I strive for progression in this world, which is fuelled by what I deem to be a realistic dose of feminism. I don’t want the times to change and to put men in the position that women have been in for hundreds of years, but I do want clear-cut, transparent equality where societal norms change to see both men and women on a level playing field. I think that many people are at the very least wanting the same thing too, if not striving for it as much as I do.
Something that took the internet by storm a few years back was the idea that chivalry is a form of sexism. With the mainstream news picking up on the thesis and many high-profile feminist websites fully embracing that chivalry is sexist; I was completely on board and prepared to question any act of chivalry from a stranger.
There were many studies and opinions at the time, but the statement that stuck in my mind was from a professor at the Northeastern University in Boston. Following a study into the sexist nature behind acts considered to be chivalrous, such as opening a door for a woman or helping with her bags, Judith Hall stated that chivalry is essentially “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” She explained that accepting such acts in society because they’re seemingly harmless and welcoming is dangerous as they represent the male’s thinking that women aren’t as capable of achieving the same things as men, as shown by Cosmopolitan.
Those results came out in 2015, the height of the anti-chivalry movement, at which point I had become staunchly against the now sexist acts. However, over the years, I have softened to the idea of chivalry following a couple of very run-of-the-mill occurrences which resonated with me strongly and made me reconsider, the most significant of which occurred in my local café.
One lunchtime, I was making my way into the café, and the man in front of me, looking to be in a bit of rush and all suited up, just entered and let the door slam behind him. I genuinely appreciated that he didn’t give a look back and hold the door open, which may have both demeaned me and wasted his time. A few weeks later, on my way out of the same joint, a different man on his way in opening the door saw me a few feet away with a coffee in my hand, held the door open and waited for me. I politely questioned his actions, asking if he didn’t think that I was capable of doing it myself jokingly, but not really. He simply replied: “sorry, I was just trying to be polite.”
I think that the term chivalrous has been taken out-of-hand and made toxic, and I am certainly against anyone who would help out a woman because of underlying thoughts that our gender is weak or incapable. However, I don’t think that society can function without politeness. The dividing line has to be if those performing the once-perceived-to-be chivalrous acts would be happy to receive it in return from a woman and if they would be willing to do the same for those of the same gender if the occasion called. I am a big fan of politeness, but the archaic ways of chivalry must be put to one side. Replace the desire to help a woman with a view of helping all to create a much friendlier place.