Chivalry: Sexist or Respectful?


knightandlady

I like chivalry. 

Yes, I admit it. I know I’m not supposed to, but I actually like it when men open doors for me, and take my coat, and do all of those other little things that modern feminism says I should find horrifying and offensive. I know it’s supposed me make me feel belittled and patronized, but instead I find it makes me feel special, and feminine, and even protected and somehow treasured.

Is that so wrong?

I get their thinking—that doing little things for women implies that we are incapable of doing them for ourselves. And so, chivalry has been called “benevolent sexism,” with those nice men stooping down to assist us helpless little women-folk.

If that’s what chivalry really was, I’d resent it, too. But that’s not how I see it. Sure, I’m perfectly capable of opening my own doors. But I see it as a sign of respect—for me and for women in general—when a man does that for me. It is an acknowledgement of the politically incorrect truth that men in general are physically stronger than women. By putting that strength at the service of women, a man is signaling that he respects her, and that he has no intention of using it against her.

I have been, I hate to admit, afraid that chivalry is indeed dead—or at least slowly dying. I still see it here are there, mostly among older gentlemen and the younger ones who were raised by those who still care about such things. But for the most part, I see young women charging through doors with an “I can do it myself” attitude, and young men who don’t even comprehend why they would bother reaching out to women in this way. 

But then I read in an article in The Atlantic (of all places) calling for a return to chivalry. It quotes Pier Massimo Forni, the founder of the Civility Institute at Johns Hopkins University, as saying that chivalry is “a form of preferential treatment that men once accorded to women generations ago, inspired by the sense that there was something special about women, that they deserve added respect, and that not doing so was uncouth, cowardly and essentially despicable.”

So men are not chivalrous because women are incapable. Men are chivalrous because women are special—because while we lack commensurate physical strength, we are created in the image and likeness of God, and endowed with a special gift for bringing forth and nurturing new life. And men respect that by respecting us.

The article also said this about the modern climate: “Perhaps because of women’s ambivalence about chivalry, men have grown confused about how to treat women. Will holding doors open for them or paying for the first date be interpreted as sexist? Does carrying their groceries imply they’re weak? The breakdown in the old rules, which at one extreme has given rise to the hookup culture, has killed dating and is leaving a lot of well-meaning men and women at a loss.”

I agree. I think both chivalry and dating, while not technically dead, are on life support at this point. And both men and women suffer from the resulting confusion.

And so, as for myself, I want the record to show that I am unequivocally pro-chivalry.         






57 Comments

  1. Couldn’t agree more! :-)

  2. It is a disgrace that feminists have disparaged chivalry to the point where women think it is about “opening doors and taking coats”. That has nothing to do with what true chivalry is about.

  3. I’m teaching my son to open doors for ALL women, including HS 12 year old sister. When he was 3 years old, I told him he was a “gentleman in training” and he took this very seriously! He would actually get angry at other men who would hold the door open for me screaming, “I’m the gentleman in training!!” I’ve NEVER had anyone disagree with what I was doing. The adult male holding the door would chuckle and say, “why, yes you are” and relinquish the door holding responsibility to him! It amazes me how many people don’t even say thank you when he’s holding the door for them. Thank goodness for the naivety of youth, he’ll call out their bad manners loud enough so everyone hears!

    • Phlueese….It should come naturally. And by the way some women think they are to be treated differently and they are actually so spoilt !!!

      • I am divorced & his father passed away shortly there after. He doesn’t have a constant male role model to look up to so I’m in the position of being both mother AND father. Most boys learn this behavior from watching their fathers interactions with first their mother then other women… He wasn’t afforded this. As for my extended family, my brother and my father work full time and they may take him for “boys time” once every other week… I’m teaching my son to respect women. There’s a BIG difference between a woman being appreciative and a woman who has the princess mentality.. Typically, you can spot that right a way after some experience. My son is now only 9 years old but doesn’t have the experience yet but he is learning…

  4. Pat-5351 January 6, 2013

    True chivalry, which grew as a code of behavior and honor among knights, was religious in its origins, and women are afforded this protection and respect and service because God Almighty chose to incarnate Himself in the womb of a woman and enter into our world, and save us, by means of this one woman’s fiat, and of her flesh. The Blessed Virgin Mary raised all women’s dignity and honor, and thus it is the Blessed Mother, and Christ Himself, who is “honored,” (and then by association so too the women) by chivalrous acts done for them by men who still care to think of such things in this day and age. To any woman who has a problem with it, I would say, just think about it this way–he is honoring the Blessed Virgin by his acts, and say a little “Ave” if you don’t think you “need” his help. Definitely count me in on true chivalry and if you know a man of such honor, send him my way!

