When I started writing publicly about Gentlemanly behavior, every once in a while I would be confronted by someone questioning the nature of Chivalry. They would fiercely call it outdated or even sexist, and would then go on a rant as to why it should be removed from our society. After explaining and debunking several misconceptions on Chivalry and the Gentleman Archetype to the non-believers, they would simply admit they knew little on the topic, as most would simply repeat the “chivalry is dead” chant blindly.
Although I have heard a lot less of these misconceptions lately, they still pop up every once in a while. So I thought that instead of telling people to go and read my entire blog to understand Gentlemanly behavior, I should basically give a series of quick recaps to bust some of the more pervasive myths of Chivalry.
For this case I will focus on European Chivalry and ignore the fact that the Gentleman Archetype is present in every single society within the Civilized world throughout history. (More on that here)
Chivalry Is Outdated.
When people mention Chivalry as outdated, they are talking about Knightly (Medieval Chivalry). And sure, Medieval Chivalry IS outdated. But that’s not what Chivalry is. Chivalry is a constantly evolving code of concepts to being a better man.
Medieval Chivalry evolved from the Roman Military Cult of Disciplina (Goddess of Discipline). As the armored knights phased out of history, Chivalry evolved into the code followed by the Nobility. After the Nobility phased out, Chivalry evolved into the code followed by Socialite Gentlemen. And to this day it keeps evolving. So what you see today is the result of thousands of years of refining and redefining how men can become better men.
Chivalry Is Dead.
Let me start stating something to all detractors or defenders of Chivalry and the Gentleman Archetype. The Code has outlived every single social group that has declared it dead.
Did you read the previous comment as to how chivalry is constantly evolving? Within every single social change, Chivalry has been declared dead. When the Roman Empire fell, the Cult of Disciplina was declared dead. When the knights where replaced, Knightly Chivalry was declared dead. When people rebelled against the Nobility, Chivalry was declared dead. The latest unnecessary eulogy comes as society challenges traditional gender roles and gender obligations, be it women challenging a sexist society or men assuming that everyone expects them to be gentlemen.
If you wish to bring up the “but I don’t see gender”, please read this before dismissing the realities of what makes up a person.
Chivalry is sexist.
This is one of my main pet peeves, as I have always considered that my Gentlemen Values reinforce the notion of Gender equality. I will break down this topic into two aspects, the historic concept that idea that women are viewed as inferior or weak within Knightly Chivalry, and the idea that modern Chivalry is Sexist.
From a historical perspective, Knightly Chivalry defended women. Yes, it did. But to understand this, you have to look at it within the historic framework. The Bubonic plague just wiped out about half of the people within the known world. The ability to give birth and keep a community going meant that women HAD to be protected. It was the only way to ensure that a town would keep going. Did that mean that women where viewed as helpless? Far from it. There were women Knights fighting side by side with their male counterparts, and even Knightly Orders made up exclusively by women existed throughout Europe. Yes, women knights also followed the same code of Chivalry the men did.
From a modern perspective, we live in a society that still threatens women with an overwhelming level of violence. Part of the choice (because it’s a choice) of being chivalrous is challenging these attacks, not because a woman is weak, but because she shouldn’t need to have to deal with these kind of attacks. Also, if you find a Gentleman's actions sexist, the problem isn't that chivalry is sexist, but rather the man.
I’m chivalrous, not because you’re a woman but because I’m a gentleman.
Chivalry is for hit on women.
Basically a Gentleman's actions are defined by how they will serve to impress a woman? (see previous topic.) A married man can’t be a Gentleman within this mentalinty, nor can a a gay man for that matter.
My actions are based on my character, my values, and my virtue; and not by your own preconceptions. As a man and as a Gentleman, I find this even offensive. Your comment says more about you as a person than about me as a Gentleman.
Chivalry is expected from men.
Guys, let me answer this the easiest way possible. No.
Chivalry is a choice. And those who chose to be Gentlemen are so rare that nobody is expecting you to be chivalrous.
Chivalry is impractical.
Another one based on lack of information. Gentlemanly behavior, manners, and etiquette are based on practical aspects. Opening doors, walking on the outside of sidewalks and even pulling chairs have a practical reason for being. If you’re really interested, read here.
So, I hope this clears up some of the general misconceptions. Most of these topics are covered and expanded in several of my other posts and articles. Review them, consider them, and head out to prove how a better man can make a better world by being an example.