History’s a funny thing. We tend to forget origins and circumstances as traditions and conducts are passed down over time. Take chivalry, for instance. It once stood for a gallant knight’s duty to his lord, God, and lady; however, this starry-eyed notion remembers the gallant aspect and forgets everything else.
The concept of chivalry has been whittled down to how a gentleman should behave when in the presence of a fair maiden. However, this was more acceptable when gender roles were more strictly enforced. Inherently, chivalry presumes that men are the strong providers and protectors, and women are in dire need of that protection. Men must always exude that strength, which forces them into that awkward pigeonhole of historic masculinity. A white knight can be gallant and respectful, but never too sensitive. He must always pay for the date. It all seems terribly boring and exhausting, and it should never be expected based on gender alone.
Chivalry also suggests that men should be kind and respectful because of women’s fragility and meekness, and it shoves women into that historic role we’ve been trying desperately to escape. Those fair maidens lived by a strict code of conduct that allowed men to dote on them. At all times, they were to be chaste and servile. Today, our ladylike behaviours determine the respect we receive. Don’t curse. Sit with your legs crossed. Show just enough skin to be interesting, but not enough to be a slut. Maybe then you’ll be worthy of chivalry.
It’s the history, context and intent of chivalry that makes it misogynistic. People treat it like a bank account: if you make enough deposits, you can get a big pay out at the end. That’s not how society, politeness or manners should work. You do something nice or good for the act itself, to make someone’s life easier or to express kindness and appreciation. Not because you should treat a certain gender a certain way or to get something in return.
Don’t hold open a door for me because I’m a woman with no upper-body strength; hold it open because I’m walking right behind you or my arms are full (and I’ll do the same for you, masculinity be damned!). Don’t compliment me because it may earn you a date or a kiss; compliment me because you mean it and want me to feel happy. Let chivalry die and instead let’s be decent human beings.
More on page two.