    • Mick-929473 January 24, 2013

      It is not the same kind of chivalry, it is romance. Read the Theology of the Body by Pope John Paul II. It is this kind of chivalry that men are called to do.

      • Mick-929473 January 24, 2013

        (It is not the same kind of chivalry because our kind is last on Christian values were historic chivalry was not.)

  5. It’s always nice when a man treats me with respect. I think since so many people these days are growing up without a father they don’t know how a man should truly treat a woman. My dad drops my mother and I off at places when it is raining and he is the one who parks the car. I remember when I was little once he let my mother go first for communion and then stepped back and did the same for me. He has always modeled the respect of how a man should treat a woman by treating my mother and I with the upmost respect.

  6. Erin-419365 January 6, 2013

    Couldn’t agree more. To add to that, I would also say, from personal experience, when I act and dress in a very feminine fashion (which is the norm for me) men appreciate this very much and respond accordingly, at least most men do. Women have sold themselves and men short by adopting the cultue’s diminished and dismissive attitude towards authentic femininity and masculinity. For those who are not familiar with Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body…do yourself a favor and start to read and absorb it. You will be blown away! What a gift for our generation…it unpacks the beauty of our human sexuality the way God sees us….BREATH TAKING!!

    • Mick-929473 January 24, 2013

      One sin women must avoid when seeing other beautiful and famine women is the sin of jealousy. Jealousy fights the ideas presented in TotB. As a man I see women being jelous and competitive in this way. Pray that Jesus will take this from you. Erin you may have experienceed this yourself.

  7. Sue-906387 January 6, 2013

    Great reminder to which I couldn’t agree more. We should always remember that we are in the world not of the world.

    • “…we are in the world not of the world.”
      Great statement Sue! To often we forget this as Christians, whom of which our real home is heaven. :)

  8. I agree with what everyone here has said and I want to add this small point: chivalry is not just about opening doors and letting women go first, or paying for a date. It’s all of that, plus being respectful of women in general. It is a man minding his tongue in mixed company instead of swearing like a sailor. It’s women graciously accepting a man’s outstretched hand to help guide her over puddles instead of insisting on doing it herself. It’s people in general, driving politely and letting others merge in front of them, or behaving courteously when an accident does happen instead of following the at-fault driver around her car, cursing in her face as she tries to make sure her baby in the backseat is unhurt (this actually happened to someone I know). I think if we all were more mindful of our behaviors and consciously try to be more polite, chivalry can be resuscitated. I also think that many men have just fallen out of practice because we have let them. The next time you’re with a man, try to hang back a bit to see if he’ll open the door for you. If you expect the behavior then it’ll be more likely to happen.

  9. Greg-456195 January 6, 2013

    I only have chivalry for Ladies, I will not waste it on any Woman. I never assist any Woman with a flat tire on side of road, regardless of how isolated it is. Germaine Greer can look after herself! I am evangelizing so many other men to this way of thinking now, we men must learn to give up all responsibility for women in society now, THEY ARE NOT OUR RESPONSIBILITY ANYMORE!!!

    • Kate-927893 January 7, 2013

      Have you read the Parable of the Good Samaritan? [Luke 10:25-37]

    • Mick-929473 January 24, 2013

      As a man I disagree. As a matter of fact according to the Gospels and the Devotion to the Divine Mercy we are required to stop and help all people if the situation is dire enough. Remember the Good Samaritan? We are all called to be Good Samaritans!

    • Mick-929473 January 24, 2013

      BTW… All women are ladies.

