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December 13, 2012

Another Look at Chivalry

I know it seems that I've beaten this topic to death (namely here, here, and here), but how about one more for the road? I promise it won't get you drunk.

Well, not *too* drunk, anyway.

The reason I'm re-visiting this so close to the last time (just over a week ago) is because Emily Esfahani Smith has a terrific article in the Atlantic called "Let's Give Chivalry Another Chance."

In the article, she brings up something that I hadn't really touched on in all of my posts about chivalry and "benevolent sexism" and all that. I have talked about the wonderful effects of this behaviour and questioned why people would want to get rid of it or be offended by it.

Emily mentions the Titanic disaster in 1912, and how 75% of the men died while 75% of the women and children survived, mainly because of the "women and children first" policy that they all followed. To them, it was important that the women survived, and for a man to survive at the expense of a woman was just unheard of.

Fast forward to earlier this year:
"About a year ago, a group of today's men were tested the way that the men on board the Titanic were. When the cruise ship Costa Concordia hit a rock and capsized off the coast of Isola del Giglio, Tuscany, last January, men pushed women and children out of the way to save themselves. One Australian woman on board reported at the time:

'The people that pushed their way on to the boat were then trying to tell them to shut the door, not to let any more people on the [life] boat after they had pushed their way on...We just couldn't believe it—especially the men, they were worse than the women.'"
What can you attribute this type of behaviour to? I would think it would be obvious. When men start feeling less chivalrous toward women (and you can call it whatever you want if you don't want to go chivalry whole hog), you get men being boorish toward women instead.

But isn't that what these women want? To be treated as totally equal? Not "equal with acknowledged differences," but completely? They should be happy that the men pushed ahead of them to get on the lifeboats first, because they would have done that if it had been a man instead of a woman!

Those who say that "benevolent sexism" is mainly a way to put down women and keep them in their place don't seem to acknowledge that this isn't what being chivalrous is about.
"Chivalry is about respect. It is about not harming or hurting others, especially those who are more vulnerable than you. It is about putting other people first and serving others often in a heroic or courageous manner. It is about being polite and courteous. In other words, chivalry in the age of post-feminism is another name we give to civility. When we give up on civility, understood in this way, we can never have relationships that are as meaningful as they could be."
When that respect is gone, you get cases like the Costa Concordia. You get men who don't know how to behave because they don't know whether the woman they're with goes along with the radical feminists or whether they would actually appreciate being treated with respect. This confusion, Smith says, is killing dating.

Another area I hadn't been aware of, so I'm glad Smith brought this up, is that some women are trying to bring chivalry back.
"Some women are trying to bring back chivalry. Since 2009, for instance, a group of women at Arizona State University have devoted themselves to resuscitating gentlemanly behavior and chivalry on a campus whose social life is overwhelmingly defined by partying, frat life, and casual sex. Every spring for the past three years, these women have gathered for the "Gentlemen's Showcase" to honor men who have acted chivalrously by, for example, opening the door for a woman or digging a woman's car out of several feet of snow."
It's spreading across the country, too.

Who knows? Maybe those who value respect, those who realize that the sexes can be equal and still be different, they will be the ones who ultimately win out.

I encourage you to read the whole article. It's beautifully written and says it a lot better than I can.


  1. Shortly after the September 11th attacks, stories began to surface of acts of heroism. One in particular has always stuck in my mind. A young woman, a reporter, was on the street and running as one of the towers collapsed. Hysteria was rampant and people were jostling and pushing one another in their effort to get away from the fallout. She was in heels and she either tripped, or was pushed, and she fell. People literally ran over her, but one man stopped, picked her up, carried her with him over to a building and pressed her against it, covering her with his body. He protected her against the blast of the building's fallout. A complete stranger, a man who was also fleeing and fearing for his life, but he stopped and did what a true man, a gentleman, a decent human being does. He saved her life when other men trampled her. She didn't get his name, but she said that he was wounded by flying pieces of debris lodging in his back, arms and legs as he covered her with his body. She had scrapes and cuts on her hands and knees, and bruises from where people had stepped on her, but she survived because a complete stranger did the noble and right thing. He exercised what I feel is the epitome of chivalry.

    Anyone who considers such an act to be offensive needs therapy. I will always remember that unnamed man and I say prayers for him regularly. His parents raised a beautiful human being.

    Perhaps this comment doesn't directly address what you're discussing here. Maybe it does. It's the first thing that came to mind, so I shared it.

    - Dawnie

    1. I think it perfectly addresses what I'm discussing here.

      Thank you for the powerful story and reminder, hon.

      Much love to you.


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