Feminism and Chivalry

February 25th, 2010 by Pelle Billing

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:

24 Responses to “Feminism and Chivalry”

  1. Danny Says:

    In order to have a healthy, happy relationship, there needs to be equality in all aspects, including the chivalry.
    Equality and chivalry are nearly oil and water. The point behind chivalry is that it is a code of conduct meant to account for inequalities (actually incorrect and sexist presumptions and practices not actual inequalites mind you).

    When a man fought another man for a woman’s honor it was under the presumption that that woman could not defend her own honor (and when it came to combat chances are she could not because sexist presumptions kept her away from learning how to fight and pushed said man into learning how to fight). Hell the fact that she had some sort of “honor” that actually warranted a duel to the death to defend is a sexist presumption pushed on her and those men (unless the one that offended her honor actually committed some criminal act against her).

    As you say if you strip out the sexist presumptions and practices and have a true level playing field between the genders then those things they do for each other are simply acts of kindness. If I chose to help someone in a fight regardless of gender then I’m just trying to help. If I’m depending on a gender check (as in if its a woman then I assume she needs help because she can’t fight and if its a man I assume he does not need help because he can fight) then I am indeed falling back on chivalry.

    Now if they want to redefine chivalry (because feminists love redefining things that are not to their liking) great but its pretty damn sexist to men and women to want to try to incorporate chivalry as it traditionally defined into feminism.

    From that article:
    I think that some men may feel that being chivalrous is letting a feminine side show, and that they may not want to be teased by their male counterparts.
    While I’m not certain of the writer’s gender (Jayme seems to be a woman’s name but I can’t be sure, it might be male or unisex) but this leads me to think that its a woman writing it. Among men performing kind gestures for a woman is something that we don’t tease each other about. Hell in many cases NOT performing a kind gesture for a woman can invoke teasing (namely having his masculinity questioned).

    I believe that chivalry is still alive and kicking, it just takes a certain man who is okay with his sexuality and his identity to find it.
    I can say that as a man in this day and age it doesn’t take that much security in my sexuality and identity as a man to perform chivalrous acts. The REAL challenge is not performing those acts and then having to deal with people (yes people as in men and women) trying to “call you out” for not doing them.

    The writer of that article seems to me to be too hung up on labels (especially his/her label as a feminst) and is maybe getting a bit confused on chivalry. He/she wants to cherry pick from chivalry and dress it up in feminist (because you know that something is not valid until it is labeled feminist right?) clothing but he/she either doesn’t realize or doesn’t want to see that those behaviors are already a part of “equality” and “being nice”.

  2. jhan Says:

    Economics 101:

    - THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH
    - YOU CAN’T HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT TOO

    As a single male in an American city, my experience with nearly ALL women (not just feminists) is that they want equality when it’s convenient, and chivalry when it’s convenient. They insists that gender differences are a social construct, and then ten seconds later insist that we adhere to biologically dictated, evolutionary roles. The fact that in doing so they are committing an intellectual and moral about-face within a ten second time frame is completely lost on them. It’s all about what they want, when they want it. Such an attitude is venal at best, suicidal at worst.

    Feminism, like most Cultural Studies subjects of the postmodern milieu, rejects fact and logical argument and elevates extreme subjectivism in their place. Linear knowledge itself is scorned as a ‘patriarchal construct’: the search for truth is deemed an impossible endeavor. Is it any wonder, then, that the ‘truth’ consists of whatever a woman wants it to be in the moment, according to her ‘feelings?’ Is it far-fetched to conclude that a woman might not be able to see the TRUTH in front of her because the truth-seeking part of the brain has atrophied in a culture of relativism?

    Thomas Sowell is right when he says that life is about Trade-Offs. if you want something Here, you’re going to have to give up something There. There is no such thing as a free lunch. But contemporary western women, fed on an unachievable Utopian diet of You-Can-Have-It-All feminism, have convinced themselves that there is indeed such a thing as a Free Lunch, which is why so many western women are miserable.