  10. I don’t see it as a one way street – I think kindness goes both ways! When there’s someone behind me, no matter their gender, I hold the door. I think it’s sweet when the person in front of me, no matter their gender, holds the door for me.
    It doesn’t have to be “chivalry” – it can just be Christianity… showing love and respect for all people, and treating others as we want to be treated.

    • Ezrah-891754 January 6, 2013

      I agree with this statement because I’ve seen people do chivalry regardless of age or gender. Be Yourself :).

    • Mick-929473 January 24, 2013

      I agree but let your boyfriend open the door for u and show thanks when he buys u flowers.

  11. Greg-456195 January 6, 2013

    The first few times i walked away from the classic woman in distress, I felt really bad to the point of loosing sleep. But after a while it feels like being liberated from a terrible western burden, and you realize it is simply not your problem.

    • You should lose sleep over leaving anyone in distress…

      • I have to agree with you William.
        Helping your fellow man/women in distress is not suppose to always feel good. It’s an opportunity to practice charity. More often then not real charity is a burden on the giver. And the little things, like opening a door, is just being respectful, which is part of being Christian.

  12. Chivalry is a great thing. I love when a guy opens the door for me, pays for the date, gives me His coat if I am cold etc. I do think my expectations of how I should be treated play a big part in how I will be treated. I understand in our culture that it can be very confusing, to me that just makes a guy even more attractive if he is chivalrous. Honestly I think very few women out there would be offended by a guy being chivalrous. So please guys be brave and be chivalrous. Also just to put it out there I work with a very chivalrous group of men young and old. Sorry one last thing, we should all hold doors open for one another and give a smile. Treating people with good manners affirms their dignity. Treating women with chivalry affirms their femininity and a woman allowing herself to be treated with chivalry affirms a mans masculinity

  13. Couldn’t agree more! :knight: :princess: :heart:

  14. Katie-848009 January 6, 2013

    A few weeks ago, I saw one of my best friends who I haven’t seen in almost 2 years. He’s in the Marine Corps and has been deployed in Afghanistan until a few months ago. When we walked to my car (I was driving), he beat me to the car door, opened it for me, and closed it after me. Likewise, he pulled my chair out for me at the restaurant. I was taken by such surprise at both of these acts of chivalry, and I think that’s such a shame. I’ve gotten so used to men not being chivalrous that when someone DOES treat me like a lady, I’m legitimately shocked. If God’s plan for me is to have a family, I will make sure I teach my sons to treat ladies with the proper respect. Opening doors, pulling out chairs, standing when a lady leaves and returns to the table, helping with her coat/jacket, giving her his coat when she’s cold, etc. Chivalry is not dead!! Let’s bring it back in full force, folks :)

  15. Chivalry- ALWAYS WELCOMED and APPRECIATED!

  16. Maire-923350 January 6, 2013

    What this author is callig Chivalry, I grew up knowing as good manners, respect, and common Christian decency. How a person has developed into a man is shown in his actions. I have less/no time for men who are rude.

    • It’s nice to know there are parts of the country where ladies appreciate chivalry.

      Try holding a door open for an older woman on a college campus or in Manhattan.

      (Don’t blame the men for chivalry’s decline, ladies. Some of us have no idea if we are going to be thanked or if we are going to have our heads bitten off…)

      • Kate-927893 January 7, 2013

        It’s not just men! Even as a women, I’ve been scoffed at for showing common courtesy, or kindness. (Example: I’ve prevented the door from slamming on someone holding boxes.) Some people will just never be happy, so I just brush it off.

  17. Lisa-727959 January 6, 2013

    Outstanding point, Mary Beth! Thank you for bringing it up!

    Sincerely – Lisa Duffy

  18. Gina-775037 January 6, 2013

    I have no love of my life

  19. Gina-775037 January 6, 2013

    I’m too ugly no one will ever love me

  20. I do usually get told that Chivalry is dead. I do try to be polite and help people out. Unfortunately I feel it is dead in some areas though not limited by age. In my area around MD there is good Chivalry still alive and well. Not saying everyone or that I’m a saint but it is a nice polite area for the most part. Where I went to college though the town was anything but polite or descent to anyone especially outsiders. So I kind of adapted but still would help hold doors open for people and be polite to women despite them being more coarser than males down there lol! Do the best ya can and try to leave the place at least a little better than when ya found it.

