When the Titanic sank to its watery depth almost a hundred years ago, the ship’s captain made sure women and children were the first passengers to be put into the lifeboats. As a result of this, 73% of the women passengers survived. How many men survived? Only 7%. Months after the tragic event, the female survivors built a memorial in honor of the men who had risked their lives in such a chivalrous way.
But let’s face it: chivalry is dead on college campuses. Gone are the days of handwritten love letters and romantic restaurants. Now it’s all about 160 character text messages and trips to Taco Bell at 1 a.m. Some may consider this a modernized form of chivalry, but I just see it as ridiculous. Call me old-fashioned, but I never expected to live in a world so depersonalized that relationships could be started or broken up over text messages.
What about the relationship between chivalry and feminism? Is feminism the reason why chivalry has been put on the cultural back burner? For years, women struggled to find their place in the world and to achieve equality to men. Yet when they finally did, they turned right around and demanded chivalry again.
What about those die-hard feminists who believe chivalry is disrespectful, degrading, and offensive? Some women think the art of chivalry implies that women can’t take care of themselves, that they are weak, helpless, and too dependent on the male species. I have a guy friend who once told me he opened a door for a girl and she slapped him across the face. This is an extreme case, but certainly not rare.
How did we get to a point where it’s unusual for a guy to open the car door or walk on the street-side of the sidewalk? I believe the feminist movement of the 1960’s is to blame for this decrease in chivalrous behavior. The movement instilled a new-found feeling of freedom and independence in young girls and women, which is why some women respond negatively to men acting chivalrous. Suddenly it seems as if men opening doors or paying for dinner, plunging toilets or pumping gas is offensive to women who believe independence takes the reins over chivalry. A number of women view these chivalrous acts as sexist.
Some people believe that the world can’t exist with both chivalry and equality. However, I believe the act of chivalry goes both ways. We are so warped by some Hollywood romantic ideal that says men are the ones who should be chivalrous. Our definition and idea of chivalry is completely influenced by society, upbringing, and black and white movies.
True chivalry is not about opening doors or paying for dinner. It’s a whole attitude of treating people with the respect and dignity that they deserve; it’s simply putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own. Manliness and feminism should meet at chivalry. This should be their common ground, the place where these two ideas and these two identities, find their most profound expression. It seems to me that in a post-feminist world, chivalry is an element of character that should apply equally to both sexes. Therefore, chivalry and equality can indeed co-exist.
Although the concept of chivalry has been around for centuries, it seems to have decreased dramatically in the last couple decades. So for those of you who think otherwise, chivalry isn’t dead . . . it’s just in a deep coma and hanging on by life support.
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