10/18/07

Let chivalry die, please.

Definition (s) of chivalry shamelessly filched from dictionary.com:

1. the sum of the ideal qualifications of a knight, including courtesy, generosity, valor, and dexterity in arms.

2. the rules and customs of medieval knighthood.

3. the medieval system or institution of knighthood.

4. a group of knights.

5. gallant warriors or gentlemen: fair ladies and noble chivalry.

6. Archaic. a chivalrous act; gallant deed.

The above definitions bring about some bizarre grandiloquent imagery where a Galahad type character comes thundering about on his snow white steed and swoops down and rescues the fragile-as-glass damsel in distress from a fire breathing dragon or something equally hackneyed. In all seriousness though, chivalry (as the classifications above clearly illustrate) basically stands to represent the ‘ideal’ qualities that a knight should have like courtesy, generosity, bravery, honor and all that claptrap. But, that applied to the knights. During, let’s see, around the 13th century. When feudalism had it’s stranglehold upon the masses and the status of women was appalling, at best. Also, knights don’t exist anymore (please don’t use ‘Sir Paul McCartney is a knight’ as a dazzling example of a counter argument. You’ll only end up doing Sir Paul McCartney disservice).

So I would think that I am right in wanting chivalry to die a painful death as it doesn’t really apply to the 21st century and it’s basically a lite version of chauvinism. But I do realize that my stance on chivalry is a tad unpopular. It also earns me the magnificent ‘cantankerous’ feminist tag, for which I am eternally grateful.

Every time I start a conversation on chivalry, I get the ‘chivalry is dead’ moaning, and then the discussion veers off into how the world would be a better place if only men followed a chivalrous gentlemanly code and learnt how to behave in front of a lady (eyeroll). And god forbid if I try to get a word in and say that chivalry really isn’t dead, a bastardized version still exists today, and that’s not a good thing. I get piled on for not supporting good manners and I also have to put up with feminism and feminists like me being blamed for our self-centeredness and promoting ‘meanness’.

As I have stated before, this blog helps me resolve my anger management issues. Instead of blowing up at chivalry-apologist’s (CA) face, I will painstakingly expound on my reasons to kill chivalry once and for all (using CA’s accusations) over here, and send the said chivalry-apologist the link to this post. See? I’m nice like that. And in all fairness, CA is a nice person too. I’m pretty sure CA will see the sagacity (ahem) in my decision to post this on my blog instead of having a shouting match over good coffee.

First accusation: You are against good manners.

This is utterly specious. I personally think that there is some sort of disconnect happening here, where a person confuses or equates chivalry with good manners. Nobody’s saying that being respectful of other people, or opening doors for them or pulling a chair for another person or putting your hand out and protecting someone from passing cars or whatever on the sidewalk is bad or unnecessary. I am all for good manners and courtesy. But helping people and being respectful of others should be universal and practiced by everyone for everyone irrespective of gender and gender expression, age and/or other differences. Chivalry is not just about common courtesies, it is common courtesies with a set of gendered built in stipulations like a) as a man, I’ll open doors for you and be generally courteous because you are a woman and I’m supposed to be nice to women, and b) I will follow this code which tells me what to do because I’ve been taught that women need to be treated a certain way.

See the difference? While I have nothing against politeness and everyone practicing common courtesy and being nice and respectful all around; I do have a problem with a heavily gendered set of rules which makes me out to be some sort of delicate creature, and which singles me out for ‘special treatment’ because of belonging to my gender.

Second accusation: Chivalry is romantic. What is wrong with sitting back and being pampered by your partner? Don’t you like to be pampered?

As I clearly illustrated above, I have nothing against being nice, respectful and courteous. But being nice, respectful, and courteous should be practiced universally, by, and for everyone. If my partner opens doors for me or rushes to pull out chairs or walks on the outer side of the sidewalk, I should be able to do the same things for him without question.

But if your idea of romance is to be treated like a fragile, diaphanous blossom, and you don’t consider it insulting to be treated as such without question, then well, you’re on your own.

Third accusation: It’s about being helpful. Don’t you think you are being a tad inconsiderate?

I may be overstating, but I see a deliberate omission here. If it’s not deliberate, if it’s just an innocuous brain fart, then well I’m willing to accept that as well. But that doesn’t take away the fact that there happens to be a pretty glaring faux pas in this accusation. If chivalry is just about being ‘helpful’ then why does it involve ‘helping’ only one particular gender? Will the ‘chivalrous’ guy who pounces to the door to open it for you and insist on you going through the door first, do the same for another man? When his ‘chivalry’ dictates to him to pull a chair for you, does it tell him to do so for other men as well? Not bloody likely, especially with the chair pulling or insisting on walking on the outer edge of the sidewalk to ‘protect’ you from passing ‘dangers’. I’d like to see a guy try that with another guy and not be derided or scorned for it.