    Feminism argues Equality, but it does not argue against the purchase of shiny, expensive baubles (read: engagement rings) for women to make them happy. It does not argue against government legislated chivalry like alimony, welfare for single mothers, or women only scholarships. It doesn’t acknowledge that 99% of workplace deaths are male. It doesn’t acknowledge that the wide majority of suicides are male. It doesn’t acknowledge the millions of men in dangerous or monotonous jobs who keep western civilization going, nor the conspicuous lack of women who line up for these jobs when there are openings. Instead, Feminism cherry picks its way towards ‘Equality,’ relying on its Marxist ‘All women are victims, all men are oppressors’ ideology. Feminism wants government legislated equality when its convenient, and government sponsored chivalry when its convenient.

    It isn’t a mystery why this wide-spread, government sponsored chivalry trickles down into personal relationships. If it walks like a duck . . . well then, it’s a feminist.

  3. John Says:

    Jihan, you put it very eloquently. We’re in a dilemma. Despite the advances of gender equality, women are still sold the same basic age-old fantasy from birth (by parents, TV, womens mags) – a man will provide for you (and your kids). This runs very very deep. Later education then adds the idea of career/ self-support. But this is really a veneer. The problem is that it is held to very tightly (at least in word) for fear of betraying the sisterhood. The doublethink required to maintain both positions leaks out in all sorts of situations but, fundamentally, the fantasy always wins. So, independent career women still expect men to open doors, take all the initiative, and pick up the check (…and approaching 30 the old reliable contraception may suddenly fail)…I’ve seen all these things happen within the university department where I work. Add to this picture the increased expectations of men – i.e. chivalrous knight and emotionally in-touch listener, and expectations can never be met. Hence the misery. My question is, what does a sensible man do about the situation? Go religious? Go abroad?

  4. metalman Says:

    Thanks for your comments, John. If you find yourself in a personal situation with an ‘I can have it all’ female, you simply tell her that she can’t have her cake and eat it too, and to grow up. IN THOSE EXACT WORDS. And don’t be mean, but don’t be too nice about it either. (In other words, talk to her like you would talk to a man ;-)

    On a societal level, we won’t get anywhere until we eliminate the Cultural Studies/Professional Victim/Leftist/Marxist paradigm and get back to Self Sufficiency, Individualism, Responsibility, and all the other qualities that originally made Western Civilization great. We’ve fallen into a lazy quagmire of intellectual and moral laziness, self-hatred and nihilism brought on by the left’s watery concept of ‘multi-culturalism.’ Feminism is only one part of that.

    As it stands, there are many ‘feminists,’ but there are only a handful of ‘Radical Feminists.’ Unfortunately, it’s the Radical Feminists (particularly in universities) who call the shots and set the agenda for the entire movement. Most of these nut-jobs are avowed Marxists whose goal is to eliminate the ‘traditional family’ and replace it with some form of ill-defined utopian socialism. In that sense, radical feminists are looking for THE REALLY BIG CHIVALRY – that which is bestowed upon them by Big Daddy Government. It’s no wonder that the residue of this mind-set seeps down into personal relationships between otherwise normal men and women. The best you can do in personal situations is to tell these women – in no short terms – to TAKE A HIKE. The upside of this is that said ‘women’ will instinctively respect you more because you have a pair, unlike most men today, who are simpering doormats.

  5. monty Says:

    Terrific site. Thanks. We need more honest discussions about the myths.

  6. Pelle Billing Says:

    Thanks monty.

  7. Woodrow Says:

    People nowadays make the mistake of assuming that chivalry ONLY applies to how a man relates to a woman. However, anyone that has ever looked into chivalry at all will realize that there are many more aspects to this ancient and venerable code.
    For example, one of the codes of chivalry I’ve found calls for men to “Protect the weak and defenseless.” Doesn’t this mean to step in and defend anyone, regardless of gender?
    How about to “At all times speak the truth?” Not really directly related to man-to-woman interactions, I think. And yet for people nowadays, chivalry only applies when it comes to relationships between men and women. Chivalry was more just a code of life, one that directs a man to lead an honorable life, in which they deal morally and justly towards men, women and the world around them.

