On all this chivalry stuff

Honestly- I don’t care. I’m not particularly bothered by cultural norms that teach politeness, nor if politeness in American culture (especially the South) dictates a bit of extra niceness to women. Who knows, it could help make up for, I don’t know, the rampant sexism in our society and maybe it could help teach people that, women are people too and not pleasure objects or whatever. If it floats your boat and helps you in your pursuit of virtue have at it, and yeah, it shouldn’t be a completely blackballed term.

That being said, if you’re going to play this whole chivalry game, you respect not just certain kinds of women who are “feminine enough” to merit your graces, but everyone. That means you open the door for the models, the good Catholic girls, the tomboys, you offer your coat to the nerds, the feminists, the housewives, the athletes, you give up your seat the hippies,the i-bankers, the lesbians, the rude people- EVERYBODY. To do otherwise reinforces the really crappy ideas of “chivalry” and sexuality that came to a head post- Industrial Revolution.

(Like seriously-  think of the chivalry of the Victorian era and remember- it was this lovely sexual code that made it completely okay not only to give up your carriage or lifeboat to a woman, but also to annul a marriage because the husband found out that his bride had- egads!- PUBIC HAIR!!!)
And you do not hold them to some sort of standard of femininity, or see your actions as means of teaching this poor, wayward society what proper, Catholic, biblical gender roles… No. No, and No. You are polite and kind because it is the decent and charitable thing to do.

So: tl;dr- if you want to be charitable and polite, that’s fine. If you want to reclaim the word “chivalry” to reflect a just, equitable, and respectful society that’s great. But do not use your actions to wrestle others into their “proper place”, and do not mistake western cultural practices for God’s vision for humanity.

Kay? Kay.


9 thoughts on “On all this chivalry stuff

  1. I actually think it should be blackballed completely, because there are a million ways to be decent and kind and respectful without invoking a term both highly gendered and with a lot of sexist cultural baggage.

    Because when you do call it by that term, even if you mean something completely different, you are in fact calling up and tacitly endorsing that baggage (this is what annoys me most about chivalry advocates–this claim that chivalry means whateeever I want it to mean, that it has no cultural history and I can endlessly reinvent it. This is also how I feel about the “slut”–if you call yourself a slut angrily, to remind people that it is in fact a misogynist slur that was in someways stuck on your forehead at birth ,fine. Use it in a cute sex-positive way, EW.)

    Which leads you to these ridiculous straw man arguments “look, either you accept my structure of proper gender relations, OR YOU WANT ALL MEN TO SLAM DOORS IN YOUR FACES BEFORE THEY SPIT IN THEM.

    Or, my personal favorite, “No one mistreated women when chivalry was the norm.” Uh huh.
    This is closely related to, “before feminism, it was all women and children first all the time!” http://news.discovery.com/history/titanic-women-children-120413.html

    And then this amazing blindness to how, under these systems where femininity makes one worthy of “protection” (this always reminds me of mafia style “protection), femininity is almost always negotiated in racial and class terms.

    And then finally this whole “women are magical special flowers with their mysterious and delicate female psyches and bodies” mindset. I’ve seen stuff from chivalry advocates lately that would make Mr. Collins blush.

    Honestly, I’m an able bodied young woman. In a disaster I’m going to be doing my best to make sure the children and little old people and those otherwise incapacitated get into the lifeboats, not wait at the front of the line for some man to gallantly lay down his coat over the gangplank. God willing.

    But anway, yep. Totes on board. If you are into chivalry for pete’s sake don’t make it the incredibly creepy and misogynist kind.

  2. Chivalry is horsemanship. Nothing more, nothing less. Women come into it only insofar as one should prevent one’s horse from stepping on them.

  3. I don’t have any particular attachment to the word chivalry, and I agree that it’s far too often used as a yardstick to measure how “womanly” a woman is, which is ridiculous. (In my opinion, a society in which men are more focused on judging women than on holding themselves to a high standard is an effeminate one.) But on the other hand, young men in particular do have to be taught that just because something isn’t offensive or unpleasant to them, it doesn’t mean it’s not offensive or unpleasant towards others. That’s why imposing a set of behaviors on men that may or may not come to them naturally is necessary–because if they don’t learn those behaviors, then everyone else has to adapt and put up with them, which is basically what we have now and why there are seventy million articles out there telling women to just be easy going about all kinds of horrible treatment and not be clinging or naggy.

    “You recognize beauty when you see it and at least sometimes make an effort to be attractive to men.”

    Obvious negging is obvious. Also, great example of a man giving out exactly the kind of judgement I referred to above. Dude, this makes you look petty, small-souled and unsure of your masculinity. FYI

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