May I Walk You to Your Car? Chivalry and its Contradictions

Even though biology might not be destiny, Hugo Schwyzer writes, there’s nothing wrong with a man being chivalrous. 

Two weeks ago, we hosted a PTA meeting at our house. (I’m heading into my second term as president of the parent-teacher association for my daughter’s school.) After the other board members had left, our dear friend (and PTA vice-president) Sheva stayed to chat. As my wife and I stood with the veep in the kitchen, noshing on hummus and crackers, the conversation turned to gender roles.

Though Sheva is in many ways a thorough progressive, she takes the position that men and women are fundamentally different and that those differences have significant meaning in terms of how we function in public and private spaces.  At least to some extent, she believes that biology is destiny; I tend to reject that claim as unreasonable straitjacketing of individual potential. (For more on Sheva, visit her Grown Up Girl blog.) In my courses and in my writing, I take the stance that gender is a spectrum rather than a binary. Men and women may be different, but the differences between members of the “same” sex are so vast that it’s unreasonable to extrapolate any universal truths about how “men” and “women” should behave.

When you teach gender studies for a living, this is the sort of argument you expect to have on a weekly basis with friends and family. When I’m debating in good faith with good friends, I enjoy these discussions immensely. At least some of the time, they generate more light than heat.

And when it was time for Sheva to leave, I walked her to her car.

We don’t live in a particularly dangerous neighborhood, but this is Los Angeles, and it was rather late on a Wednesday night. Sheva didn’t ask me to walk her; I volunteered and she accepted. We strolled to her car, continuing our animated but friendly debate all the way. As she unlocked and opened the door, I said good night—and then we both laughed at what seemed like a potential contradiction between my words and my actions.

My wife is a first-rate kickboxer; she spars with guys and has a thundering left hook. If it came to fending off a mugger, I suspect that she’d provide more protection for Sheva than I would. But what led me out the door with our friend while my wife stayed inside had little to do with hard-headed insight into the practicalities of protection. Instead, it had everything to do with a clear-headed embrace of the pleasure in performing certain traditional gender roles, particularly those that revolve around “chivalry” or “common courtesy.” (Both terms are rooted in medieval notions of how aristocratic men and women ought to treat one another.)

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One of the common misconceptions that a lot of people have about feminism is that it requires its adherents to act as if they are blind to gender. For example, it’s remarkable how many young women, convinced that a fondness for playing traditional gender roles is at odds with egalitarian ideology, cite a fondness for “being treated like a lady” (or a “girl,”or a “woman”) as a primary reason for rejecting the feminist label. There’s an enduring false assumption that taking pleasure in playing certain traditional roles cancels out one’s right to demand equality.

It’s not just women who buy into this canard. As one young man in one of my women’s studies classes once sulkily put it, “Women can either expect me to be a ‘gentleman’ or they can expect to be treated as equals. But they can’t have both.”

This false choice doesn’t just misrepresent feminism. It robs all of us—men and women, gay and straight alike—of the chance to create something pleasurable and workable out of our complicated, inherited beliefs about men and women.

The key, as feminists have pointed out for decades, is seeing gender as something we choose to perform for pleasure. Perfomance isn’t an academic theory; it’s how most of us live, whether we know it or not. A woman who says, “I like wearing heels because it makes me feel more feminine,” is surely aware that she doesn’t become more biologically female by putting on stilettos—or less so by putting on Crocs. She knows she’s playing a part. Sometimes that part may be burdensome (like having to wear heels because of work); sometimes it may be pure fun (like putting them on to go on a hot date); sometimes it may be a mix of both.

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So when I walked Sheva to the car, I was performing a traditionally masculine role. I knew Sheva well enough to know that my escorting her would be appreciated; frankly, I enjoyed her appreciation. Playing that part didn’t undercut my contention that men and women are fundamentally equal with (a tiny number of biological limitations aside) essentially interchangeable roles. We all knew that if there had been a more serious danger, my delightful but potentially lethal wife would have made a far better escort for Sheva. If necessary, that would have been a subversion of traditional expectations. But it wasn’t necessary.

That little performance from our house to her car made me feel good. Because I know her well, I knew the gesture would be appreciated. If I hadn’t known Sheva as well as I do, I would have been far more cautious about the offer to escort her. We don’t get to play parts that make us feel good at the expense of others. A “gentleman” shouldn’t foist his manners on to others; to use another example, if a woman doesn’t want a man to race ahead and open doors for her, he shouldn’t be miffed if she doesn’t thank him profusely every time he does so. The performance of traditional roles is about mutual pleasure, not about mutual obligation.

Even for those of us who don’t think biology is destiny, there’s still something comforting about playing out an old and familiar script. And while it’s worthwhile to analyze the source of that comfort, it’s not worth letting that analysis block us from the simple pleasure of performing a role we enjoy.

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The conversation continues with Aaron Gouveia’s article.

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Photo pasukaru76/Flickr

 

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About Hugo Schwyzer

Hugo Schwyzer has taught history and gender studies at Pasadena City College since 1993, where he developed the college's first courses on Men and Masculinity and Beauty and Body Image. He serves as co-director of the Perfectly Unperfected Project, a campaign to transform young people's attitudes around body image and fashion. Hugo lives with his wife, daughter, and six chinchillas in Los Angeles. Hugo blogs at his website

Comments

  1. So it’s polite and chivalrous for a man to open a door, escort a woman to her car or pay for dinner. But if she gets upset by those things it’s no longer chivalrous, and instead becomes something done “at the expense of others?” This is where you lose me.

    I’m all for opening doors, pulling out chairs and picking up the tab. I’m traditional that way. But it’s chivalrous no matter what. If a woman decides to get all bent out of shape about a man being polite, that’s her problem. But it doesn’t change the fact that the man was being chivalrous and polite.

    Again Hugo, in your writing it comes across that women are the arbiters of what’s right and wrong while men just have to abide by the rules. I think this is wrong.

    • I don’t think Hugo is saying women are the arbitors of right and wrong–he seems to be saying individuals are arbitors of what is right and wrong for themselves. In this case, men performing chivalrous acts that don’t make the woman feel good should be abandoned. Her reception doesn’t have anything to do with a chivalrous man’s intentions but her reception absolutely should inform his acting upon them. Hugo’s second to last sentence said it best:

      “We don’t get to play parts that make us feel good at the expense of others. A “gentleman” shouldn’t foist his manners on to others; to use another example, if a woman doesn’t want a man to race ahead and open doors for her, he shouldn’t be miffed if she doesn’t thank him profusely every time he does so. The performance of traditional roles is about mutual pleasure, not about mutual obligation.”

    • I find this is issue, while it seems petty, is actually really complicated. All I can offer is my own experience with regards to chivalry and my experiences have left me to conclude that motivation is key.

      Chivalry is confusing in part because a lot of “chivalrous” acts are also just nice things we could do for each other: holding a door, walking someone home, carrying a heavy thing, helping someone less mobile across the street. All of these things have at one time been considered chivalrous when done by a man for a woman. And it’s the doing of them by a man for a woman because he is a man and she is a woman that causes the problem.

      I briefly dated a guy who was chivalrous in this way. He carried my groceries, referred to me as a delicate flower (an odd moniker for someone built like me), and insisted on paying even when we weren’t a couple. On the face of it, these are pleasant things to do, but because I knew him, I knew he was doing it because “that’s what a real man does for a woman.” And I felt that my identity as an indvidual was ignored by him in favour of the traditional identity and status associated with my gender: weak, delicate etc. This meant that he did not know me and did not try.
      We did not last long.

