Recently I saw a discussion about an article on chivalry, in which the general consensus seemed to be that chivalry was dead. They argued that not enough men still acted chivalrous, and that anyone who didn’t do things such as giving up their seat for a woman or pulling back her chair gave men everywhere a bad name. But is chivalry truly something to strive for, or is there a different side to it?
It seems clear that these men were indeed right that chivalry as defined in the article is becoming more and more rare: to me, as someone from a younger generation, it actually came as a complete surprise that men are “supposed” to give up their seat for a girl/woman. Sure, I knew that it was expected to do so for the elderly, but for women in general? I never knew that. In fact, I saw it as a practice that was done decades ago but that by now had long been abandoned.
And perhaps that’s actually the case, because the world has changed. Sure, we still live in a patriarchy, but unlike a few decades ago, we are now fully aware of it and we have begun to see it as a bad thing. We have begun to think that women should be equal, and perhaps that means that chivalry truly has reached its point of no return. That as the older generations die, the young will forget it ever existed.
But is that a bad thing? Perhaps. It depends on the point of view. To me, it seems ridiculous to give up your seat for a woman, because it implies that she somehow needs it more, that she is weaker, but at the same time, holding open the door for a woman seems perfectly fine. Why? Because it’s just good manner to do so.
In the end, chivalry isn’t truly dead, but over the next few decades, it will change. The current kind of chivalry advocated in these articles works to strengthen the patriarchy, but with only some slight and natural changes, it can start to do the exact opposite. After all, have a look at some of the things mentioned: opening doors for her, which is just perfectly polite, regardless of gender. Women can do that too, and in fact, they do all the time. Giving compliments? Perfect! I’m a guy, but I don’t mind getting some of those! And giving up your seat for someone who is less mobile than you are? Absolutely wonderful, just as long as you do it for the right reasons (and are absolutely sure that this person agrees that he/she is old so that you don’t cause any mid-life crises!).
Ultimately, it might be a good thing that there are movements that try to promote chivalry, just as long as we change the norms. We need to be aware of the patriarchy and let go of the idea that chivalry is only related to becoming “the perfect gentleman.” Chivalry should become something universal, unrelated to gender, that simply represents good manners and that can make this world a better place, one small gesture at a time. If that is done, it could easily become part of modern life once again.
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