  21. Amen.

  22. Gentlemen,
    Be assured not all of us are feminists, and appreciate your manners.
    I appreciate a gentleman opening a door and pulling out a chair for me, because it makes me feel special and a lady.

  23. Naomi-698107 January 7, 2013

    Both men and women have fallen from the ideal. I realised this when I held open the door for an elderly lady struggling with a walker and right on her heels rushed three burly blokes who almost knocked her over in their attempts to take advantage of my door holding.

    What really got me was a young man in front of me just let the door swing back and almost clocked me one.

    Thanks feminism, thanks for making everyone rude and illmannered!

  24. The feminists of this world have made it hard for those of us who are not feminists. I am old fashion, very lady like in action, deed, lifestyle because of this it is very hard to find a nice gentleman. They want you to open thier doors, change the oil and other things. How I was raised chivalry is respect. I ask what lady wants to be with a man that does not resoect her? Not me and if any of feminist know one instead of stripping him of his masculinity send him my why. Thank you God bless Hope 2013 is wonderful for yu all!

  25. Chivalry is awesome!

  26. Greg-456195 January 7, 2013

    It is the perfect time for western men to be liberated from the this heavy social burden. I have noticed that middle eastern men do not have this struggle with notions of chivalry, we could learn alot from their experience I think. So when the next Titanic goes down the feminists can sing along with the musicians as it sinks this time. The pinnacle of chivalry is when a gentleman lays down his life, but hopefully it will not be necessary from our point of view anymore.

  27. Ahh…Chivalary. It should be natural and it should not be just from men but from woman too.
    To open a door , or to help carry something will depend on the situation you are in. If a man is carrying heavy things and he needs a little help woman can help too provided she is able to. She shouldnt be standing there and watching. Also a woman shouldn’t let a man carry all her shopping bags while she walks freely. It is in sharing these that we become more loving and kind to each other. A man will in fact respect woman more when she chips in to help. Some men spoil their girlfriends by doing everything by themselves. And the girlfriend will behave like a princess. Love is not one way but both ways. Doing things for each other will make both men & woman to respect, love, care and trust each other more. Woman need not do those difficult things for a man..but to be there and to do little things is good enough. It is in these little things that we become a better person.

  28. Tracy-929496 January 8, 2013

    Chivalry…good manners…Christian charity…niceness…kindness..civility…strength of character…virtuous…’no, sir’ and ‘yes, ma’am’…such pleasant, generous words and gestures that don’t cost a thing, but have tangible and intangible results and benefits.

    I love being treated like the lady I am!

  29. Pat, you’re raising a christian, polite little gentleman. Good for yoy; we need more of them. Just for the record, I open or hold the door for men also. It is called christianity & kindness. I’ve found many young men who are true christians & gentlemen. I live in the south, where we were taught to say yes M’am if Bo, Sir, by my New Jersey born father. It’ all in how you’re raised & obey. It makes “good” men feel proud & pleased with themselves when “ladies” appreciate their chivalry & often smile when I comment “chivalry till lives”. Again, I repeat, I do hold doors open for men if I’m ahead of them. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”.

  30. I think the death of chivalry, and other such things, comes from the blurring of differences between the sexes, as well as disintegration of gender roles.

    From a more economic perspective, what is man’s incentive in modern times to be chivalrous? Why should a man put women on a pedestal? What does he get out of it?

    In prior times, the relation between the sexes was more defined. An honorable man would be expected to act in polite ways towards a woman, and also put himself in harms way to protect her. The latter is of differing degrees depending on a man’s relationship to a woman, of course, but helping a woman in distress is just something an able-body man does.

    What does that man get in return for these kindnesses? Well, for the first thing, obedience from his wife and children. Second, if all other men were acting chivalrous, courteously, and with due respect, a man could trust, more or less, that most other gentlemen wouldn’t try and steal his wife. It also provided a set of minimum standards for men courting his daughters. Finally, it was nice to know that other men would help protect his family, and he would protect hers.