      I then dated another guy who would sometimes do similar things: he paid on our first date, he carried heavy things for me sometimes, and had a somewhat diminuitive sounding pet name… and yet it didn’t bother me coming from him. A little concerned by my apparent wishy washiness, I tried to figure out why. Eventually I worked out that it was because this guy did those things because he wanted to, not because he was a man and I was a woman, but because he knew that what he was doing was helpful to me and appreciated by me and because he wanted to do nice things for me, because he liked me, not simply because I am a woman.

      So I figure it’s about examining your motivations. If you’re holding the door because you’re a door holding kind of person or you like the person you’re holding the door for and want to be nice, then fine.
      But if you’re holding the door because you are a man and the other person is a woman, then you are ignoring the inviduality of the person you are dealing with (not to mention your own individuality)… and that is the problem with chivalry.

      • This. A thousand times this. I think we would all be better off if we spent a little more time examining our motivations, dissecting our intent and focusing on the wants and needs of the individuals in our lives (based on their individuality, not their gender or sex).

  2. squirrelgrrrl says:

    It’s charming if my husband pulls out my chair or hangs up my jacket for me, and I appreciate it when he does it. But then again, he and I know each other very very well. If friends of mine want to behave in a chivalrous manner, I don’t mind that either. I think chivalry works well when coupled with familiarity.

    I didn’t appreciate it when a total stranger scurried ahead of me at at gas station to hold the door when I wasn’t even planning on stepping inside the building yet. I suddenly felt obligated to go in because he was standing there holding the door for me. No, I didn’t get all bent out of shape about it, I was still polite to the guy. I even went in. But I felt slightly annoyed, not charmed, since a total stranger made a choice for me and acted on his assumption of what I wanted to do based on my gender.

  3. Will Cooper says:

    @Daddy Files

    “…that’s her problem. But it doesn’t change the fact that the man was being chivalrous and polite.”

    I don’t think that is chivalrous at all; that is giving yourself pleasure without giving a damn what the other person thinks. Making a woman uncomfortable isn’t something to be done in the name of chivalry. You have be mindful of the other party, male or female.

    “…it comes across that women are the arbiters of what’s right and wrong while men just have to abide by the rules. I think this is wrong.”

    I see this more from your argument that Hugo’s. Your suggestion that the male is just being chivalrous and polite despite the woman’s displeasure is blindly following often gender-based rules, outdated or not. The long-held disparity between men and women’s rights is, I think, largely because men didn’t care what women thought. We’ve certainly come a long way, but many still hold to those principles of ‘protecting the woman in spite of herself’.

    (Please don’t think I’m trying to badger you – just disagreeing. I don’t get to have these conversations with friends very often and many of my opinions are still finding form as a result of that.)

    In terms of the article itself… I wish I would have taken more gender study classes in college.

    I quite like this point:
    “…gender is a spectrum rather than a binary. Men and women may be different, but the differences between members of the “same” sex are so vast that it’s unreasonable to extrapolate any universal truths about how “men” and “women” should behave.”

    When I was younger I used to always fantasize about being a ‘chivalrous knight’, fighting for women’s honor, etc. (I used to have Miniver Cheevy memorized). Looking back, I can see how… demeaning that was. The intentions were good, but I only focused on or cared about half of the equation.

    But Miniver Cheevy is still my favorite poem : D.

    • To the previous posters: Wow. I just totally disagree.

      Look, I hold doors for everyone. Men, women, children. I was raised that way and I’m raising my son that way, because good manners are always good no matter the circumstances. This actually has less to do with gender roles and more to do with common courtesy. I just fail to see how being polite could ever be construed as a negative. And like I said, if you’re getting miffed about someone holding a door open for you, that’s on you. Not the person holding the door.

      And by the way, someone holding a door open for you is not them making a choice for you. It’s just them opening a door. If you don’t want to go through it, simply say “Thanks anyways, but I’m headed over here.” That’s it, plain and simple.

      And Will, it’s not like I’m gaining a whole lot of pleasure for myself by holding a door open. This can hardly be considered a selfish act. It’s simply good manners and the way I was raised. And again, this doesn’t have to be a woman. I hold the door open for men too. And regardless of gender, if one of them actually got pissed at a display of common decency, then something is really off with that person. But I’m sure as hell not going to stop being polite just because someone else has a strange issue with common courtesy.

      This is all more than a little ridiculous that we’re even having a debate about men displaying good manners.

      • Yes, it is quite ridiculous, but you miss the contention. You, and I suspect many men, think of this as good manners. Feminists think of it as an extension of “patriarchy”. You think men are just being polite, they think men are playing to their “traditional” role.

      • This is all more than a little ridiculous that we’re even having a debate about men displaying good manners.
        Its not the manners that is up for debate but rather the motivations behind the good manners. Most men were taught to do these things because they are good manners with a twist of “its what a real man is supposed to do for a woman”. Well somewhere along the line that got twisted into “its what men do to inflate their own egos”.

      • squirrelgrrrl says:

        Not to get bogged down in details, but I hold doors for people who are approaching the same time I am, and I offer to hold the door for someone who needs an extra hand. That is politeness. But I never had someone I didn’t know RUN AHEAD of me just to open the door. He didn’t do it for the other men around.

        This happened when I was traveling, I just chalked it up as a Southern thing. And yes, I could have said “no thanks’ but it was easier to walk through and smile, than explain to the guy ” I’m walking over to the garbage can to throw away my gum wrapper.”

      • Do you/would you raise your daughter the same way?

        If it’s “simply good manners,” the answer’s clear.

        • Yes, I still am and they are young women now. I will be the first to admit my comments on holding the door are aimed at older people. I will let them figure out if they want to hold the door open for a guy younger than me. And I am gender biased. If I had a son, I would be teaching him to hold doors open for women regardless of their age. But mostly I am teaching my children how to be polite. We need more politeness in our society where people are programmed by Homer Simpson, South Park and reality TV.

      • Daddy Files, I just want to say that I get the point you are trying to make. I feel the same way about politeness. I will open the door for everyone and anyone out of common courtesy. Your efforts are not motivated by a need to treat women like ladies but by a need to treat everyone with respect and generosity. What this article is addressing is the instances where a person is motivated by expected gender roles e.g women are ladies, men are chivalrous knights protecting their honour. Obviously a person can’t assume another persons motivations unless it is explicitly stated or shown in other attitudes about gender roles. So when a man holds the door for me, I assume it is out of kindness rather than chivalry. I hold the door for my fiancee because I want to treat him kindly, the same way he would for me, not because he wants to treat me as if I am dainty and honourable and shouldn’t open the door for myself. I think the points people make about chivalry, feeling cherished, protected, should be felt by all genders, not just women or ‘ladies’.

  4. We don’t get to play parts that make us feel good at the expense of others. A “gentleman” shouldn’t foist his manners on to others; to use another example, if a woman doesn’t want a man to race ahead and open doors for her, he shouldn’t be miffed if she doesn’t thank him profusely every time he does so. The performance of traditional roles is about mutual pleasure, not about mutual obligation.
    So does this also apply the other way around?

    The reason I ask this is because one damaging part of chivilary that doesn’t come up often (or maybe that people don’t want to talk about) is how in you example about a “gentleman” opening a door for a woman can and sometimes is looked down upon for not fufilling his obligation as a man.

    With the door example I’ve seen women get miffed over guys doing such “chivalrous things” (like opening a door) and treated them like children that can’t do for themselves and then turn around and get mad because a guy wouldn’t spontaneously do such “chivalrous things” (like carry heavy objects).