  8. asdkf Says:

    Jhan… very well put :) I am a woman working a white collar job and in love with the idea of traditional social roles. Work is great but it does not define me; I do it as a means of sustenance and support. So yes, it may seem that I benefit from ‘feminism’ but to the degree that all women today are free to function in society.
    On chivalry, chivalry is beautiful and admirable and all we are doing with equality is blocking it out. This feminist stuff needs to step down a notch and let women who want to be treated as women (and not simply a non-gendered social counterpart) be treated as such.
    metalman, I couldn’t agree more with ‘The best you can do in personal situations is to tell these women – in no short terms – to TAKE A HIKE. The upside of this is that said ‘women’ will instinctively respect you more because you have a pair, unlike most men today, who are simpering doormats.’
    … and if they are looking for a doormat, there are plenty of those lying around

  9. catch Says:

    It’s true that you can’t have equality and chivalry – which means you can’t have chivalry and feminism, real feminism – not the hypocritical sort that wants equality only when it is to their advantage and inequality when that is to their advantage. Give feminists the equality they want, treat them equal to a man, no chivalry, just the same basic courtesy that men get.

  10. Susan Derbishire Says:

    One thing I do know is that no matter how far we come it almost always seems like we are going to be fighting this fight. People still wonder who killed Jesus , yet so few care about who killed womans rights in all its forms before mans saviour even came along. Keep fighting girls, this is a fight that is thousands of years old and I just hope it wont be thousands of years before we are given the god damned equality we deserve.

  11. Mark Says:

    I am 28 years old. I have always gone Dutch on dates. I have never had a second date, and I mean never.

    This is the obstacle that is very hard to overcome. It seems that women want men to buy their time. People often tell me that whoever asks should pay. That system is flawed because most women don’t ask men out on dates. Honestly men, how many women have invited you to dinner? How many women have initiated conversation with you? How many women have done all the work during courtship?

    I’m sure I will be inundated with exceptions. I think it’s funny that there are always many exceptions on the internet. It’s much easier when the one’s providing the exceptions are cloaked in anonymity.

    I will probably remain single for the rest of my life, but I don’t care. I will not buy affection and companionship. I will not be a John.

  12. Pelle Billing Says:

    Mark,

    Does a date have to mean dinner? Why not an activity that is very cheap or even free?

    I agree that men should stop paying for dinners but we’re also individuals and we cannot sacrifice our whole life to be activists. So IMO the pragmatic thing to do is to avoid dinners altogether, until there’s a connection between you and the woman.

    For me it’s never been a problem to go Dutch, but then again, I’ve never gone to dinner with a woman before we’ve kissed.

  13. john smith Says:

    - THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH
    - YOU CAN’T HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT TOO

    As a single male in an American city, my experience with nearly ALL women (not just feminists) is that they want equality when it’s convenient, and chivalry when it’s convenient. They insists that gender differences are a social construct, and then ten seconds later insist that we adhere to biologically dictated, evolutionary roles. The fact that in doing so they are committing an intellectual and moral about-face within a ten second time frame is completely lost on them. It’s all about what they want, when they want it. Such an attitude is venal at best, suicidal at worst.

    Feminism, like most Cultural Studies subjects of the postmodern milieu, rejects fact and logical argument and elevates extreme subjectivism in their place. Linear knowledge itself is scorned as a ‘patriarchal construct’: the search for truth is deemed an impossible endeavor. Is it any wonder, then, that the ‘truth’ consists of whatever a woman wants it to be in the moment, according to her ‘feelings?’ Is it far-fetched to conclude that a woman might not be able to see the TRUTH in front of her because the truth-seeking part of the brain has atrophied in a culture of relativism?

    Thomas Sowell is right when he says that life is about Trade-Offs. if you want something Here, you’re going to have to give up something There. There is no such thing as a free lunch. But contemporary western women, fed on an unachievable Utopian diet of You-Can-Have-It-All feminism, have convinced themselves that there is indeed such a thing as a Free Lunch, which is why so many western women are miserable.

    Feminism argues Equality, but it does not argue against the purchase of shiny, expensive baubles (read: engagement rings) for women to make them happy. It does not argue against government legislated chivalry like alimony, welfare for single mothers, or women only scholarships. It doesn’t acknowledge that 99% of workplace deaths are male. It doesn’t acknowledge that the wide majority of suicides are male. It doesn’t acknowledge the millions of men in dangerous or monotonous jobs who keep western civilization going, nor the conspicuous lack of women who line up for these jobs when there are openings. Instead, Feminism cherry picks its way towards ‘Equality,’ relying on its Marxist ‘All women are victims, all men are oppressors’ ideology. Feminism wants government legislated equality when its convenient, and government sponsored chivalry when its convenient.