    Today, none of this applies. There is no societal benefit to a single man acting in a chivalrous manner; it has to all happen in aggregate. Nor is there any expectation of a wife obeying her husband, even in traditional Catholic households. There is no expectation that any man might not try to poach a married man’s wife. Nor is it necessary to advance with any given woman; on the contrary, caddish behavior is highly rewarded instead.

    I still hold myself to what most might seem as archaic standards, because I think life without such niceties isn’t worth living, and I have some old fashioned tastes. But I’m under no illusion that it actually benefits the world in any way. But really, whether chivalry comes back or not is 100% in womens’ control. If the majority of women a) demand it as a prerequisite, and b) offering something in return, and c) observing chastity, it can and will return as the dominant male behavior.

  31. Maria D. January 11, 2013

    Thank you…I agree that chivalry needs to be revisited. Young men are very confused and young women do want to feel valued and special by men.

  32. Greg-456195 January 15, 2013

    Western governments are full of chivalry toward western women, men are obsolete, except for their taxes they’re no longer needed. The vast majority men’s taxes flow to women’s needs, for example 90% or more of government funded health research goes to womens health issues. Traditionally about 90% the homeless are men, women having access to enormous welfare services and shelters, dwarfing anything men could ever dream of. It’s times men’s taxes came exclusively back to men from our own tax pool. Let women’s taxes carry the burden of single mothers and women’s welfare and infact carry their own entire financial weight across the board. It is time for western men ( Atlas) to drop the ball and have a beer.

  33. Noah-906178 January 24, 2013

    I do have to say chivalry is only chivalry when it works both ways – we can believe and behave chivalrously, as if, indeed, they are worthy of chivalry (and not simply narcissistic “all of that” or “the full package”) – but if women don’t behave or seemingly believe YOURSELVES to be not ambiguously “special” – but specifically LADIES – there’s no communication. I have in the past behaved with women as a gentleman despite the women not acting as ladies, and it is simply not viable – there is no change in behavior SIMPLY because *I* act like a gentleman. Solid men are willing to put their lives on the line for people who believe and behave as if their lives and their dignity are actually worth it – but we can only go by externals – women’s words, deeds and dress are all we have to go on. We are not mind readers – and frankly, neither are you guys! ;-). Which leads to my next quibble…

  34. Jonathan N. January 25, 2014

    How about we treat each other with respect and kindness regardless of gender, instead of pining for some mythical golden age that the “evil feminists” supposedly ruined.

  35. The problem is, Jonathan N., that those “evil feminists” exist, if not in legions, than at least in platoons.

    Twenty years ago, I passed a group of women in the courtyard on campus at my seminary, gave a friendly wave and said, “Hi, girls!” Immediately three or four of the six were in my face about “belittling” them with “diminutives.” I was mildly perturbed, but took what they said and ruminated on it.

    Five days later (Tuesday and Thursday classes) I strolled by (virtually) the same conclave, but, determined not to offend, this time I nodded respectfully and offered up a quiet, “Ladies.” Boy, was that a mistake. Once again, a number of them surrounded and proceeded to inform me that the word “Lady” spoke to an attempt at implying women were helpless. (No, I’m not joking.)

    I walked away quite irritated.

    When Thursday rolled around eight of them stood there. A full half were clearly waiting to pounce.

    This time, I gave ‘em reason. Without breaking stride, I offered, “What’s up, bitches?” and kept right on going. The looks of shock, outrage and anger were like elixir at that point. (Was it immature? Incredibly. Was it in that moment absolutely worth it? Damn skippy.) To their credit, though, fully half of them laughed, and one or two—the ones with an actual sense of humor, I’d assume—even applauded. (I guess they found a few of their number tiresome, too.

    Object lesson: Some people are never happy, no matter what effort you make. Don’t cater to them, and certainly don’t kowtow to them.

    Would I handle it the same way in 2014 that I did in 1994? Nope.

    But it makes for a great story.

    I hold open doors. I call women girls. I kiss hands. I buy flowers. I also listen when a woman talks, even it it’s not about sports or sex.

    Am I old-fashioned? Yeah. You know what? Too damned bad.

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