5/18/15

Chivalry: Is it Sexist?



Chivalry: It's the little boy that kisses my hand, the young man who holds the door open for me, and the old man who tips his hat to me. None of it is a reflection of me, but a reflection of them.
Donna Lynn Hope
Every couple of months, we will get some kind of post calling out the sexism that is intrinsically attached to Chivalry, sometimes based on the latest study on gender issues, or simply a re-post of a previous one. We have a clear exposition as to the dangers and horrors of social inequality that have been reinforced for centuries by an outdated code of conduct that does little more than reinforce the repression of both men and women as the only reason any man would be chivalrous is to take advantage of his position within society.

The problem with that statement is that it’s pretty damn sexist on its own.

Chivalry is usually condemned as sexist by two specific groups, men who assume that chivalry places a women in a beneficial social position, assuming that it forces male servitude to women, and women who assume that the only reason men are chivalrous is to receive some kind of ulterior motive. Both cases say more about the person complaining than it does about Chivalry. The men assume that treating women with respect is degrading to them. The women assume that the only reason a gentlemen would treat a woman well is to degrade her or to take advantage of her, simply based on his gender. As we can see, sexism (prejudice based on gender) isn’t something exclusive that men do to women.

As a man and a gentleman, I am offended by both assumptions.

Ignoring the fact that those who call out chivalry as sexist do so from an ill-conceived preconception, I think it might be a good idea to actually ask if Chivalry is in fact sexist. For starters, as chivalry is a code of conduct and an ideal, it can’t be sexist. Now, can a chivalrous gentleman be sexist? Yes. You see, sexism isn’t dependent on chivalry, but on the person. Just as much as a woman can. Anyone can be sexist and sexist people will often use ideals and stretches of logic to justify their sexism, as do the racist and the bigot.

But what about all those extra attentions gentlemen offer ladies? Am I going to dismiss that reality? No. Then again, keep in mind that a gentleman doesn’t offer “extra” attentions to ladies; it’s that these attentions are more obvious to the observer. Treating people with respect and honor isn’t as obvious as opening a door or offering a seat in a bus. For this debate, I am going to focus on the logic behind a Gentleman’s actions towards women.

There are innumerous reasons behind said actions. Here I am going to break down some of different reasons gentlemen do them. I will focus beyond the practicality behind chivalry and the security aspect, as I already talked extensively on both cases. If I feel that the logic behind them is sexist, I will gladly admit to it. Do note that these are not the only reasons behind chivalry, as I have constantly tried to illustrate, there are as many paths to chivalry as there are chivalrous men.

The Sexist Gentleman.
This is the well-mannered, impeccably dressed, twin brother of the chauvinist pig of a man. They do exist, and are pretty much my main nemesis as they give the rest of us a bad name. He assumes that women are less than men and will uses chivalry as a tool for superiority. These men aren’t gentlemen. They simply act like one.

The Feminist Gentleman
Women have to deal with a lot of inequality and injustices from society and less scrupulous men. The gentleman views his actions as a way to compensate for what women must endure. Their actions become a leveling device, as they become an agent of equity.

The Equalist Gentleman
We assume that Gentlemen treat women with special treatment. This would be true, if it wasn’t that said special treatment is extended to EVERYONE except other men of equal standing. Is it because we assume that men of equal standing are better? No. It’s because we assume that men of equal standing should be just as chivalrous as us. We hold them to the same standards and expectations we hold ourselves, and that’s usually a lot higher than what we expect from anyone else.

The Serviceable Gentleman
A gentleman serves. It has always been this way. He serves his community, his family, his country, and his ideals. That’s what a gentleman does. So why should he stop serving someone simply because they are a woman? Do note that there is a world of difference between service and servitude. He stands strong by someone’s side, but never grovels by someone’s feet.

The Shameful Gentleman
Similar to the Feminist Gentleman, the gentleman is actually ashamed of the actions of other men. Their actions are in a way penance for their gender as they try to prove that not all men are “like that.” Many times, this is the result of having been exposed to the hurt that men can cause women.

The Respectful Gentleman
Believe it or not, this one, by definition is actually sexist. Gentlemen treat women from the starting point and notion that women should be respected because they are women. “Treat her like a princess because you were raised by a Queen.” This is usually the result of a man being raised by proper women role models. These gentlemen tend to assume that all women will measure up to the standards set by the women who helped shape them as men. Their actions are guided as a sign of respect towards the women in question.

The Romanceer Gentleman
This is another that falls on the “sexist by definition” category. It isn’t that they view women as inferior, but rather they view women as beautiful and tend to place them on a pedestal. Keep in mind that these men don’t focus these actions to “pretty women” only, but rather look for the beauty is ALL women.

The Simple Gentleman
The simplest explanation for these acts is simply because the man was raised with manners. There is no hidden agenda, no philosophical logic, and no profound insight. The man was simply raise with manners, and these manners align with chivalry, plain and simple. Why do we need to overcomplicate everything in life?

As I mentioned at the beginning, chivalry isn’t sexist and if a man is sexist, it isn’t because of chivalry. I can almost hear the cries of “I am civil to everyone, irrelevant to their gender.” The reality is that so is the Gentleman. Just because you choose to ignore everything else a gentleman does simply to focus on what you can use to support your click-bait article, doesn’t take away from what he does for those around him.