What makes a man
Definition of chivalry needs to change
Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 14:02
Chivalry – the medieval knightly system with its religious, moral and social code; courteous behavior, especially that of a man toward women.
The question: is it dead?
Yes. And no.
As a woman, am I supposed to expect every man to open doors for me, pay for my meals and drinks or spread his coat across every puddle in my path?
Well, quite simply, no. And if you’re a girl and nodded your head yes to those, you need to rethink your priorities.
This isn’t pre-1950s. Back in those days, women were considered to be worth less than men and were expected to not do much more than stand in a kitchen and cater to man’s every need – whether it be cooking a meal or pleasuring men with sex.
In return, men were expected to be courteous and treat women with respect. Open her door, pull out her chair, never let her pick up the check, give up your seat on the subway, hold her purse while she shops, never let her walk on the side of the road closest to the street – you get the idea.
But it’s 2013. What should be dead are these gendered expectations and, along with them, the notion that women are these dainty, fragile, helpless creatures in need of masculine saving.
I can open my own door, I can pay my own bills and I can carry my own purse. And I know you ladies and men can do these things, too.
What shouldn’t be dead is the concept that chivalry today translates to being a decent human being with some comprehension of basic manners. Politeness is not – and should not be – gender specific.
Think of how many times you walk through a door per day on this campus alone. Now think of how many times the person in front of you has held a door open for you. If you’re like me, the count in your head is kind of low.
Now think of the last time you walked through a door with someone behind you. Did you hold open the door? Did you let it slam in the person’s face? Did he or she say thank you if you chose to hold it open?
How about when you last went out to a restaurant, a coffee shop or a bar with another person, whether it was a friend, family member or a date. Did that person offer to pick up the check? Did you offer? Did you expect that person to pay?
If you work in a customer service-related job, how often do you have someone come up to your counter, just to place his or her purchase on the counter while talking on the phone or texting? Did that person acknowledge your existence? Did he or she say thank you? Even worse, do you do this when standing on the other side?
Maybe I’m old school or maybe I expect way too much from my peers and those born in my generation. Maybe I’m cynical and most of you are screaming at me, saying, “How dare she tell me I don’t have manners! I always hold open the door and say thank you!”
But I think we, as a generation, don’t pay close enough attention to each other. We focus only on our needs and ourselves and making sure the door doesn’t clip our own shoulder when we walk through it. We’re willing to step on others’ toes.
Women shouldn’t expect men to have the same code of conduct as medieval knights. We, both men and women, shouldn’t do nice, courteous things for others with the expectation of receiving something in return. We should do these things because we care about others and we find joy in helping our fellow humans.
My parents taught me to treat others how you would like to be treated. If I didn’t say thank you to someone who did something nice for me, you bet I would be scolded once I got home. Again, maybe I’m pessimistic, but sometimes I think people who think and act this way are becoming a rare breed.
Men, offer to pick up the tab, hold open the door – and let them walk through it first – and pull out chairs for the ladies in your life (pro tip: it’s incredibly attractive to be a gentleman). Ladies, don’t expect men to do these things for you but be grateful if they do. Also, it’s really considerate if you return the same favors.
We can save chivalry and change its definition.