    If a woman (or anyone for that matter) wants some help then ask and I’ll do the best I can. But women can hardly expect us to respect them as capable equals one minute then expect us to just “know” they need our assistance the next, saving them the trouble of asking.

    • I want to add a bit of explanation to what I say above.

      The reason I say what I say above is that while people are really all for making sure men don’t do these “chivalrous” things for women to make themselves feel better not too many people want to talk about how women hold these things over men’s heads as a way that a man is supposed to act.

    • Carrying heavy things when you’re physically stronger is chivalry? I thought it was just common courtesy.
      No one calls me chivalrous when I do things that are physically taxing for my husband due to his size and height but are easy for me due to mine, but he gets a cookie for vice versa?

      • Carrying heavy things when you’re physically stronger is chivalry? I thought it was just common courtesy.
        No DK its more like, “Since you’re a man you must be physically stronger therefore you must do that heavy lifting, or else you aren’t a “real man”/”gentleman”/ect…..”

        I’ve had people ask me why I didn’t do something along those lines for a woman before to which I replied, “Sure as soon as you let me borrow your spine for a few moments.” (Despite my being over 6ft and over 200lb I have a slightly damaged spine that causes very slight but nearly unending pain. But none of that matters because on the outside I’m a guy and men aren’t supposed to let things like that get in the way of being a “real man”. Which of course feeds into how men tend to ignore their health issues until its often too late.)

        DK (presuming you’re a woman) I’m betting you can think of a lot of things that people will frown upon you over if you do/don’t do them because doing so/not doing so means you’re not a real woman or “lady”. Such people pay no attention to anything other than your outward appearance as a woman and toss aside any possibilities as to why you are doing/not doing something.

        • I agree with you completely. Chivalry is dependent on a gender binary with men as the protector and women as the lesser. It’s tied into our gender identity and not common courtesy and individual needs or abilities. The idea should be abandoned. It’s toxic and destructive.

          • Toxic and destructive? Chivalry is toxic and destructive??

            Give me a break. Women complain about men who are deadbeats. Now we’re talking about men that politely open doors and do things for women and somehow it’s still toxic and destructive. Is anything we do ever going to be right or good enough?? I can’t even believe I’m hearing this bullshit.

            When I lived in Boston I routinely gave up my subway seat for women when there were none other available. I didn’t want anything from them. Hell, I didn’t even talk to them. I did it because it was a nice thing to do. I also did it for elderly people (men included) or any person (man or woman) who looked like they had a physical limitation or trouble standing.

            You shouldn’t be looking to throw out chivalry and manners. You should be trying to extend it to everyone.

            • The toxic and destructive part is the expectation behind the actions. As in if you didn’t do things that you’re “supposed to do” or did things you’re “not supposed to do” then people hold that against you as evidence of not being a “real man/woman”.

              When I lived in Boston I routinely gave up my subway seat for women when there were none other available. I didn’t want anything from them. Hell, I didn’t even talk to them. I did it because it was a nice thing to do.
              That’s the good behavior that should be extended to everyone alright. I can dig it. However the problem lies in when if you didn’t give up that seat people would go on about how terrible of a man you are because you didn’t do what you’re “supposed to do” as a man. As in how about if one day you don’t give up your seat because you’ve had a long day of work or you can’t stand for too long because of back/leg problems. People don’t care about that and will still complain about you not giving up that seat because that’s supposedly what a “real man is supposed to do”.

              Its one thing to do something nice because that’s how you roll. Its quite another for other people to act you like you are supposed to do those things simply because you’re a man.

              The toxicity and destructiveness isn’t the act of a man giving up his seat for a woman in and of itself its the expectation that because you are a man and she is a woman that is how its supposed to go and failure to do so is actually a mark against you as a man.

            • I understand your point, but I still disagree.

              I readily admit I judge a guy who doesn’t give up his seat if he looks able-bodied and there are tons of women, children, or elderly people on the subway. I don’t know about a “real” man, but a nice, polite man would give up his seat. And yes, I believe there is an expectation to do so. But again, I don’t see this as a bad thing. I see it as polite and courteous.

              Not all tradition is bad.

            • I suppose we’ll have to disagree.

              To me the fact that you would do so seems nice and polite because you are chosing to do something that in all fairness you really don’t have to do. You are going out of your way to do something polite and nice. If I hold it against you as a requirement then it becomes unfair in my book.

              That’s what’s supposed to be special and heroic about men that put their lives in harms way for a woman. Its because he doesn’t have to do it and (ideally) no one is demanding or expecting he do it, he’s doing it because that’s his way. As soon as you turn that into a requirement that he must fulfill then the politeness, niceness, and frankly the sacrificial aspect of the actions are lost.

              What would be the distinction of the Medal of Honor (or any other military honor) if soldiers were actively required to do those things and faced punishment if they didn’t? Your noble sacrifice to save your comrades in battle isn’t so distinctive if you were following protocol rather than going “above and beyond the call of duty”. Or how would it look if you were actually punished for not going that extra mile?

              And it would be one thing if the expectation was a matter of “that what people are supposed to do” but its not. These expectations are heavily gendered.

            • Danny: Your military analogy doesn’t hold up. Granted, I’ve never been in the military so I’m just going by what I’ve heard from friends who have. But I think you actually are expected to protect fellow soldiers at all costs and give up your life if necessary. So it actually is expected. Required is more like it.

              That having been said, not everyone does it. Not everyone holds doors for people or acts chivalrous either, even though it is sort of expected. Therefore, because the people who do display common courtesy are in the minority, the act does stand out.

              And I don’t care that the acts are gendered. Men and women are different. I don’t treat all of my female friends like I do my guy friends. But going out of one’s way to be nice to a woman via door holding, grocery carrying, car escorting, etc. is a GOOD thing. Unless he’s doing it for personal gain or manipulation, who cares why?!

              I think we all have enough to worry about without criticizing those men who are acting politely towards women.

            • Danny: Your military analogy doesn’t hold up. Granted, I’ve never been in the military so I’m just going by what I’ve heard from friends who have. But I think you actually are expected to protect fellow soldiers at all costs and give up your life if necessary. So it actually is expected. Required is more like it.
              I’ve never served in the military myself but I have a hypothetical situation of you and I getting ambushed that I’m about to use.

              Let’s say you and I get ambushed by the enemy and I get shot early on. If you come back for me and suffer permanent injury as a result you would be recognized as going above and beyond the call of duty. If you were to not come back I find it hard to believe that you would actually be punished by the military for it. And while I’ve never been in that situation I can’t imagine holding it against you if you didn’t. Yeah you may be overcome with survivor’s guilt but I don’t think you would be formally punished.

              But beyond that would it be right to try to say that you are less than a man for not coming back for me? And not just by fellow soldiers (which would at least make sense given that they are in the same boat with you) but by civilians who have no idea what war is like. I can say that speaking as someone who has never been in the military I have no business trying to call someone a coward for not going back for an injured comrade in battle. In fact that’s why I would hold you in such high regards if you did, its like, “Oh my goodness. He went back for his buddy like that? He went into the face of almost certain death to save someone else. That’s going above and beyond.”

              Unless he’s doing it for personal gain or manipulation, who cares why?!
              And that’s it right there. He may be doing that kind act for personal gain in the form of infantlizing that woman into thinking he’s “a real man”. She will prey on his sense of male pride by calling him a coward to get him to do things he would normally not do. To me this is one of those times when intent matters a bit. Is he doing that nice thing just to win her favor or is he just being nice for the sake of it?

            • DF, my experience is that “chivalry” can at times feel manipulative, controlling, or demeaning even if that isn’t the intention.

