When you think of chivalry what do you think of? A man holding the door open for a woman, a man paying for the meal on a date, a man giving his coat to a woman if it is cold outside, a man ordering for a woman at a restaurant, and men walking on the outside of the sidewalks when walking with a woman are just a few examples that come to mind. Do you see the theme here? Chivalry is all about men doing something for women. But the reason these acts aren’t just ‘men being polite’ or ‘men being nice’ is because chivalry has this hidden 2nd layer definition that implies that these kind of acts that men are doing for women is because women can’t or shouldn’t be doing those things for herself.
I know you might disagree with me right now, and that’s okay. But let me show you why this is true.
A man is told at a young age to always pay for the meal on a date. Why is that? Shouldn’t it be whoever has the most money to spare pays for the date? Why is the man expected to do this? Is it because the woman couldn’t possibly be able to pay for her own meal, let alone both of their meals? This kind of chivalry extends to not only the two people on the date, but the person waiting on them. Next time you go out to eat with your significant other pay attention to who the bill gets handed to. Most of the time your waiter/waitress will automatically hand the bill or set it on the side the man is sitting on as if to say the man should be paying for this. This is so ingrained in our society that when I go out on a date my friends don’t ask me how it went without first asking who paid for it.
I know many of you unknowingly expect the man to pay for a date when they ask you out, it is something you don’t even second guess, it’s just how things are. But can you dig a little deeper and think of why that is? We can trace this back to a time period where men were the only ones in the household working, women weren’t allowed to work and spent their days in the house caring for the children. Of course back then women didn’t have their own income to pay for things, let alone the ‘privilege’ to go out on their own unaccompanied by their husband. This has continued all the way to 2017 with the unconscious understanding that women cannot pay for their own meal and the man must inevitably be the breadwinner of the relationship and so should pay.
A man is taught at a young age to run up to a door to open it for an approaching woman. That is the gentlemen thing to do. But please explain to me why young men aren’t taught to run up to a door to open it for an approaching man? Is it because the man is capable enough to open the door on his own, that the man doesn’t need assistance for such a frivolous action? What makes a woman not able to open the door for herself, what is the difference in a man and woman’s capability of opening a door? By running 30 feet to open a door for a woman that was already 5 feet away from it you are telling her that she is incapable of opening the door on her own, that she is in need of a man’s assistance in order to enter an establishment.
Once again many of us unknowingly follow suit. We may feel giddy that a man opened a door for us, we may ‘awe’ at a young 5 year old boy struggling to open the door for another little girl, we may wait at a door until our significant other can catch up and open it for us. We can once again trace these actions back to a time where women were perceived as fragile beings who needed a hefty strong man by her side to go pretty much anywhere. Our society was based upon the men doing the heavy lifting, the dirty work, the ‘real work’ while the women were the caregivers and nurturers of the family. We continue this trend by viewing even the simplest of tasks, such as opening a door, as a task that is too much for a woman to carry out.
Let’s go back to the date night at a restaurant scenario and take a different approach to it. Many times a man will order for himself and then proceed to order for the woman he is with. Now we will not get into weather or not the woman decided on her own what she was having, or if the man decided her order, because that will take us down a road I am not prepared to take you down today. For this example let’s assume the woman chose her own meal but the man orders it for her. Why must the man order for her? Why is it seen as an act of chivalry that a man oder for his date? Why can’t she use her own voice? Is it because women were never really given a voice, is it because women cannot be trusted to make decisions for themselves? I know this one may seem far fetched for some of you, but let me break it down in terms you can understand.
We just recently witnessed the Women’s March in D.C. as a protest to President Elect Donald Trump. Many people asked the question on social media “what are they even marching for?” and had responses such as “get over it, Trump won.” and “you’re just throwing a tantrum.” because of it. If you supported and voted for Trump then the woman’s march should have had no effect on you because you’re right, Trump won. But it seemed to effect a lot of Trump supporters. They seemed to be the majority of the people who were angry because of the march. Were they angry because of the fact it was a WOMEN’S march? Was it because the women were marching to protest and make a statement about WOMEN’S rights? Was it because the women’s march was so big, they started to have a voice. Did their outcry for equal opportunity, equal pay, to end sexism, to end gender roles, to end the patriarchy threaten you? Is it because women shouldn’t have a voice in these kinds of decisions, decisions like what to eat at a restaurant.
We are also witnessing the attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, to make abortions illegal, and to make access to affordable women’s health care options, such as birth control, screenings, and testing, harder for women. The ironic thing is, these measures will never apply to those who are in favor of them. We have men in Congress making decisions on a woman’s body. These men cannot get pregnant, they cannot carry a child from rape, they do not have to make that difficult decision of terminating their pregnancy for their own well being or life, they don’t have to think about how they will afford their health care, they don’t have to worry about walking down a street at night in fear of getting sexually assaulted because they were clearly ‘asking for it’ by wearing a dress and heels, they will never have to worry about getting paid less than their male counterpart for the same kind of work. Tell me again why these men are making decisions on what a woman can and cannot do with THEIR bodies? Is it because women cannot be trusted to make decisions for themselves, decisions as little as ordering for themselves at a restaurant.
This whole chivalry thing is much more than just “men being polite” and goes deeper than teaching your son to “be a gentlemen to women.” We are continuing this patriarchy and the leveling of men and women by teaching our children to be chivalrous. Don’t take what I just said and go to the extreme by saying “fine, I won’t teach my son to be polite.” because that is not what I’m saying at all. Stop teaching your sons to do certain things for women just because he is the man and she is a woman. Teach them to be polite, respectful, kind, and open to all genders simply because they are human beings and deserve to be respected, loved, and cared for. They should learn to do certain things because it is the polite thing to do, because they want to, and because they respect everyone.
Let chivalry die. Let this twisted way of life die and take with it all the institutional racism, sexism, gender roles, and expectations for how men and women should behave differently. Take with it the differences in how parents raise their kids based on their gender. Take with it all of the hate and injustice that is now chivalry in 2017. Bring on a new generation that teaches their young children, of any gender, to open the door for everyone, offer to pay for the tab if you have the money to, not to expect anything from anyone simply because of who you are and who they are, and teach them to be strong independent individuals who shouldn’t have to worry about following imaginary standards of society.
It is hard to grasp the fact that something so small such as chivalry, can transpire into something so huge such as sexual assault, abusive relationships, gender roles, homophobia, and countless other things. But it is real, it is happening, and we have to stop trying to make chivalry a thing again in order to give everyone equal opportunities, a voice, and so much more.