I’ve heard the term “chivalry is dead” often in today’s society. The truth is that chivalry hasn’t died, it has evolved in to something new.
Historically, chivalry was a code of conduct that men followed to show their respect to women. Chivalry also served as a way for men to be polite and thoughtful while helping women, who were historically thought of as inferior.
Chivalry eventually evolved to be a polite euphemism that encouraged men to help the “weaker sex.” The “weaker sex” being women.
As the battle for gender equality began and continues to rage on, many women prefer to insert their independence more and don’t feel the need for the assistance of men. Some women even become offended by traditional chivalrous acts because it can potentially send a signal of male superiority.
I practice and believe in chivalry. I feel it’s value still has a place in society today.
Some specific aspects that could be considered chivalrous are opening car doors, ordering food for a woman at a restaurant, walking next to her (not in front or behind,) walking on the road side while next to a woman, paying for meals and activities.
These are a few examples. There are many more. Traditionally men would do these things to help protect the “weaker sex” and to show their respect for a woman. A modern woman does not need this type of support from a man anymore.
Yet why do so many of us continue to practice these traits?
It’s simple. One of the causes has never changed. It’s because of our deep respect for a woman.
When I open a car door for a woman it is not because I don’t think she can, it’s because it is my way of showing her respect. If I pay for a meal, it’s not because I don’t think she can afford it, it’s because I am thankful she is in my presence. If I am walking closer to the road next to her on the sidewalk, it isn’t because I feel she will aimlessly wander in to oncoming traffic, it’s a symbol that I value her protection and security.
It would be inaccurate to say that a woman has all the same advantages, access and power that a man does, but the gap has certainly diminished in recent times. Woman still do have to fight for equal pay and in many cases, equal access to employment which can cause a disrupt in the acceptance and appreciation of chivalrous acts.
Chivalry is not in any way an attempt at charity. Those of us who practice it do not do so with the intent of acting condescending or with the intent of exerting their male privilege or superiority. We do it because we value the essence of a woman. We value the gift of time that they give us and are thankful for their general presence.
I once dated a girl who had a career and salary that was vastly superior than mine. I always offered and tried to pay for all of our dates and activities together. She wasn’t offended by such notions or the possible implications that I felt her career or pay to be inferior to mine (again I mention she was much more successful than me and made almost double in salary than I did) but we often argued about who was going to pay. She would occasionally offer to which I adamantly refused. Where she did get a compromise out of me was to split the bill. Even that took a lot of convincing for me to go along with.
It wasn’t my pride that caused my resistance and our arguments over who was paying were more of mindful discussions than heated verbal exchanges. I just felt strongly about being chivalrous.
However this same girl did understand and appreciate all of the other intricacies of chivalry. She allowed me to open doors for her, walk beside her, allow her to order and eat first, make decisive decision when we were out together (even though we had agreed upon the decision beforehand, she simply allowed me to initiate and verbalized requests,) always drive, carrying her bags and many other things that she could easily do herself.
She did this not to appease me, but because as a modern, independent, self-sufficient woman, she honored the appreciation shown to her by a man willing to go above and beyond to show his softer and caring side. She could have done all of the things I did, and have done them equally as well (and in some cases probably better) but she knew the true nature of chivalry. She was accepting.
The modern woman does not need the same support that men have historically offered in the past to women. However those men who continue the practice are true gentlemen while those women who choose to accept it are true ladies.
Chivalry will never die as long as men and women continue to evolve with the times in which we live in. Chivalry simply put is men performing actions to show their respect towards a woman and a woman’s acceptance of a mans ability to show his respect.
Some actions may change and become outdated, as the practice of men paying for everything, but such actions as opening doors and carrying heavy items for a woman to help her out because we want her life to be easier and because we respect her are chivalrous traditions that I believe will never go out of style or die out.
They will never go out of style to those who understand and practice chivalry for men, and it will never go out of style or die out for those women who understand and value a man who continues and evolves with the practice of chivalry as it fits into contemporary times.
Author: Adam Wilkinson