              Case in point: I work on the 20th floor of an office building downtown. At 5:00 when I leave to go home, the elevator is typically full once it reaches the bottom. More often than not, the men on the elevator, particularly the suited men, will quite literally *require* the women to get off the elevator first. Even if I end up stuck in the corner somewhere behind several men in the back of the elevator — I will have to push and squeeze my way around the men who insist I exit first, insisting against my protests, even though it is completely impractical and irritating. And then they expect me to thank them.

              Why would everyone not simply get off the elevator in the order that is most logical — people in the front first, followed by people in the middle, followed by people in the back? Why would anyone go so far as to *insist* someone else get off first? I actually lose time in trying to force my way around these gentlemen — it would have been more of a favor to me if they just got off the elevator when it was their turn. This does not feel like courtesy, this feels like I am being controlled. “You will get off the elevator now. You will go first, because I am the man and I say so, and you will appreciate it.”

              Similarly, one of my dearest friends was raised very traditionally and tends to cling to a lot of so-called chivalrous behaviors out of habit. One such habit (which to his credit, he quickly stopped doing when I expressed my discomfort with it), is that when walking with a woman, he insisted upon walking on the outside of the sidewalk — the street side — as a protective gesture. It didn’t matter that he was legally disabled due to rheumatoid arthritis, and that I was able-bodied, strong, and sound of mind. Because I was the woman and he was the man, he had it in his head that he should position himself in the protective role despite the fact that this was unnecessary and perhaps illogical circumstantially.

              Can you see how a gesture like that might feel controlling or demeaning, even knowing the person performing it had only the best intentions? I love my friend, he is very dear to me, and I know he means well. But when he puts so much effort into performing this unnecessary role and placing me against my wishes in what he perceives to be MY role, it’s hard for me not to feel controlled, or at the very least, like he must see me as a particularly weak creature in need of protection.

              I’m not advocating that all chivalry or kind gestures be abandoned, I merely believe first of all, that they should be performed with responsiveness to the audience (if it is clear the woman doesn’t *want* the favor, don’t force it upon her simply because of her gender), and second, that it should be gender-blind. I should also be able to stand aside on the elevator and allow someone else to get off without receiving protests in response. I should be able to open the door for a man, without him putting his own hand on the door, taking my place, and (gallantly!) demanding I go through first. I should be able to take that extra grocery bag from the overburdened man and help him to his car. (I *do* do these things when it seems appropriate based on timing or situation, but I am often met with resistance, as if it is somehow emasculating for a man to walk through a door being held by a lady or to be aided by a woman). I really don’t understand why gender has anything to do with common courtesy, or why “chivalry” seems to be defined only as courteous male acts toward “the weaker sex.”

            • That Guy says:

              I’m going to have to agree with Daddy Files on this one. In an ideal world, of course, people only do the right thing for the right reason. But, if the result is the same whatever the motivation, I’m not sure what the big problem is. It would be great if people only did the right things out of pure principle, but if that were the sole standard then charity groups would receive far fewer donations. Guilt, tax benefits, hiding assets, peer pressure, public relations, etc., all reap great rewards to non-profits all over the world. Far from ideal, sure, but we can’t afford to be puritanical about everything.

              Yes, I know it’s important to be aware and analyze our motives for everything related to gender differences and be hyper-vigilant and all that, but come on. Now we’re supposed to make sure we’re being considerate for the right reasons? Because the Flying Spaghetti Monster™ will know what we’re thinking and there will be some sort of spiritual accounting at some point, presumably.

  5. “My wife is a first-rate kickboxer; she spars with guys and has a thundering left hook. If it came to fending off a mugger, I suspect that she’d provide more protection for Sheva than I would. ”

    Every article has a chuckle in it.

  6. Yes, we know that you are a raging white knighting chivalrist Hugo.

  7. Chris Flux says:

    I think the important thing is that the woman is ‘ok’ with an act of chivlary and is able to refuse or accept it. Some women love it and some don’t. It is respecting what that person feels that counts. It is also important men don’t behave chivalrous in order to meet their own needs or have alterior motives.

    Offer to walk a woman home, but don’t insist or pressurise her into saying yes. Also don’t expect a cookie!!

    • I’d give you like ten likes if I could Chris.

      I hold doors open for men, women and children myself. As a heterosexual woman, when another woman holds a door for me, I’m appreciative in our comradery as women. I tell her thank you and think to myself “aww, that was nice”. But when a man holds a door for me it’s nice on a different level unique to the relationship of men and women. I tell him thank you and notice that I give men that hold a door open for me a different kind of smile than women that do. Perhaps thats because I am a single woman and if I were married or in a monogamous relationship, I’d look at it more benignly. But I can’t deny the little extra something there when a man holds a door open for me vs another woman.

      I think Hugo hits the nail on the head. In our attempt to sort out Feminism, we seem to think anything that is specific to our gender should be obliterated. And I think that’s a dangerous slope. Equality for all is not the same as meaning everyone is the same. I want the same opportunities available to me in the work world that would be available to my male coworkers but that doesn’t mean it isn’t nice when a man walks me to my car. Just as I am sure as many of the male coworkers I have worked with, love to go home to their girlfriends and wives and enjoy stereotypical gender defined acts that reassert their own masculinity as men.

      • You mean it’s a different level between men and a heterosexual woman. What if you were gay? Or the men and women who opened the door for you? Chivalry shouldn’t be a special cookie for men doing common niceties to women.

        • DK, I explained pretty early on in my post that I was a heterosexual woman. My account was based on my personal account.

          If I were gay, then the women that openned the door for me would get that special smile. But I think asking “what if I was gay” is pretty irrevelent when I am clearly already experssing my heterosexual experience. I’m sure you would have better luck asking a gay woman what her opinion on door openning was if you are interested in that then making up hyopothetical situations about the choices I would make if I were a totally different person.

          If the man that openned the door for me was gay, I wouldn’t know that but I would still feel appreciative as a woman for it. Am I disrespecting gay people because of that? No.

          Do you know what the original meaning of Chivalry comes from? It came from medievel times that was a code of honor for noblemen and knights (typically all men in that time) were to live up to. Chivalry infact is common niceties done for women or for other men or children. But just because a man can do nice things for men and childre, I’m not going to deny that when he does nice things for me as a woman, that it makes me feel like a woman for it. A little extra special something. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.

          • I’m not suggesting you are insulting gay people, I’m questioning the idea that there is something special about chivalry “unique to the relationship of (hetero) men and women.” it sounds more like it has nothing to do with gender differences and everything to do with receiving attention from the gender you’re attracted to.

            • I totally think a gay man can perform a chivalrous act for another gay man. I think a gay woman can even perform a chivalrous act for another gay woman. But for me, there *is* something unique to the relationship of heterosexual men performing chivalrous acts for heterosexual women.

              I understand that in this point and history gay people are fighting for equality in a world that doesn’t always recognize their right to that. And I think gay people deserve the same rights anyone else of any other sexual orientation deserves. But I also think that we are so sensitive about other people’s sexual orientation we are trying to obliterate any of the fun and beauty in traditional gender roles or differences. It’s the same thing that happened with Feminism. At the core of it, Feminism at it’s purest is good. Just like fighting for equality for people of other sexual orientations is good. But there are tipping points that sometimes go too far. However, at the end of the day, the fight for Feminism, just as in the fight for sexual orientation equality are still necessary and important. Despite imperfections.