    It isn’t a mystery why this wide-spread, government sponsored chivalry trickles down into personal relationships. If it walks like a duck . . . well then, it’s a feminist.

    Couldn’t of said it better myself. Women are really ruining everything for themselves now a days.

  14. catch Says:

    TRUE, full time feminists want equality which means no chivalry. So, feminists should be treated just like men, no better or worse, equal.

    However, there are hypocrites who call themselves feminists who want equality but only when it is to their advantage and want inequality, such as chivalry, when that is to their advantage. First, they aren’t true feminists. Second they are hypocrites and self-centered. My advice is to stay away from people like that. You will just end up miserable.

  15. Frankie Ashman Says:

    *Sigh*, being a woman myself, I’m all in favour of gender equality, but I can totally see how this aspect of feminism (and the notion of it in general), is helping to totally kill chivalry -which used to have sexist undertones in the days of knights where women were no where near equal – but is at its heart a pure and beautiful concept, as if it wasn’t dead enough already.

    Although it may be an excuse for laziness, I can totally understand how some men feel ‘scared’ to do a simple gesture like hold a door open for a woman (though, to be fair, that should apply to anyone) or offer to carry something heavy for her if she is struggling, in fear of having his head bitten off and being called ‘chauvinistic’ or ‘sexist’.

    But, as surely as north poles are attracted to south poles, this is one of the deep-rooted laws of attraction. While you may be proud to be a strong independent woman, I can tell you that there isn’t a woman I don’t know who wouldn’t go weak at the knees if a man did something like, for example, pull her chair out for her on a date. It couldn’t be easier to make a good impression so soon on a date.

    And I’ll tell you why it works: because, with that one simple gesture, you show or suggest that you are: romantic, kind, sensitive, attentive, unselfish, RESPECTFUL, to some extent protective (one of the most powerful magnetisms there is, at the end of the day), well brought-up, polite, and most importantly of all…THOUGHTFUL TO HER NEEDS!! Also, since chivalry is so uncommon…. YOU WILL STAND OUT FROM HER OTHER DATES IMMEDIATLEY!

    There you go, lads! With one simple move you will have seriously impressed your date, and as you can see it is NOT treating her as inferior! It shows you respect her and she in turn will respect you for it!

    Of course, there are feminists that may take offence to such small gestures, but we are only human and react to things differently, and this is why I really wish sometimes feminism wasnt around. But I can bet you that 9 TIMES OUT OF 10 it will impress the woman as it shows the qualities above such as being attentive to her needs, and every woman secretly wants her man to be a bit protective, defensive of her (and their children) which is why in recent forum posts I read a woman was so deeply upset when: an angry neighbour showed up at the door, she was left to deal with him as her hubby high-tailed it to the garage when he saw him coming, later saying that he “didn’t like confrontation” – which is an excuse for nothing but cowardice, as nobody really does! Surely he loved his wife more than he ‘hated confrontation’, and wanted to stand up for her and protect them both? This is also the reason why the notorious Athena ‘Man & Baby’ poster was so popular.

    In conclusion, I really hope feminists who attack chivalry, an act these days born of thoughtfulness/affection, not oppression, as although women are mens equal we are still DIFFERENT with different needs from our partner, because if chivalry goes completely then I belive we will have lost something quite special. :(

  16. catch Says:

    That a feminist may enjoy chivalry doesn’t make it compatible with feminism, anymore than the woman being expected to be the one to cook and clean because she’s the woman – is compatible with feminism. The basic concept is gender equality and the elimination of fixed gender roles where he’s supposed to do that while she’s supposed to do the other.

    Bottom line: chivalry and feminism are mutually exclusive.

  17. Pelle Billing Says:

    Frankie,

    Yes, women want to feel protected and men want to feel appreciated for protecting.

    What feminism did is say that women don’t need the protection of men and that women shouldn’t appreciate men – unless men become more like women.

    I’m exaggerating a bit but this has been the tendency. Male-female relationsships and ways of interacting were broken, and women are only now starting to realize that feminism has hurt them too –– deeply.

    This needs to be healed, and expressing appreciation for men the way you do is a step in the right direction.

