Can feminism and chivalry co-exist? Apparently this is a subject that some feminists are struggling with, since they want to be feminists and still have chivalry be part of their lives. There’s even a suggested solution of how to combine the two apparent opposites:
In order to have a healthy, happy relationship, there needs to be equality in all aspects, including the chivalry.
Equality in the chivalry? If we have equality in the chivalry then it is no longer chivalry, it is simply ordinary politeness or thoughtfulness. Nothing wrong with that, but let’s keep our labels straight. The very point of chivalry is that it is the man’s way of showing respect for a woman by taking care of her physical safety, whether by fending off an attacker, or simply pulling out a chair. For a woman, the traditional way to repay chivalry is not by being chivalrous back, but to repay the man by being sweet or cooking some food for him. Chivalry is therefore an intrinsic part of traditional gender roles, and the concept is impossible to preserve it if you are for a society where men and women have exactly the same roles.
Does that mean that chivalry is dead in a society with gender equality? Not necessarily. If a society equates gender equality with gender sameness, then chivalry is indeed dead. Contemporary feminism usually claims that all differences between men and women are socially constructed, and that these difference need to be torn down. This ideology is completely incompatible with chivalry, however much young feminist women might want to combine the two concepts. If you are truly for gender sameness, then women do half of the dangerous jobs and take on as many physical risks as men, but this is routinely forgotten in our current gender discourse.
On the other hand, in a society where gender equality is a given, but where men and women are free to choose the livestyles and roles that they like, chivalry is still possible. Any couple that enjoys gender differences can preserve some differences in roles, and also acknowledge any innate differences that they feel are present. This means that some aspects of chivalry can exist, without being forced to accept the full package of past gender roles. Traditional gender roles were strict, inflexible and unconsciously adopted. Consciously adopting some differences in roles in a romantic relationship is a whole different ballgame, but one that can be crucial for maintaining the spark and polarity needed in a successful long term relationship.
At the end of the day, if you want full equality between the sexes but want to retain some differences between yourself and your partner, then you can have the experience of chivalry to the extent that you are ready to accept those differences. However, if you want a gender equality that is based on gender sameness, then chivalry is out of the picture. Any young feminist who disagrees, is trying to have her cookie and eat it too.
Tags: double standards