              If you are a gay person and you don’t perform traditional gender roles, that’s just fine. Even fabulous to live your life the way that best suits you. But my ability to see something special and unique in acts performed for me by men as a heterosexual woman shouldn’t always be challenged by the “what if you/them were gay…” questions either. I hope that makes sense.

      • I’m OK with chivalry as long as it’s in the context of traditional gender roles. So, it’s ridiculous to expect traditional chivalry without accepting traditional gender roles otherwise.

    • “It is respecting what that person feels that counts. It is also important men don’t behave chivalrous in order to meet their own needs or have alterior motives.”

      This goes for women, too. I’m thinking about free drinks and dinners for women, here. It’s funny how it could work, though – on a date I could be thinking, “I would prefer to split the check but we’re in the south US so I should pay,” and she could at the same time be thinking, “I would prefer to split the check but he probably wants to pay. Why else would he offer? I shouldn’t step on his toes here.”

  8. Well, I strongly disagree that men & women are basically the exact same except for a teeny tiny biological difference (I’ve had 3 kids & let me tell you, guys, the differences are not so teeny tiny!), and while of course I acknowledge that all people are different & unique, I still believe there is a REASON men feel good when they are allowed to help out a woman, and it’s NOT just because they were taught manners. It’s because spiritually they are programmed to want to give and when a woman allows a man to give, it makes them feel good. There, I said it. Now somebody please insert a joke here before I get attacked, gulp! Wait – one more thing – I do love the way Shwyzy suggests we “play” at our roles… why not? Playing is always much more fun than carrying out orders or being robots. With cheek kisses & hugs, Sheva

  9. I suppose the interesting idea is, if something dangerous had happened, who would have dealt with it? Would the Mrs run out of the house and protect you both? My choice is that we use our skills and talents. If I am at your house and walk in the dark to my car, I want the steps well lit and the kick boxer at my side, I don’t really care at all about the genitals. And the kick boxer is safer walking back to the house alone too.

    • My understanding from police educators and others is that people are always best if they’re not on their own. You’re so much better avoiding an attack than defending from it, and to an attacker, groups (especially ones containing ‘tough-looking’ men, sadly) look less like an easy target.

      And it sounds like Schwyzer found an actual attack very unlikely, knowing the area, etc. It’s more about consenting friends enjoying a practice that may not be politically correct, than how to be safe on the street, which is a whole other set of rules.

  10. So Schwyzer realized that his own behavior collided with the theory which is his bread and butter and had to develop an argument to help him wrangle out of that mental Chinese finger trap.

    • Exactly. There is no consistent equality within feminism. When inequality is advocated, as is often the case, it is invariably in the woman’s’ favor and there is some contorted logic behind why this case of sexism is really OK.

  11. Does the man also get to choose when chivalry counts? When the plane crashed in the hudson it was women first. Using hugos logic can a guy say “im not into all that chivalry crap” and take a spot in the ladies line? If not why not?

    • Ugh. I didnt know they did that. Patriarchy lives on!

      • Also happened on the Titanic. There were members of the crew that actively kept men from getting into lifeboats for the sake of “women and children first”. And I’m not just talking about the Leonardo DiCaprio movie here I’ve watched quite a few documentaries on this. Even though many of the lifeboats launched at less that full capacity.

        So as long as we’re talking about the parts of chilvalry where men do things to boost their own egos can we also talk about getting rid of the parts where men get the short end of the stick too?

        • If the motto were men & children first would it then be called matriarchy? Or would we as a society be smart enough to realize what it would be: anti-woman? Maybe its time to drop the catch phrases and call a spade a spade ( ie women first is just anti-man not patriarchy)

          • Women being treated as commodities of men to be protected by men is anti-woman. Just as chivalry is.

            Of couse, PHMT.

            • But this isnt 1910. Its 2011. If women expect all the perks of equalit then they should expect the detriments too. But this isn’t the case. The vast majority of women and feminists fight for and get equality when they want it and 1800s feminine privilege when they dont. This isnt a stance of equality but one of supremacy.

            • Ah yes, the mythical lifeboat feminist. It’s as real as this equal rights we get whenever we want them.

            • Actually, life-boat feminists are not only real, but alive well and thriving. If you wish to locate one, please consult the nearest mirror.

            • I disagreed with the idea of women first above and required chivalry throughout the comments. As I suspected, you are seeing something that doesn’t exist.

            • Watching a person who throws around words like patriarchy lecture about what is real or not is worth a good chuckle. Ill say this for you dk: at least you’re entertainig lol.

            • Correct. My position is no chivalry for feminists. They get the same basic common courtesy that men get. What’s wrong with that?

              I haven’t heard a good argument as to why someone who claims to be for equality can rightly expect superior treatment based on their sex.

            • I agree. However PHMT is useless lip service.

            • A woman can’t be a “commodity” of a man if the man is DEAD!

        • On the Titanic, only the upper class women were “protected” by chivalry. All the women in steerage were killed alongside the men.

          • You sure about that? I just pulled that up on wiki

            Women, First Class 144 97% 3% 140 4
            Women, Second Class 93 86% 14% 80 13
            Women, Third Class 165 46% 54% 76 89
            Women, Crew 23 87% 13% 20 2

            Men, First Class 175 33% 67% 57 118
            Men, Second Class 168 8% 92% 14 154
            Men, Third Class 462 16% 84% 75 387
            Men, Crew 885 22% 78% 192 693

            The numbers here are (from left to right),
            1. How many were on board
            2. Percentage Saved
            3. Percentage Lost
            4. Number Saved
            5. Number Lost

            The only percentage loss rate between men and women that comes even close are Third Class men/women and even that is a 30% gap.

        • Actually, from a purely biological perspective, “woman and children first” is a survival mechanism. It takes far more females to sustain a population than males. Males can reproduce far more frequently than females in all mammalian species.

          (I am not saying that it was actually thought about in those terms on the Titanic, or in any other circumstance for that matter … I’m just saying.)

          So, from a purely biological perspective, there are certain aspects of chivalry that make sense.

          (Ha! Take that, feminism! …

          …. I’m kidding.)

        • Here's a thought says:

          Why save children either, or pregnant women, ahead of everyone else? I value my life more than some stranger’s kid. I’m a woman, but why is my life less valuable than a 3-year-old’s, or some woman who is pregnant?

          I think in an emergency situation, everyone should just fight form the exits. Shove the weaker men, women and children and old people aside and let them drown! The strong should live, that’s Darwinism!

      • Linguist says:

        We call it “lifeboat feminism”.

  12. Yes. Very interesting topic, this consensual chivalry

    The opening of doors is a fairly straightforward chivalrous act, but it can devolve quickly if I change my mind, part way, when entering the porn shop.

    I suggest revolving doors to get around this dilemma – then if I change my mind, I can simply go full circle and exit where I entered. Chances are that the man who let me in ahead of himself will not even notice I went full around. His fragile male ego remains intact. Win win.

  13. Apel Mjausson says:

    In the context of the article, I think Hugo’s actions are fine. But this is actually a situation that includes 3 people: Hugo, Hugo’s unnamed wife and Sheva. What is missing is the conversation between Hugo and his wife about who does what before Sheva walked out the door. The reason I’m bringing this up is that I have observed many times how men simply choose to be somewhere more pleasant over showing up to do their fair share of the work.

    Or to put it another way: While Hugo was chatting with his friend, was his wife catching up on Facebook or putting dishes into the dish washer?

    • This is one of the better replies to Hugo’s article. I also sensed that Hugo walked Sheva to her car because he wanted to get out of doing housework and childcare.

      A friend told me that whenever her husband offers to walk a woman to her car, she casually says, “I’ll join you” and walks with both of them.

