In the modern age of gender equality, the act of chivalry often comes up. Is chivalry sexist? Is chivalry dead? Do you pull out the chair for a woman, give up your seat or walk on the road side of the pavement?
The topic of chivalry came up between my friends and me. A male friend of mine asked if girls like it when guys are chivalrous. The response was mixed. It seems that chivalry is a dividing topic. So is chivalry sexist, and if so, why?
Firstly, what is chivalry? Gone are the days when knights would roam about saving damsels. The code of chivalry by knights stood as courage, honour, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak. We now associate it more with men treating women nicely
For instance, this could mean holding the chair for her to sit down. Or paying for a meal. Or even holding a door. The fact is, the definition of chivalry is quite vague and different people associate it with different things.
How can it be sexist?
If we’re going by the simple definition that chivalry means treating people with courtesy and helping the weak, it can be strange to ask if chivalry is sexist. Is it sexist to be polite?
It’s possibly more to do with the idea that a man might be treating a woman as weaker than her, and therefore needing special help. A woman might think “Of course I can pull out my own chair.” and many don’t want to be seen as a princess waiting around to be saved.
Others believe the concept is too old fashioned. With gender equality, women want to be seen as capable and independent. Some believe that it shouldn’t be assumed that a woman wants you to do chivalrous things.
Is it a problem?
The answer should be no. However, things are more complicated than that. There is a problem, but it’s not with chivalry itself. It’s with men who abuse it. It comes down to the intent of the man who is being chivalrous.
Most people are good. They will be polite and do things that are considered chivalrous simply because they think that is the polite thing to do. There’s no problem with that, and very few people would ever consider that sexist.
However, there are also groups of people that are more manipulative with their actions. I’ve known women who have experienced being with a man who believes if he is nice a girl then he deserves something from her. In this sense, his chivalry doesn’t come from a genuine place, but rather is considered a tool for gaining something from the girl.
The mindset goes along the lines of “I was nice to her. I held the door open, paid for the meal, walked her home. How dare she not like me after this?”. It sounds extreme, but it’s not an uncommon response.
Sadly there are enough men that act like that, that it puts many women on guard towards future men. Women who have experienced this may find themselves questioning the motives of guys who seem to be very chivalrous in the future.
To be or not to be
Now if you’re wondering if you should be chivalrous or not, the answer is yes. This goes for both men and women. We should all be striving to be more coutious and polite to each other.
You shouldn’t try and stop being nice out of the fear it might offend someone. If a girl feels it’s sexist and doesn’t want to be treated that way, she will probably tell you.
If she is afraid you’re doing it for ulterior motives you also shouldn’t worry, because in the long run she’ll realise that you’re doing it because you’re a good person.