“The age of chivalry is never past, so long as there is a wrong left unredressed on earth.”
“Some say that the age of chivalry is past, that the spirit of romance is dead. The age of chivalry is never past, so long as there is a wrong left unredressed on earth.” -Charles Kingsley
After several conversations with other members of GMP, I decided to post a series of articles based on some information I am currently developing in my own writing project. Having already dealt with the topic in another article, I feel there is a great deal of interest and conflicting opinions as to what Chivalry is, how it relates to Gentlemanly behavior, and if it is even needed. I hope this series is of your interest and provides enough room for discussion where everyone, including myself, can learn from.
What is Chivalry anyway?
We have heard time and time again that Chivalry is dead and it was Feminism who killed it. Let’s start with the basics so we can all be on the same page:
Chiv·al·ry [shívvəlree] (n)
1. the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight, esp courage, honour, justice, and a readiness to help the weak
2. courteous behaviour, esp towards women
3. the medieval system and principles of knighthood
Chivalry is a code of conduct originating from the ideals of the Knight’s military tradition. As a privileged class, Knights made an oath to help others, following certain guidelines based on their Order. In theory, the two main focuses of Chivalry are the fight for what’s “Just” and to place the needs of others above their own comforts. It wasn’t about having your pinky up while drinking tea or knowing the proper way to say “Good Day, Madame.” It was about Self-Discipline, Courtesy, Honor, Honesty, Charity, and the Protection of the underprivileged. At its core, Chivalry is nothing more than the martial charity of creating a safe environment for those under your protection. Chivalry is seen as a “manly” code because a knight had to protect women from the evils of unchivalrous men in a time when kidnapping and raping were acceptable marriage proposals.
Let me make one point abundantly clear, Men don’t have to be chivalrous if they don’t want to. The lack of Chivalry doesn’t make anyone less of a man. This also means that a woman shouldn’t expect to be treated chivalrously by all men or that they should feel offended if the man does not behave that way. Chivalry is a personal choice; it’s an oath that must be given full heartedly.
Does Chivalry need a eulogy?
And that is where the conundrum comes into play. People tend to state that they see chivalrous acts less and less often, frequently citing the Women’s Liberation Movement as the cause of that trend. Did Feminism kill Chivalry? Was Chivalry something used by men to demean women to a degree where it was needed to be stomped out by the militant feminist boots? Should a man fear being a male chauvinist if he had the audacity to open a door for a lady? Is a man who offers his seat in a bus proving he is a misogynist pig? Have the ideals of gender equality trumped traditional civility? Or have men gotten tired of being treated as having a second rate value when compared to a woman? Have men simply become jaded with the fact that women don’t need them to survive or for protection?
The internet is littered with articles about “keep Chivalry alive” or lists of “Gentlemanly traits” written by both men and women. As entertaining as these articles are, the comments left by previous readers are even more enlightening into the social perspective of Chivalry. If Feminism killed Chivalry, why is it that most women state how they appreciate a genuine Gentleman while most of the hostile reactions come from men? Sure, there are women who voiced complaints and the men who gave a positive comment, but those are actually the exceptions. What was the main cause for trolling by both genders?
The complaint from most women was of men thinking they could “buy” a lady with chivalrous behavior or that Chivalry was based on the idea that a woman could not do anything without a man’s help. Ladies, let me make this clear: Any action based on ulterior motives is not Chivalrous. Men who “Act like a gentleman” or behave Chivalrous because “women love gentlemen” are not true gentlemen. A man is chivalrous because he expects it from himself, and not because he expects payment in return or because women expect said behavior from him. His chivalrous actions are not because he doesn’t think a woman can’t do something, but rather because he thinks she shouldn’t have to.
Gender equality was/is the main reason most men state against Chivalry. They feel that Women’s Liberation released them from the chains of Chivalry because we are now equal in the eyes of society. The entire concept of “Women first” denotes the idea that men were disposable and a woman’s life is more valuable. Men also complain how women would use Feminism or expect Chivalry, switching between concepts, depending on what was convenient at the time. I am the first to admit there are women out there who behave that way.
Why should we even keep Chivalry alive?
All these arguments stated previously against Chivalry are valid and need to be considered before you even try to wear a Gentleman’s shoes, so why even keep Chivalry alive? There are men who still think they can buy a woman’s interest with manners and there are women who use their gender to take advantage of the men. I am not saying that either men or women have it easy and I don’t want anyone to think I am minimizing either situation. In reality we are far from real gender equality or equity:
- Women only make up, on average, about one fourth of all positions of Political and Economic power, even if they are half of the population.
- Women get paid one fifth less than a man for same work. Ironically if a woman has kids, she will get paid even less on average. Apparently a penis is worth one fifth of a man’s value. Not really sure how to interpret that one.
- Laws that deal exclusively on women’s health and reproductive options are developed by a male dominated legal system.
Besides the basic breakdown of social inequality, we have to consider the reality of violence against women in the USA, especially violent acts done by the very men who are supposed to provide a safe environment for them.
- Out of every three women murdered, one was killed by their spouse.
- Three women are murdered by their significant other every day.
- For every five women out there, one will be raped during their lifetime, usually while being in their teens or twenties.
- For every ten high school girls, one will be date raped.
- In more than half of all sexual assault cases, the assailant is someone the woman knows.
- Every fifteen seconds another woman is battered by their spouse.
By the time you got to this point in the article it is possible that one woman was killed, forty women were battered by their spouse, 5 women were raped, 3 of them by men who they knew and possibly even trust. Take a moment to let this sink in. Just to season up the mix we need to add the catcalls on the streets, creepy innuendos at work or school, and the generalized rape culture women have to endure every single day.
All abuse is wrong, but when this abuse comes from the very person who should make you feel safe it goes to an entirely different level. I don’t want anyone to think I am “Man Bashing,” but statistically the biggest threats women have are men, while the biggest threats men have are…also men. Guess men and women have more in common than I thought.
Now, the Chivalrous, the Gentleman, and the Caballero will understand how privileged he is and accept the obligation to compensate for those rotten apples who give men a bad name. He will fight against the real inequality that exists between the genders.
As men who follow the Code of Chivalry, We choose to step up for all those men who have failed to do so. We will strive to provide an environment where anyone can feel safe and secure. We are the friend who walked the girl home just to make sure she got there safely. We are the neighbor who got involved in a domestic dispute and stood guard till the cops arrived. We are the random stranger who stopped to help a woman when she had a flat in a rainy day. We are the Dad who stepped up for the child a deadbeat dad left behind. We are the husband who hid his tears with a smile, just to give his wife the comfort that everything will be okay. People might say that Chivalry is dead. I think that Chivalry is alive, thriving, and is needed now more than ever.
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