      I have never heard Hugo call his spouse by her name. He just says, “My wife.” Very male chauvinistic.

      My favorite comment about chivalry is, “The problem with chivalry is that it gets in the way of good manners.” There are studies that show that the most chivalrous men are usually the most male chauvinistic.

      We need courtesy towards all, not just benevolence towards the “weak”.

      • Just FYI, my wife generally requests that I refrain from using her name and identity as much as possible.

        And we did the dishes together after I got back that night. Wife was doing work emails when I returned to the house after escorting Sheva. But thanks for speculating!

      • This is one of the better replies to Hugo’s article. I also sensed that Hugo walked Sheva to her car because he wanted to get out of doing housework and childcare.
        Not that Hugo needs the defending but I’m curious to know just how you got that sense. It seems to me that he was in a good discussion and walking her to her car was the best way to take the talk as far as it could reasonably go (bearing in mind that Sheva probably wanted to head home at some point regardless of how good the conversation was).

  14. wellokaythen says:

    At the risk of getting bogged down in detail, I would suggest a compromise: you have the right to hold open the door for anyone you want, and that person has the right to refuse. Plenty of times I have held the door open for someone and that person, male or female, has said “after you” and held the door for me instead. We could stand there bickering all day, or come to a somewhat balanced result.

    Why not take the opened door as an offering instead of a set of expectations? To me, refusing is not ungrateful.

    Similarly, walking someone to the car is something that seems to be good manners as a host, just like asking if the person remembers how to get back to the freeway from here. It’s handy just to make sure the person has his/her keys, is not going to drive drunk, etc.

    I can see how someone might find it condescending to be escorted to the car without being asked, but in the big picture of sexism it’s pretty light. I can think of much more disabling forms of chivalry. I used to work at a place that did not allow women to work in the building at night. (Unless they were custodial staff, which is itself an interesting exception.) The night-time positions were for men only, and the reasoning was that being there at night was much less safe for women than for men. As a result, women had fewer shift choices than men did. I was hired for one of those positions and only learned about the no-women policy after I was hired. Funny, no one warned me about any special dangers of being in the building at night….

    This was perfectly well-intentioned and totally discriminatory, unethical, and probably illegal. (The people in charge of that decision were mostly women, actually, so I guess it’s not necessarily chivalry.)

    • “This was perfectly well-intentioned and totally discriminatory, unethical, and probably illegal. (The people in charge of that decision were mostly women, actually, so I guess it’s not necessarily chivalry.)”

      So if women perceive that the office is unsafe at night so they have men take those shifts it is “perfectly well-intentioned”? Really?

      • wellokaythen says:

        I see your point. “Perfectly well-intentioned” is an odd way to put it now that I think about it. I meant to say that the main motive by the two women in charge of those decisions were (from what I heard them say) not motivated by some desire to hold other women back. I think they were sincere in being worried about the safety of women working in the building at night. If motivations for sexist behavior really matters.

        I do see the flipside – women were given a little more preference for the daytime positions as a result, so men had less choice for the daytime jobs and more choice for the night-time ones.

  15. No Woman In Particular says:

    I grew up with three older brothers and have lots of guy friends. I know enough about them, warts and all, to know that sometimes a guy opens a door for a woman because he wants to check her out, wants to hit on her, all the stuff that men do when they think no women are looking. I was pissed at 14 when I discovered this, but I got over it. I’m not excusing this behaviour, and I make fun of it when I see it, but usually I try to just take the consideration where I can get it.

  16. I think the core message of Hugo’s piece is found in this comment:

    “One of the common misconceptions that a lot of people have about feminism is that it requires its adherents to act as if they are blind to gender.”

    Hugo then goes on to describe one young male student who feels it’s unfair for women to enjoy traditional “gentlemanly” acts while also being treated as equals. As if it’s somehow unfair that women like to be treated femininely but want equality as well. As if there isn’t enough room for both because apparently femininity and equality can’t coexist. Because in the eyes of those that feel that those two things can’t coexist, they think they are somehow being gypped out of something for themselves in the process.

    Which is rather interesting to me because I know for certain there are things women do that make men feel more masculine. And that can be a beautiful thing. Just because a man finds beauty in a traditionally woman action or role, doesn’t mean that man doesn’t deserve equality. So why would that mean that if a female finds excitement in a traditionally man action or role, that she also can’t have equality?

    I know the the things that spark men’s hearts aren’t found in a woman’s ability to organize the file cabinet at work or in her ability to get a promotion. So if there are men that feel like it’s unfair for women to enjoy chivalrous acts at the same time wanting equality, then these same men must also be men that have no expectations for women to do feminine acts for them since they feel that means an imbalance in equality. What a boring world we would have if that was the case.

    I would ask that young male student Hugo talked about “why?” Why can’t I enjoy traditional gentlemanly acts in my romantic life and still want to be treated with fairness in the practical world? Why am I being labeled as a woman taking advantage of the system because I enjoy the femininity my boyfriend brings out in me, the different ways he treats me vs how my male boss treats me? It seems to me that we are obliterating any of the wonderful differences and responses that make us feel like men and women. And it seems to me that we are trying to shame women for taking pleasure in things that make them feel like women.

    Men and women are different. There is nothing wrong with that. But when we start talking about things like the Titanic, or other acts in history that didn’t turn out well for one gender over the other (because if we are going to talk about the unfairness of Titantic, then we might as well talk about the rape of the Sabine women), then we are more focused on our personal bitterness then finding real balance and grace in our everyday present day life with each other. I didn’t suffer through the rape of the Sabine women. And I know no one else here suffered through the terrible and unfair tragedy of the Titantic. But I do know we are all trying to find some balance and fairness in this world *today*, while maintaing our true selves within it. While I recognize what happened with the Titanic is a tragedy, I don’t think that means that my ability to enjoy having a man open a door for me means I’m just looking to “get mine” and “screw men” over. While I recognize what happened to the rape of the Sabine women was a tragedy, I don’t think that means men don’t deserve equality while maintaing and even asserting their masculinity in positive ways. Femininity and equality *can* coexist. Masculinity and equality *can* coexist. Femininity and masculinity together are ying and yang. We are meant not to be mirror images of each other but to compliment each other.

    • Erin, I have no argument with your position as long as these traditional gender roles extend into the person life otherwise, and don’t stop at chivalry.

  17. I like chivalry. It makes me feel like a girl. I like feeling like a girl when I am with a guy. I like that we are different. It’s interesting. It turns me on actually.

    I also own a small farm by myself. This involves throwing haybales, splitting wood and repairing many things with tools. I get pretty dirty. I also play hockey and basketball with the boys (most of them are better than me).

    I am an educated professional with a career and if I get a flat on the way to work, I get out and fix it (skirt and all). I know I can do just about anything and I have just as much worth as anyone.

    But I love doors opened for me. I love feeling protected. I love making dinner. I love painting my toenails and all the stereotypical girl stuff. I don’t mind being the weaker, fairer sex because I know it has no bearing on my right for equal regard.

    I haven’t experienced a lot of chivalry. I have experienced plenty of chauvinism – there’s a difference. The former is respectful and kind, the latter is demeaning and crude.

    If a guy wants to be chivalrous with me – I’d love it. But I wouldn’t wait around for it or expect it.

    It seems to me that people are looking around for reasons to be offended.

  18. wellokaythen says:

    How’s this for the modern sexual politics of chivalry:

    That woman that you hold the door for may in fact be an MTF trans woman, in which case opening the door for her may be very meaningful, flattering, and encouraging. By holding the door you may be very supportive of someone who has gone through a lot to make it to that point in her life. You would be showing your acceptance of her feminine self-definition. By NOT holding the door you may be deeply insulting someone.

