I was on Facebook today, scrolling down my newsfeed as usual, when I stumbled upon someone’s post about how chivalry is dying. Curious about what she had to say, I paused to read the post. What struck me the most was how the complaint seemed to be that men didn’t treat women as well as they used to. I began to ponder the topic and was inspired to share my thoughts.
First of all, let’s begin by defining chivalry as we know it today. According to merriam-webster.com, chivalry is defined as:
The system of values (such as loyalty and honor) that knights in the Middle Ages were expected to follow
An honorable and polite way of being especially toward women.
When we refer to chivalry in the context of dating, we are (obviously) referring to merriam-webster’s second definition. There are a number of acts which people consider to be “chivalrous.” These include things such as: a man holding the door open for a woman, a man paying for a woman’s meal, a man lending a woman his coat when she is cold, a man offering a woman his umbrella when it is raining, and the list goes on. It is clear that, as the definition suggests, acts of “chivalry” are acts done by a man, for a woman. This, in and of itself, presents a number of reasons why women today should denounce chivalry.
When we think of chivalry, we often are reminded of the good ol’ 1950s. This was a time when chivalry seemed to be the norm. I’ve commonly heard women lamenting that they wished dating today was more like dating in the ‘50s; but dating back then was not quite as peachy as we might think. The culture of the time was extremely sexist. Gender roles were clearly defined and strictly followed. Much of the chivalrous behavior women long for stems from these gender roles and overall sexist behavior.
Many women who yearn for men’s chivalrous behavior of the ‘50s fail to recognize the accompanying expectation of women. Here, there is a definite duality. As good is to bad; to be chivalrous for men is to be lady-like for women. When we say that men should be chivalrous, we are inadvertently also agreeing that woman should be lady-like. The struggle for female equality is on-going and I don’t know of any women who are opposed to it. Women have been fighting for equality for decades, with slow but steady progress. When we ask for a return to “chivalrous” and “lady-like” behaviors, we are taking a step backwards in our fight for equality. We are asking to return to a society with clear gender roles. We are asking to be treated differently because of our sex, which is exactly what we have been fighting against.
Women today should stop obsessing over the idea of chivalry. We should stop lamenting over the lost attitudes of the 1950s and instead be happy with the direction our society is headed. Chivalry enforces gender roles and sexism. Instead of asking for men to be chivalrous, we should be asking that they be respectful, kind, good people– and we should be aspiring to do the same. We should all be respectful and kind to one another no matter their age, race, income, or sex. Women should stop complaining that chivalry is dying, because perhaps the death of chivalry is a good thing.