how you motivate them, by allowing the privilege of dying for the woman they love?

‘In an age when traditional manhood has been increasingly relegated to fiction — capes, masks and green screens — these three men stand as real-life heroes. Their actions remind us that good triumphs over evil, not just in movies, but also in reality.’

Translation – if you aren’t prepared to die for your woman, you’re worthless, you are worth nothing, you’re not a good man, you’re simply a man. What is this saying to young men everywhere? Can’t get a job? Well, it’s not because the job market sucks, it’s because you’re not being chivalrous enough. Woman shouted at you for holding a door open? You obviously weren’t doing it with enough chivalry, try harder next time.

What happens, though, when that act of chivalry affects another family?

‘After his death we learned that Blunk had an ex-wife and two children living in Nevada. He was scheduled to visit them to resolve marital issues.’

Chivalry promotes the idea that you should abandon your children? Again, I’m not discounting the bravery of this man to protect another life, and despite what feminists say, I do believe men are more inclined to think of others before themselves in these kinds of situations, but his children have lost their father because he was adhering to a code that the majority of people will tell them is outdated.

“How did your dad die”

“He shielded his girlfriend from a gunman”

“Sexist bastard!”

Maybe a slight overblown example, but what happens in the future when another shooting like this happens and the men don’t protect their wives and girlfriends? Does that mean we finally cast off the shackles of chivalry, or does it simply garner more articles like the one above that declare men as ‘lazy’ for not bowing to the whims of a woman?

The Facebook group recently posted this article:

which elicited somewhat of a fiery debate (and a not inconsiderable amount of doucebaggery from certain involved parties, which only serves one purpose; to drive people, me included, further away from the MRM):

It all seemed to centre around one simple question – what has this got to do with feminism? Other questions came and went but, to be honest, after seeing the thread de-generate into a maelstrom of juvenile buffoonery I decided I couldn’t be arsed to carry on reading. Before it went that low I did post this:

‘this isn’t necessarily a case of ‘are they feminist’ but purely a case of ‘look what feminism has done/is doing’

They claim they don’t want/need protecting, then get angry when they feel they aren’t being protected. Men can’t win no matter what they do anymore. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.’

I still believe it. It’s my stock response to the aimless, banal question of ‘what has this got to do with feminism’. It’s not necessary for a woman to be a feminist to benefit from the feminist propaganda that pervades our culture. As we’ve seen with the Google search, feminists think chivalry is sexist. The problem is, ordinary women don’t seem to agree. Unfortunately, despite their claims to the contrary feminists don’t really promote the interest of ordinary women, they promote the interests of the elite group they belong to. They spread the idea that chivalry is sexist and outdated, so men start believing it and stop committing it. Then they get shamed by ordinary women, and men, when they aren’t chivalrous, being called lazy or implied to not be good men if they aren’t willing to dispose of themselves at a moments notice.

One point that kept cropping up in the tornado of drudgery that was the EF post was the idea that institutionalised chivalry is still rampant with selective service and forced conscription. I’m not sure about other countries, but in the UK we used to have something called National Service, where young men between a certain age (16-18 perhaps? I’m not sure) had to do 2 years of service in the forces, compulsory, no getting out of it. No such service existed for women. It doesn’t exist anymore, but it does exist in other parts of Europe, particularly Finland, as the case of Jani Liimatainen demonstrates:

A swift glance at Wikipedia shows us that a lot of countries still have Conscription, a forced sign up of young men to military servitude:

What is interesting, even those countries that don’t have conscription anymore vary wildly in their rates of abolition. Some countries as long ago as 1960, some as recently as 2008. During World War I the White Feather campaigned actively shamed men who weren’t willing to die for their country. White feathers were given out by women, a lot of whom were suffragettes, in order to get men to go and fight for their country (countries are always given the gendered pronoun ‘she’, so effectively these men were forced to lay down their lives for a woman). If chivalry is even institutionalised in this way, are we surprised that so many people are still in favour of it, and are so willing to shame those that are not?

But how can I compare opening a door open for a woman to serving in the military? The point is simple, it’s the hypocrisies of chivalry and how it makes women feel. When a man opens the door for a woman, it suggests she’s not good enough to do it herself, it makes her feel weak, implies that she needs protecting, implies that she’s incapable of being equal. That seems fair enough, that’s what feminism sees as sexist, and I can’t disagree with them. That they ignore the fact it’s also sexist towards men is nothing that I wouldn’t expect from feminism.

The difference comes when it’s the more serious aspects of chivalry. When men open doors for women, they don’t like it because it’s something arbitrary that they can do themselves and then shout ‘progress, I’m just as good as a man’ at the top of their voices. When men get signed up for military service and are shipped off to die in the great theatre of war it’s something that is seen as noble, valiant, courageous, the right thing to do. How is it that the worst-case-scenario is considered the most desirable? Something as trivial as opening a door is seen as sexist, a stain on a society striving for equality, but men throwing themselves in front of women, simply for being women, or going off to war on the basis of a woman’s actions are to be commended, they are the actions of the good men, the motivated men, the men that other men should aspire to, the men that are the true heroes.

Where does it end? Do men drop chivalry altogether? Do we just look after ourselves in situations of dire circumstance? Do we continue to throw ourselves, like human shields, in front of our womenfolk and possibly deny other people the joys of our existence? What happens if we don’t willingly dispose of our own lives, and our wife or girlfriend dies instead? Is that the perils of an equal society? Or is that just another example of ‘lazy’ men not doing what they are supposed to do, what they’re born to do, what they’re taught to do – see themselves as nothing but a slab of protective meat for a woman to hide behind?

As with the last couple of blogs, I really don’t know the answer. Will I continue to hold doors open for women? Yes, of course. Will I do it simply because they’re women? No, of course not, I’ll do it because it’s the polite thing to do, I will also extend that courtesy to men and children.

Even after all 7 pages of this blog, I haven’t even touched on some other aspects of chivalry that sweep our culture – women and children first, who asks who out, who pays on dates, in a hostage situation who do we barter for first? It’s everywhere, it’s more entrenched than you think, men putting themselves in the face of danger, risking something as banal as rejection for a date request to the expectation of death. Chivalry covers all manner of things, it promotes male disposability, it informs men they are nothing more than sacrificial beings, no matter what other contributions you may make to society, no matter how much you may mean to how many people, if you aren’t prepared to sacrifice yourself for the life of another, simply because of that person’s gender, then you’re life is not worth living, you are not worthy of respect for anything you do. You are not courageous, you are not commendable, you’re not brave or heroic, you’re lazy and the degradation of society is all your fault. If you aren’t prepared to die at a moment’s notice then you are failing as a man; it’s as simple as that.

But no, lets carry on thinking about how upset women get when someone holds open a door for them because it makes them feel weak. Congratulations, Feminism, once again you’ve managed to make it all about you.

  1. Jacob says:

    I thought it got started because women used to wear those huge ball gowns and corsets. I have had women who wear that type of clothing for plays and such. Their range of motion was severely limited and they HAD to have the door opened for them and all that jazz.

    • johnsalmon86 says:

      There we are, you learn something new everyday. I’d not heard that before, thanks.

      I have absolutely no idea where it came from, there are lots of different theories and explanations about its origins, I guess we’ll never know 100%.

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