    Sure, a rare case, but you never know….

  19. wellokaythen says:

    When you’re damned for opening the door or damned for not opening it, you’re being damned by two different groups of people, really. Taking any stand on anything related to gender is going to offend someone. One may just have to choose who one is willing to offend. Maybe the best approach to social existence is to do what you think is right and let those who get offended get offended. I try to minimize my potential offensiveness as best I can, but past a certain point it’s way beyond my control, it’s other people’s issues.

    One of the sticking points here is the label “sexism.” People have mostly agreed that sexism is inherently bad and behavior that is labeled “sexist” must by definition be stopped. I suggest that not all sexism is horribly evil. There are forms of sexism that benefit more than one sex. I think eradicating every last shred of sexism is a fool’s crusade, counterproductive and impossible anyway.

    I admit I’m more polite to women in public than I am to men. I generally am more likely to hold a door for a woman than for a man. Objectively, I admit this is sexist behavior. I just don’t think this is a major cause for shame or embarrassment on my part.

  20. Maia Pinion says:

    I love it when men are gentlemen. Chivalry was something I took for granted as a youngster since my father was a stickler for the niceties. They extended beyond his family too. Holding doors, pulling chairs, carrying things, picking up the check- that was what a “man” did whether a woman was working or not mind you. I had thought that this sort of behavior had mostly died out but then had a boss (who was of the same generation as I was) who felt it was really unheard of for a man to NOT do those things and questioned what kind of men had I met or was I meeting that wouldn’t do all that and more.

    He never felt I wasn’t capable of doing things for myself but that it was simply about being decent and he felt that we’d been hardwired for the traditional roles. I have to say when I thought about it and how it made me feel, for myself this would definitely ring true.

    I like to feel protected and cherished and in turn I’m happy to help a man feel strong and heroic.
    I always find it disappointing when men run to take seats on the subway and are pushing women out of the way to beat them through a door or to a seat. I see more women giving up seats for expectant mothers and for the elderly of either gender than adult men do for anyone these days and I must say that just in terms of being polite, having basic manners and common decency, men seem to have tossed the niceties out the window.

    When a man shows me the respect of being chivalrous he definitely earns my appreciation and gratitude. I don’t take it for granted but I’m happy when I encounter it.

    • “I love it when women are domestic. Pampering was something I took for granted as a youngster since my mother was a stickler for domestic duties. This extended beyond her family too. Making sandwiches, getting cool-aid, doing laundry and cleaning up the mess – that was what a “woman” did whether the man could make his own sandwich mind you. I had thought this behaviour had mostly died out, but then I met a woman who felt it was unheard of for a woman to no make sandwiches for or clean up after men and felt it was really unheard of for a woman to tell a man he could make the damn sandwich himself. She questioned whether the women I’ve met were real women since they wouldn’t do all that for me.

      She never felt I was uncapable of doing my own laundry or making my own sandwich, but it was just about being decent and she felt we were hardwired for traditional roles. I must admit this ringed true since I like having my sandwiches and laundry done for me.

      I like being taken care for and not having to do these things myself – in turn I am happy to hold open doors for her and pay for any dinners we’re having. I am always disappointed when we’re out visting someone and the women are not bringing me sandwiches and cool-aid (boy do I love that cool-aid). Nowadays a see a lot of men making their own sandwiches and even making sandwiches for others. Women sure seem to have tossed their niceties out of the window. They don’t even give me a smile anymore hen I ask them too.
      When a woman shows me respect by bringing me a sandwich and my cool-aid she defintively earns my appreciation and gratitude. I don’t take it for granted (anymore), but I’m happy when I encounter it.”

      F*** that shit!

      • Women should do nice things for men too Tamen. Infact, I love doing domestic acts for my boyfriend when I have a boyfriend. I don’t have one right now but I like cooking for boyfriends or brining them the beer they like or leaving him little notes to flirt and let him know I care. I also hold doors open for men!

        Instead of being bitter over the pleasure women get from kind acts done for them by men and acting like women are being unreasonable because they consider it kind when a man opens a door for her, instead of looking for ways to smite the way some women enjoy chiverly, why don’t you try to understand it. It’s not about screwing men over. If we are all honest here we ALL enjoy kind acts performed for us from other members of the opposite sex.

        • Yeah, no beef with you enjoying to do domestic acts for yur boyfriend. But I bet you would be miffed if he expected and felt that those acts are compulsory for you and if you should fail to do any of them he would question your womanhood and would feel free to berate you for your failure.

          No, no-one is being unreasonable for considering it kind when a man opens a door for her. That’s the least they should do.

          They are however being unreasonable if they’re annoyed when a man doesn’t open a door for them (and they have one free functioning hand) or when they’re annoyed when a man do open a door for them (as some commenters here have said).

          It’s also unreasonable to feel that all men are obligated to perform chivalrous acts because they are a man and you are a woman. Acts you likely wouldn’t return to a healthy man, like giving up your seat on the subway for them.

          Maia Pinion says in her last sentence that she doesn’t take any chivalrous acts from men for granted it is clear from what she wrote above that she doesn’t mean that men are not obligated or expected to be chivalrous towards her, but rather that she thinks men nowadays seem to have tossed niceties out of the window. In other words, what she takes for granted is to be disappointed by men’s lack of chivalrous behaviour, but she is happy when some man raise above the rubble and offers her a seat.

          I open door for people who have both hands full. Any person within a reasonable age range which have a hand free is perfectly capable of opening their own door, but if they’re pretty close after me I open the door for them anyway, partly to take care so that the door doesn’t slam any persons behind me in the face. I never hurry past a woman so that I can open the door for her. I give my seat up to anyone pregnant, elderly or with crutches or otherwise clearly in need like small children with their parents. I don’t give up my seat to perfectly fit thirty-something women just because they’ve been bestowed with internal genitalia. I take pride in treating humans as humans regardless of gender and I expect the same in return.

          What acts based on “hardwired” traditionally roles (as Maia Pinion expressed it) do you feel you are obligated to do towards any arbitrary men? Those “hardwired” traditionally roles included that women shouldn’t raise their voices in congregations, that they should be demure and that they should not take work outside the home, that they should feign incompetence and helplessness to make a man feel strong and herioic. None of which i would wish for any women.

          Hugo sure is disregarding quite a large part of feminism when he is saying that feminist thinks that gender is something one performs for pleasure. Many feminists and others don’t consider that performance to be pleasurable, in fact they argue that it’s oppressive. Plenty of feminists argue that wearing high heels, wearing make-up or shaving one’s legs are caving in to the patriarchy even when one does it for fun (http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2011/07/29/things-i-do-of-which-i-am-ashamed/). Heck, some feminist even don’t want men to say hello to women they don’t know (http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2011/08/05/the-politics-of-hello/).

          Hence it’s a bit dishonest og Hugo to pretend as if men who don’t think they should do chivalry (as opposed to common non-gender based courtesy) are just plain misunderstanding feminism.

  21. You know, why not just be kind to people regardless of what gender they are? And when dating or in a relationship, spreading the kindness through simple acts of support like holding doors, helping move heavy items, etc. should just be natural – and coming from whomever is in position to do them in the relationship.

    The grab-bag narrative around “chivalry” (part made up fantasy, part medieval gender script, part early-mid 20th century gender script) that we operate on these days is just causing a lot of confusion, irritation, and misunderstanding. I’d rather chuck the idea that men are supposed to do X and women Y, and just be kind and supportive to people, including whomever I am dating.