Last evening, I tried to hold the door open for a guy entering my apartment building. He refused to walk through. I insisted on holding it open, and he insisted on letting me go through first. After a few moments of this wearisome charade, I finally gave in and went through the door (I would have been late for work, otherwise).

And it is not the first time that this has happened to me. A fair share of men I know, who are ‘chivalrous’ simply refuse to accept my help when I try to reciprocate and it’s irksome, to say the least.

So why have I earned the ‘inconsiderate’ tag, when I get offended with ‘chivalry’? Why am I called ‘unreasonable’? Why are women like me, and not these men who refuse female help, asked to suck it up and just be appreciative of fine manners?

The way I see it, chivalry as it is practiced today still reinforces the archaic but pervasive and insidious gender roles which holds women to be virtuous, fragile and naïve, in need of ‘special treatment’, whether the women at the receiving end of the treatment really want it or not. It puts us on a pedestal and we all know what I think of pedestals. Pedestals are woefully crippling and restrictive. Being pushed on a pedestal somehow renders us incapable of taking care of ourselves, in need of protection from the ‘big bad world’ out there, oh noes! And cue the ‘chivalrous’ guy swooping in to save the day with his masculine sensibilities.

Clichéd imagery to illustrate larger point aside, I will still maintain that I am all for,

a) Being respectful.

b) Being helpful.

c) Being all around courteous and polite.

d) Being a decent human being.

This though, should be practiced by and for everyone, irrespective of what gender you or they, belong to. Supporting a ridiculous, antiquated system which tells you to be courteous to a person based on their gender or needing a system rooted in chauvinism (why yes, that’s exactly what I said) to remind you to be nice to women, is where I put my foot down.

Firmly.

49 comments:

Kartik said...

Here's another reason chivalry should go: I've seen, on more than one occasion, chivalry being used as an actual riposte by someone if I was careless enough to use the word chauvinist with (their) name in the same sentence.

"If they want chivalry, they shouldn't expect equality."

Who wants chivalry (in all its bastardized versions), I wonder?

Drunken Master said...

I think chivalry died when women started getting treated (almost) the same as men. Good riddance I say. I think if any girl ever tells anyone they're not chivalrous enough probably doesn't have enough self-respect, is too lazy to do her own work or needs to be time-warped into a previous century.

I love Lucy said...

WTF!I was just thinking about how annoying it was this morning when this guy held open the door for me.
Except that I was walking a good 30 ft behind him.So whilst he stood there playing doorman,I had to literally run to get there soon enough and relieve him of his duty.Run in my high heeled work shoes and an extra hot latte in hand.

First Rain said...

I glossed over the post (I have a short attention span!) but I'd say .. .true.

Courtesy should beget courtesy in equal measure! Someone should not just go on demanding more! I am especially for women who want to "go dutch" with the dinner tab - especially when it is widely know that grad students are not supposed to have jingling pockets. :)

Y said...

i'm amongst the first commenters on one of YOUR posts?

shocking.

nice post as usual, megha. just wanted to tell you i enjoy your writing and to inform you i am linking up to you. cheers.

Yashodhara

Chriz said...

good language... way to go

Raman said...

I agree with you, but i still believe that its okay for males to be chivalrous to females... i have a question for you.. do you want to be able to hold doors for men, etc etc, because that would signify that women are equal to men and not inferior?

S said...

'Chivalry is the first step to male chauvinism'

dunno who said it, but that does make sense.
agree that helping others/being respectful shouldn't be gender/age specific. we have a 70-ish prof. here who insists on holding the door open for me, every time we happen to reach our institute entrance together...it's terribly embarassing!!

~ Sangeetha

Unmana said...

Oh, I agree with you completely! I don't need men to hold doors open for me because I'm a woman. Holding the door open for the next person to pass through is just polite. But why treat a woman like she has no hands? (Probably the most irritating version of chivalry I have seen yet is a man walking over to open the car door for a woman - thankfully, it is also quite rare.)

Veo Claramente said...

Word. just word.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Kartik: It's funny no, that the perception that women force men to be chivalrous has latched on tightly onto the collective psyche, like barnacles on a rock. While it fact it was a code developed for men by men, to treat a woman like a 'lady'. The mind boggles. Seriously.

