{08/02/2012}   Chivalry in the days of “equality”

What is chivalry?  I could look it up but my personal definition highlights my point as it is something different to everyone: a man who opens a door for a woman, gives up his seat for a woman, a man who will put himself out to make a woman’s day/moment easier.  It is aso a knight in shining armour.  Yikes, you see where I’m going with this?
A man just let me on the Tube before him even though he was right by the door.  I often think how nice it is that “chivalry isn’t dead” or “what a nice man”.  Historically men did such things, indeed it was expected of them.
We women as a general rule have every right to expect equality at work, in relationships etc.  We can never be equal where childbirth is concerned, and that I believe is the reason we will never be truly equal.  However, why is it that when walking up steps with, say, a suitcase, I feel slightly irked that no man bounding up the stairs past me offered to help.  And why do I gush thanks and gratitude when one does?  But if a man offered to do X at work, part of my job, that I could equally easily do myself, I would think him sexist for suggesting I needed help?
Maybe it is a physical thing, whether we like it or not men are made stronger than us.  I am neither petite nor weak but, I hate to think this, I think it probably makes me feel girlie/in need of looking after and being noticed for being a woman.  Aaaggghhh!
However, I would hold a door open for man or woman … but ,unless they were physically struggling, eg carrying something, I wouldn’t go out of my way to open the door for them.  Again back to the physical/strength issue.
This all then makes me question my ongoing issue about women who wear shoes or skirts that restrict their movement.  It seems that women wear slim fitting skirts or high heels to feel sexy or perhaps it is what makes them feel confident, feeling comfortable in what you choose to wear.  However, shoes that you can only trot in makes you – I am not saying I agree with this – seem more vulnerable and in need of protection/attention/care … inadvertent chivalry seeking?
Do we women pander to an age-old tradition of chivalry?  Is it merely that men are nicer than we think and just want to help us?  Are we lazy sometimes, knowing if, for example, we need oil in the car a lot of men will be all macho and willingly stride in to help us?  Are we clever: one seat in a train carriage, bloke let’s us effectively push in to get on first, woman gets seat?  Maybe it’s a tradition that’s stuck.  Maybe other women don’t dwell on it like I sometimes do.  Maybe it has no bearing on equality in the workplace.  Maybe I should just take it as a nice gesture, a random man making my day just a teensy bit easier or nicer?  Who knows?!


Chivalry = 1) the medieval system, principles and customs of knighthood. 2) The qualities idealised by knighthood: bravery, honour, courtesy, gallantry towards women. 3) A manifestation of these qualities. It is also a collective noun for a group of knights – yay to collective nouns! In my view, holding a door open is just good manners, whether it is a man or a woman doing it. I think we women should be magnanimous and allow the chaps those moments of “being a gent”, after all we have proved that we are equal to them in most arenas, I don’t think it diminishes the fight for equality in any way, especially if you make sure you do the same. If it gets you a seat on the train and makes him feel gallant and knight-like, why not? On a similar note, how do you feel about men who stand when you return to the table in a restaurant?

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