  18. Mehr Says:

    Why don’t we encourage women to take care of themselves better from the ‘physical safety’ angle? We just keep promoting them to be nice and thin, so that this whole silly “I WANNA BE DA HERO” things keep on going; the big, gruff ‘daddy’ comes into save their little ‘baby’.

    Instead of trying to find differences in partners through how we treat each other because of their gender, how about, we instead look for differences in that one thing that a lot of people seem to forgo nowadays – personality.

    Chivalry was never ‘chivalrous’. If there had been a plethora of female knights in the past, like many Joans, would chivalry even exist? Would the concept be radically different? Male chivalry and female chivalry? It’s all so silly.

    Both sexes need to grow the hell up, and start taking care of themselves from all standpoints. All we do with concepts like chivalry, or the expectancy of it, is devolve the standards of individuality that all we’ve come to enjoy, back into this ridiculous pre-historic era of mindless adherence to gender stereotypes.

    Expecting someone to act in a certain way, because of their role in the reproduction system, is beyond dis-respectable. It’s why a male-homemaker is often looked down on in society still, or the respect for a female who beats a male in something is taken away by just simply calling the male weak (oh, you only beat him because he was a wimp/dumb/etc..).

    Real gender equality is when you can see someone for who they are, rather than what they are.

  19. T. Rose Says:

    Well spoken,Mehr, really it’s kinda sad that it had to come to this. One well-intentioned movement that challenged the mostly terrible ways of old,…for one sex,then sort of flipped it back to just make the more liberated remain oppressed. So now comes forth a counter to try to counter this,..but no doubt that it to will cause the exact same problems it wishes to fight over time

    All because as you put it,neither of the sexes is gonna “grow up” so easily.

  20. M. Thunder Says:

    I have to say I am guilty of believing in both equality and yet still enjoying and wanting chivalry. Though I have to say I do believe there is a happy-medium. Like many comments before me, I disagree with the avid feminists. But I guess it all depends on your view on the definition of chivalry and gender equality. There is a large difference between pulling out a chair for a girl/woman/lady to be nice, and telling a girl/woman/lady she cannot vote because she is inferior to men. I would not mind a man asking me if I would like help carrying something because, really, if I am having an issue with it why would I turn away from help? This stronger person is offering to help me. What is incorrect with that? On the other hand, if a man does not listen to what I have to say merely because I am a female and therefore “below him” there would be a problem.

    To wrap up, I believe chivalry and equality can exist together to some extent. There cannot be complete chivalry if complete equality exists and vise versa.

  21. M. Thunder Says:

    I like chivalry, I just don’t want to be treated as if I am stupid and incompetent just because I am a female. I don’t really understand why they cannot coexist peacefully. It’s quite ridiculous.

  22. Pelle Billing Says:

    M. Thunder,

    So if men and women are equal, except for men being chivalrous, what do women do in return?

  23. Mark Says:

    M. Thunder,

    I like traditional values. I like when women cook, clean and are submissive to their husbands/boyfriends. I just don’t want to be treated as if I am stupid and incompetent just because I am a male. I don’t really understand why they cannot coexist peacefully. It’s quite ridiculous.

    Ready to make me a sammich?

  24. Mark Says:

    M. Thunder said, “I would not mind a man asking me if I would like help carrying something”.

    In that scenario, I would have no issue, seeing as I would do the same for both genders. I will open doors for both genders, too. But why is it that I never see women mention men paying for dinner dates, or being expected to make more money in order for her to give him the time of day? Those are the types of gender roles that need to go the way of the dinosaur. No one has a problem opening your door, or offering to help you carry something heavy. The problem is that women outnumber men in college; are doing better in the recession than men; have equity pay acts (even though the wage gap is not due to discrimination); and many women STILL expect men to inititate the date, pay for the date, and be the breadwinner (breadwinner meaning that even if she works too, the man will earn more).

    You also said, ” I believe chivalry and equality can exist together to some extent.”

    If they could, articles like this would not be popping up all over the web. It’s very clear that they cannot coexist in any extent. Expecting men to do something just because they’re men (other than procreation), is sexist and wrong. If you want chivalry, please be prepared to do some dishes and change some diapers. Quid pro quo.


Google