Abbie Lauten-Scrivner is a journalism sophomore and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.
Chivalry may be dying. And I am very, very OK with that.
Let me begin to explain by providing the actual definition of the word. Chivalry is “the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight, especially courage, honor, courtesy, justice and a readiness to help the weak,” according to the English Oxford Dictionary. Although it seems a little archaic to place so much worth in a code defined by medieval knights, the values in this definition are not what I have a problem with.
The way this antiquated code evolved replaces “knight” with “gentleman,” and “the weak” with “women.” It is this evolution and the presumptions driving it where I find several critical faults.
Chivalry dons an extremely condescending double standard. Can a woman be chivalrous? No, the mere utterance of it feels bizarre on the tongue. Do men act chivalrously toward other men? Probably not. Why would they, when the modern sense of chivalry is inherently designed as a standard for how to treat women?
What does this standard preach? Primarily dependency. When it is customary for a woman to be helped by a man into a car, or for a man to pay for her meal, it normalizes the notion that she relies on him.
If chivalry worked both ways, I would have far fewer issues. But as a woman, just trying to help a man into his seat, or paying for his meal on the first date is met with either nervous laughter, or downright refusal. It’s awkward, probably because men have been conditioned to feel emasculated by this unconventional behavior.
Furthermore, chivalry advocates shallow respect for women in the form of door-holding and bill-paying, instead of, say, acknowledging them as autonomous, eclectic human beings. It implies that because of the grand gesture of being helped into my chair, I owe my hero something in return.
If chivalry really is dying, as so many claim, my only concern is this: what is it being replaced with? Are superficial acts of respect being exchanged with real, progressive understanding of the female condition, or is chivalry’s absence leaving only apathy in its wake?
These are questions to which I really do not have an answer. But with so many people lamenting chivalry’s death, I think it’s
I would like to end by clarifying I’m not arguing for men to quit holding doors for me. I just want men to do so because of their courtesy for all human beings, not because of the patronizing notion that doing so for us weak women-folk will win them some points.
Like the guy at the Recreation Center last week who startled me by suddenly running up from behind and cutting in front of me to hold the door open. “There you go!” he beamed, oblivious to the awkwardness of the situation. Come on, man. It was arm day anyway.
Correction: The featured image for this post was incorrectly switched. The photo has changed to be the correct image.