When was the last time a guy pulled out a chair for you at dinner? Or opened your car door? Offered their seat to you on a bus? Brought you flowers for a reason other than an apology? And no, your Dad doesn’t count.
In this digital era where apps like Tinder and Snapchat and the general immediacy of socialisation has revolutionised how we interact, has chivalry become obsolete?
I remember the first time I realised chivalry was on its way out. I was waiting in line to use the bathroom at a friend’s party, cursing that I had broken the seal* earlier in the night. When the door finally opened, my boyfriend took the opportunity to swoop in front of me, making me wait another five minutes. Whilst it was such an insignificant event that could be blamed mostly on alcohol, it still crosses my mind every time the concept of chivalry arises.
Recently I extended the question of chivalry’s existence to my classmates. With the class being predominantly female and passionate in their opinions, opposing views configured rather quickly. One student said she was offended when men opened doors for her or offered to help her carry her books because feminism. She said she could do those things for herself; she is a strong independent woman who doesn’t need a man. Having just read an article titled “Chivalry is dead and feminism is to blame” I couldn’t help but cringe at the statement. When did opening a door become sexist?
As women of Generation Y we are accustomed to opening our own doors, pulling out our own seat, splitting the bill, and shivering in the cold whilst making subtle cues that we would like our male companion’s jacket. We are independent and empowered, yet I often find myself somewhere between wanting to be empowered, and wanting to be taken care of.
In the Telegraph UK article, Journalist Martin Daubney reported that 54% of men would drive past a woman struggling to change her tyre. Whilst this statistic was shamed when presented on ITV’s This Morning, Daubney said that it is post-feminist backlash; men are no longer acting chivalrous because they’re scared they will appear patronising. In the fight for equality, we seem to have killed, or at least severely injured, chivalry.
“I honestly think extreme feminists are slowing down the process”, said my friend Nick when I asked if he believed in chivalry. He said whilst he would give up his seat for a women, he’d be wary of who the woman was because she could take offense. Is this what feminism has wrought? The death of manners? When did offering a seat become chauvinistic instead of a sign of respect?
I can’t help but contrast the standards of past generations to the standards I see in young people today; where good morning texts replace letters of affection, an Instagram like replaces an actual compliment, casual hook ups replace actual dates and doors are closed on people’s faces. The last time my Dad ducked around me at a restaurant to pull out my chair I was so clueless to what he was doing I moved and sat on another seat, thinking he had wanted the seat for himself. In this day and age we have become so accustomed to equality, women have allowed men to get away with the bare minimum.
The only three males in the class shared this opinion; that men don’t have to work for it (it being sex) the way they used to in the past. This opinion was also shared by John Picciuto in the article “Why Chivalry is Dead, From a Man’s Perspective.” He says that with woman allowing guys to get away with the bare minimum, it has established a standard in chivalry expectations. Guys no longer need to buy flowers and go on expensive dates to get sex; they just swipe left until they find someone to satisfy them. Or send out a group text asking to “hang out” and wait for the most desperate to reply. Whilst I believe that men and women are equally to blame for the breakdown of chivalry, I can see Picciuto’s point.
If sexual promiscuity were replaced by actually getting to know someone and maybe even the age-old concept of dating, men would be forced to act a lot more chivalrous. Which got me thinking, is chivalry really dead or has it just followed wherever being lady-like went? This doesn’t mean woman who channel their inner Samantha Jones should be shamed – all power to you. But chivalry should still be encouraged in every encounter especially the sexual kind.
In the early days of my own relationship, my boyfriend was somewhat unaware of how to treat a woman. And it was not completely his fault. There is an assumption that chivalry is something that men are born with but that is not the case; it is something that is learned, or rather enforced. Whilst Toby knew that women should be treated with more respect than you might treat a male friend, he had never been forced to act chivalrous in any of his female encounters. He’d never had to worry about expensive dinners, or coming to the door instead of sending an “I’m here” text. Simply, he had been with a lot of Samanthas.
There is a call for women to reexamine how they accept being treated. If women can have higher standards in what they accept, men are likely to meet these standards in what they offer. As one of my favourite quote says, “Men are like a fine wine. They all start out like grapes, and it’s our job to stomp on them and keep them in the dark until they mature into something you’d like to have dinner with.”
In class, when a male classmate asked why he should adhere to the societal expectation of being chivalrous if woman are no longer expected to be a homemaker, our tutor quickly intervened. “Chivalry isn’t only for men”, Jack said. Jack, about the same age of my father, explained that the class seemed to have forgotten what being chivalrous is really about; common courtesy. His answer to the student was if you don’t want to just show kindness to woman, than show it everyone. He said he is constantly amazed on public transport when people, male or female, don’t offer their seats to elderly people or pregnant women.
My friend and frequent passenger of public transport, Emily says, “Even getting on to a train men will not let a lady on first even if you where at the door first. Some how I find myself at the end being pushed out-of-the-way by men just so they can get to a seat before myself… No one is a gentleman anymore.”
Written by Lindsay Bennett.