Monday, May 19, 2008
Is chivalry dead?
Sometimes I feel as though chivalry is a lost virtue in todays society. I am surrounded by horror stories depicting men as "chauvinist pigs" and women as "radical feminists". We desire equality among the sexes, and women have tried to achieve that today by erasing from them all things that are uniquely feminine, most evidently, their fertility through the rise in birth control. However, this also extends to female interaction with men. Carrying boxes, opening doors, and the like are no longer seen as signs of respect and courtesy, but as another way that men are subordinating the female gender.
While recently at a grade school, one eighth grade girl asked us, "Why do your parents always say that the boy has to come and get you at the door, and open the door for you--> is it for respect?" I cannot blame her for asking the question considering how many women have responded to chivalry with, "I can do it myself!". The pervading perception of this gentlemanly behavior has now wrongly become, "I do not think you are strong or capable enough to open this door, so I will do it for you." Nope. Society, you are wrong again.
As Brett Harris says, "How would it change your perception of gifts if you believed that every gift you received was accompanied by the unspoken message that you couldn’t afford it?Think of how you’d feel if someone bought you a $15.00 CD for your birthday and you took it as insinuating that you were too poor to purchase it yourself. Your pride would be hurt and you might even go out and buy the CD again, just to prove that you could." He goes on to say that this example may seem silly because gifts are clearly given freely as an expression of care and love. But what may not seem as clear is that chivalry communicates the same message, a freely given expression of care and respect for another.
I went on to tell a story to these eighth graders from the last time I visited Franciscan. I had been at a friends house and was starting the 3 block trek down the street with my friend Johanna to where I was staying during my visit before my departure the next morning. A few steps until the end of the first block and I am turned around by the sound of someone shouting,"Ladies! Ladies!". I turn to see a mutual guy friend of ours leaping down the steps from the house and sprinting after us. Upon reaching us, he politely asked where we headed and if he could walk us the rest of the way home. Granted it was about 11:30 at night and Oregon Ave. is not the ideal area of town, but it certainly isn't the Bronx, Compton, or the like. So we accepted and upon arriving at our door we thanked him and he headed back to his home down the road. Now to some, this small gentlemanly gesture may seems absurd or pointless, but for me it made my night. He wanted nothing more than to lend his services in making sure we arrived home safely... no hidden agenda... no ego boost from his friends... a simple act of respect from a gentleman to a lady.
Yes, a few guys may not be genuine in their chivalrous acts, but are we to assume that none of them are? Where will it lead us if we keep ridiculing men for treating us as women. We desire to be equal with men, but what we many need to realize is that equality does not mean sameness. We do not gain equality with men, as women, by becoming men. We gain equality with men by fully embracing our femininity, differences included. So ladies, show men the respect they are showing you with their chivalrous deeds by graciously letting the door be opened and the box carried.