  22. A wonderful article. I was raised with good manners which included chivalry. I have also considered myself a feminist since the late 70’s believing women are equal to men and deserve respect for who they are and what they do. As I have gotten older I am finding that I really like chivalry. Being polite to women and older people. I hold the door open, let an woman go first, offer to carry something. I don’t expect anything for these little courtesies. But generally get a thank you or a smile. It make the world a nicer place to live in and puts a some joy in my heart. I also don’t think chivalry is strictly men doing the courtesy. Many times it is logical for a woman or another man to hold the door for me. I think that these days chivalry is about politeness and making people feel special. The fact that it is more often a man doing something for a woman does not demean either as long as both enjoy it.

    • I agree this is mostly about good manners and being caring about others. I am also a woman who is all for equality but I like when men treat me with respect, open doors for me, and treat me like a lady. To me it shows manners. The problem I see is that many men think just like Hugo’s student, if you want equality then forget about chivalry, which takes them into behaving rude with women even with their own significant others. I remember opening once a door for a pregnant woman who was carrying a toddler and a whole bunch of bags and was struggling to open and carry everything at the same time to discover to my surprise that the husband was standing right outside looking at her struggling without moving one finger. I did actually ask why you don’t help her, gosh, just to get the response she has two arms and two legs, she can do it by herself. That is being mean and have no love for the people you are supposed to love.

      • randomStranger says:

        “Treating you like a lady” isn’t common respect, it’s a complement, a gift, and it’s NOT one that all women (or people for that matter) deserve by default. If my goal is to impress or please you (for instance, on a date), I might choose to pay for everything, open all the doors, help you in and out of the car as well as drive you around, etc.. because I’m being “extra nice”. That doesn’t mean if I’m not bending over backwards to please some random woman off the street I’m being “rude”. For the most part, men don’t have a problem with chivalry being desired, they have a problem with it being considered a complement and instead being told they are RUDE for not handing it out to women as a pre requisite to intimacy or even common friendship, and that expectation IS misandry.

        appreciating it If a woman chooses to make me dinner, clean my apartment or do my laundry simply makes me grateful, EXPECTING these things as a matter of of respect makes me a misogynist.

  23. So, we can pick the gender-based inequalities we prefer to perform and have performed for us and still claim equality? That must be why we like me being the head of the family and bringing home the bacon while my wife is at home caring for the family otherwise. Are we equal? Yes, just filling different roles (or playing different parts – if you want to put it that way).

  24. Richard Aubrey says:

    Discussions of chivalry usually are restricted to opening doors. This is inadequate for two reasons; the motivation may be unclear or one of several not connected with chivalry and there’s no way to tell, there is no cost to the man to open or hold a door for anyone.
    Let’s discuss other possibilities. The gender disparity on the Titanic is noted but passed over, although I believe some feminists consider mentioning the Titanic a really Bad Thing. For some reason.
    The expectation–not the personal choice–that Farrell calls the “unpaid bodyguard”. Women, do you want to argue your date/partner ought not be expected to risk his life to save yours? And, having said so on the net, how many people do you think would expect you to hold to that if the fit hit the shan?
    Paying for some dates? The PUA guys say men should do the planning, since women like guys with a plan and don’t like guys who say, “I dunno. What do you want to do?” Some planning is simple. Time and place, especially when you can expect the restaurant to be open at normal restaurant hours. Others are more involved. Skydiving? Lazy river tubing? Chivalry or something else, it’s an expectation.
    If you see a news clip of a kid who may have drowned, you’ll sympathize with the grieving women. If the men are not wet, you’ll wonder what’s wrong with them. Nobody wonders what’s wrong with the dry women. Nobody. If a woman makes a valiant rescue attempt, then GREAT for her. A guy…? What he’s supposed to do.
    Some years ago, film–or whatever they call it–of a little girl caught in a tree during a Texas flash flood. A Texas Guardsman was in the tree with her, no explanation of how that happened. A chopper came along and lowered a harness. The Guardsman got the kid into the harness, the chopper pulled away, reeling in the kid. The Guardsman gave a triumphant fist pump and was seen no more. We were informed the little girl was okay. I suppose the guy got out of the tree some way. Nobody was interested in telling us. Gender based expectations so firmly fixed that nobody even thought about it? Or was it that soldiers and cops and firefighters are of the lower orders and mean nothing once they’ve fulfilled their function for the higher orders? Me, I go back and forth. Another reason?
    I submit that discussions of chivalry can be more interesting if we abandon the door opening piece.

  25. Christy Robinson says:

    We feminists overcorrect past wrongs by throwing modern-day chivalry under the heading of gender-based oppression. Come on, now. I’m from Texas, and I can’t recall one time a man opened my door, called me ma’am, ceased cursing in my presence or gave up his seat for me in a crowded room where I felt the intention was patronization. I always feel a sense of humility and honor from the man performing these acts, which in turn causes me to feel honored yet humble, myself. That’s a beautiful, unspoken exchange to occur between two strangers, and why in the world we’d want to label it the same as true oppressions like the inability to work for an equal wage is beyond me. Do these taught-behaviors make logical sense? No. I can physically get my own door, and the source of a woman’s honor has nothing to do with external acts from others. But gender-based kindnesses are just that — kindnesses. And a kindness from another human being has never once straightjacketed my individual potential.

    • The problem is that it’s gender-roled inequality based on tradition. Once you open the gender-role unequal door, there is no argument to be made against other gender-role unequal traditions. If that tradition is valid because women enjoy it, so are the other gender-role unequal traditions, such as the woman showing her kindness by being the one to cook. Not that he can’t do it himself but it’s nicer if she does it for him, and brings him his plate. Once you open the gender-role unequal door, there is no argument to be made against other gender-role unequal traditions.

  26. I think one of the misconceptions about Chivalry is that the guy is doing it to get into a girl’s pants or has other motives of “I do this for you, you do this for me.”

    Chivalry has nothing to do with that. Chivalry is simply about being polite and honorable, it also draws from an older warrior mentality of a protector and supporter. That’s it, it’s not about expecting anything back. Never has been.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] pace will slow down. My last column until the end of the month at Good Men Project runs today: May I Walk You To Your Car? Chivalry and its Contradictions. Inspired by an evening with my wife and our good friend Batsheva (who blogs here) it’s an [...]

  2. [...] put by Hugo Schwyzer in his article May I Walk You To Your Car? – Chivalry and its Contradictions on goodmenproject.com, he tells about an event in which he walks a female friend of his to her car [...]

  3. [...] But yesterday I wanted to strangle someone when I read Hugo Schwyzer’s piece on Chivalry. [...]

  4. [...] May I walk you to your car? Chivalry and its contradictions. (GoodMenProject) [...]

  5. Blog says:

    [...] post originally appeared on the Good Men Project. Republished with the author's [...]

  6. [...] this month, my column focused on modern-day “chivalry” and how men and women can negotiate gender-based courtesy in their romantic lives. In the piece, I [...]

  7. [...] analysis of chivalry and what it means.  (Good Men [...]

  8. [...] Schwyzer writes of walking a female guest to her car at night even though his wife is a skilled martial artist. Even though his wife would be more ‘useful’, should an attacker come upon them, he [...]

  9. [...] put by Hugo Schwyzer in his article May I Walk You To Your Car? – Chivalry and its Contradictions on goodmenproject.com, he tells about an event in which he walks a female friend of his to her car [...]

  10. […] May I Walk You to Your Car? Chivalry and its Contradictions — The Good Men Project […]

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