Monday, May 31, 2010

Piece of Advice #40: Acknowledge that chivalry is dead

Feminism killed it.  A society-wide push for female indep- endence and an old code of honor that exists to protect women from a dangerous world cannot peacefully coexist, although the latter has chugged on a bit longer than you might expect.  One of two things must be true: either women are fully capable of taking care of themselves - in which case they should - or they can't - in which case they should acknowledge the superiority of men and get busy making themselves useful to them.  You can't have it both ways.

Yet while women proclaim their achievements and abilities, we are still bemoaning that fact that men won't pay for dates anymore, or go round opening doors, or bow out politely after being refused yet still be there to aid and succor in emergency, like Mr. Darcy does in Pride and Prejudice.  Yet, what is in it for them if they do?  I've seen women rudely snub men who opened doors for them or otherwise take offense if men offer help.  Dating is no longer a man displaying his gentlemanly qualities and offering a small proof of his ability to provide.  Women can provide for themselves.  At this moment in time, she's more likely to have a job than he is.  So why should he pay?

It's no use saying you liked it better the old way either because it's gone and not coming back.  So, onward and upward into our Brave New World.  At the bare minimum, you should:

  • Pay for your own stuff
  • Keep yourself safe by not putting yourself in dangerous situations (do not expect a man to come physically to your rescue, in other words)
  • Figure out how to handle minor emergencies - such as car failure - yourself
This does not mean that neighborliness has to be dead as well, but you may have to resuscitate it yourself in your local area.  There is a common good in looking out for each other, but since we tend to not even know our neighbors, it takes some work to get it up and moving.  This means extending help to the people around you - babysit their kids for free, offer to share tools or other things your have, watch their houses and water their plants when they are on vacation, give them produce from your garden, give them a lift somewhere, take the time to get to know them.  I have found that, having done this, my neighbors are happy to help me if I need something.  They have offered to trim my trees, have repaired my bicycle, and will water my garden with their own hose.  This kind of reciprocal relationship is possible, but not chivalry.  Not anymore.


  1. Great writeup and very true. I treat women well but I will NEVER believe the chivalry nonsense. It got me nowhere with them and only after I changed how I acted around women did they positively respond. It's over ladies, accept the changes and adjust. Or remain frustrated and 'settle' for a guy you wouldn't have considered a generation earlier. Fewer of us men are concerned for your welfare as you women are 'independent' and don't need our help.

    We're glad you are independent as we have no intention of burdening ourselves for you.

  2. Chivalry hasn't died for me. I'm not a beauty or anything, just a simple, modest, dresses only housewife who conducts herself like a lady. Doors are always opened for me and men often allow me to be ahead of them in line.

    I just wanted to offer this as some advice to those bemoaning the demise of chivalry. If you look the part of lady, you'll be treated as such.

  3. Jenny - out of curiosity, how old are the men you are interacting with? Sometimes men do act paternalistically with me and I have had random male strangers do things like help pull my car out of a snowdrift for me. But these are almost always older men. Also, I do live in a pretty conservative region with a higher population of people who identify as religious. My feeling, reading articles like this one or this one that Gen Y isn't going to be continuing that tradition. Gen X, having been raised in a world with changing expectations, is confused and inconsistent, in my experience.

  4. Older men are always quite deferential in their treatment of me. Middle aged men are usually deferential to me. Young men are often deferential to me. Teenage boys are rarely deferential to me, with the exception of being at church. I find that in the South (where I'm originally from) chivalrous behavior is the norm. Here in the West it is more common than not.

    Honestly, Gen Y just sounds pathetic. My major goal with my son is to not raise a self-absorbed, entitled brat.

    As for Gen X, the generation to which I belong, I agree with your assessment of "confused and inconsistent." I think men from this generation assume (by my dress and demeanor) that I will not be offended by chivalrous behavior and proceed to act the part of gentlemen.

    Chivalry doesn't have to die, but if girls and women don't get their acts together and start looking and behaving as ladies, it looks as if it will.

  5. Essay on chivalry by C S Lewis, in which he argues that it's about some very fundamental aspects of civilization.

  6. Jenny said:

    "Chivalry doesn't have to die, but if girls and women don't get their acts together and start looking and behaving as ladies, it looks as if it will."

    Well said. I find myself attracted to females who actually take the time to try to act and look like a woman and I try to be nice to them because they're so rare. More often than not, the women I see, church women included, either don't act like a woman, don't dress like one or both.

  7. C.S. Lewis' article on chivalry argues, effectively, that, for civilization's sake, we had better not let chivalry die. Lewis' definition of chivalry, though - meek in peace, bold in war - means that it is not primarily about women. Maybe giving chivalry a gynocentric focus is what withered it in the first place.

  8. Charles, I think what withered it was the shift in focus from acting in service to the good of the group to acting in service to the good of the individual. If you cannot deny self at all - which our society seems not to be able to do - there will be social anarchy.

    I'm quite open to getting back to denial of self. Any suggestions?

  9. A woman's part in encouraging chivalrous behavior is in rewarding it, even when she herself isn't its object; such a reward might be nothing more than an approving smile or nod. Women, individually and collectively, have power to encourage certain types of men into existence, merely by favoring some men over others. Such power is not absolute - the man himself has plenty to say about what kind of man he will become, and other men can encourage or discourage him - but a woman's favor has a unique power to edify or tempt, and to determine what kind of man will come to inhabit women's world. Could this power be seen as a responsibility, as a civic duty, to encourage the right kinds of men, and to discourage the wrong kinds? Perhaps women could learn to expect, of themselves and of others, to use this kind of power wisely, and for the benefit of all.

  10. I've been enjoying your blog, but I think you lost me here:

    "in which case they should acknowledge the superiority of men and get busy making themselves useful to them."

    Pretty much the only time I can't take care of myself is when I'm pregnant, or post-op (and my husband actually needed a fair bit of care from me when he had surgery, too). And, there's no way I'm going to "acknowledge the superiority" of men, when I'm growing a human being inside me.

    Religious beliefs aside, there is absolutely *nothing* that suggests men are superior to women in any respect, except for physical strength. We're *different*, but superior/inferior nonsense doesn't come into it.

  11. Oops - meant to mention that I can't imagine any reason why I'd consider the death of chivalry to be *bad* thing. I feel the roots of chivalry are based on an assumption that women can't take care of themselves, which simply isn't true. You seem to be a very competent person, so I'm not sure why you'd bemoan the death of a system of "manners" rooted in the assumption that you're no such thing.

    Neighbourliness is alive and well in my community, among both men and women. I see no relationship between that and chivalry.

  12. "More often than not, the women I see, church women included, either don't act like a woman, don't dress like one or both."

    I'm having trouble believing I just read that. What, exactly, does a woman dress like, or act like? I'm a woman, and a mother of five, and I suspect you wouldn't think I dress *or* act "like a woman". That's asinine and completely illogical, as I *am* a woman, so the way I dress and act *is* the way a woman - this one - dresses and acts.

    I do *not* dress or act like a "lady", and I've never figured out how any self-respecting woman can bear to do so. Our culture's concept of "ladylike" is rooted in concepts of womanhood that are in complete opposition to the reality of womanhood.