@ Drunken: What about the guys who force chivalry on you? And refuse to accept help in return? As if it saps them of their 'masculinity' or something, if they accept help from a woman. Gah. Chivalry should just die.

@ I love lucy: I KNOW! I've done the ohmygod he's just standing there, now I have to run with my bajillion bags and my laptop in my 4 inch high heels, to relieve him of his doorman duties. Tch tch, I understand all too well.

@ First Rain: Exactly. And if you are courteous towards me, allow me to return the favor! I feel so inadequate and horrible if I am not allowed to be courteous in return! I wonder if I am the only person who feels like this.

@ Yashodhara: Thank you so much! And your name is lovely. :)

@ Chriz: Erm, thanks?

@ Raman: Eh? I have mentioned several times in this post that I am all for common courtesy. I want everyone to be courteous and polite to each other. Why is that so hard to understand? It's not just about equality (although yes, I thought that was obvious, is that such a bad thing?), it's about not belittling a gender in order to be nice to them. It's about not indulging in a system which uses courtesy as a smokescreen to render women incapable of taking care of themselves.

If you want to be courteous, BE courteous and polite and helpful towards everyone, irrespective of gender. Thats what we need to strive for.

@ S: What you should do, is jump ahead of him one day and hold the door open for him. See how he reacts. Hee.

@ Unmana: Ugh, it's actually not that rare. My best friend's boyfriend does that to her, every.single.time she tries to get into the car. She hates it, but he refuses to stop. She tried opening the car door for him once, but he blew his fuse and just begged her to let him do what he has been doing because thats what hes supposed to do. Can you believe that?

@ Veo Claramente: Glad to know you agree. :D

cerebral non-matter said...

Brilliant. I couldn't have put it better. But wait, I have a little something to take care of.

"oh megha u think chivalry bad cos u stupid man hating lesbian slut not getting many sexy times."

extraneous remarks. check
accusatory tone. check
vulgarity. check
terrible english. check

There. I've done the trolls' job for them, to repay them for the endless amusement they provide us all here at their expense. Now they can go play quietly in a corner with their FHM magazines or whatever. It was the least I could do. :P

Sunbeamz said...

Ah, and then there is a whole "class" angle to it as well. Chivalry is directed towards "Fine Ladies". Do you think the guy who insists on holding the door for "damsels" would do the same for the cleaner or other obviously poor woman, even if she had her hands full? Oh no, she ain't no lady, after all !

Vasu the terrible said...

Hey you.. long time.. neways, I understand what you mean. Chivalry should go.. and I think its dieing already.

Its one of those things which has been mystified beyond its times. A code of how manly you are depends on how you treat your lady.

But the fact of the matter is like there are men who insist on being so, there are women who complain its dieing. I feel chivalry is not just demeaning (like someone saying on your face that you need to be helped), but also patronising which is more subtle and more disempowering.

Things apart, its just good way to live by just minding your own business. Help when people are hurt. Male, female or dog.

digressing a bit. looks like megha bashers still continue to try. just saw the tone on your recent posts.

vasu

WA said...

:) Megha do not spoil it for the rest of us, fingers crossed none of my friends/colleagues whom I've invested time and effort in the art of chivalry read this post.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Sirisha: Ha ha ha! You forgot the oxymoronic awesomeness of 'frigid whore'. I'm disappointed in you, tsk tsk.

@ Sumbeamz: Fantastic point. And it's a point I should have made in the post. So thank you for illustrating the inherent class-ism in this whole chivalry malarkey.

@ Vasu: Oh Megha-bashers are alive and well, they'll worm their way in here, somehow. You can always be sure of that. Bah. :|

@ WA: As long as they can understand the difference between being courteous for courteousness's sake and the awfulness of being nice *just* because of your gender, your efforts shouldn't go to waste. If they do misunderstand however, then you're on your own. Hee hee. :P

the wannabe indian punkster said...

Sunbeamz*, gah!

Sorry for the typo.

Ragnell said...

Funny I should find this post now. Just this morning when we got off shift I was the first one at the door. I opened it and stood aside for the other 3 workers to go through.

The first one, a guy, stopped at the door and said "Ladies First."

I sighed (because really, he should know better by this point) and told him "I'm a feminist. I don't hold with that silliness." He looked confused, then went through the door because there were two people behind him.

sd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymouse said...

Hey, I hold doors open for animals and people who can't easily open doors (especially people with heavy luggage, and I don't expect them to run). If you are carrying heavy/bulky stuff, I am helping you out by holding the door open, not being chivalrous, or being a doorkeeper.

The rest of humanity can open it's own doors.

Rohini said...

Amen! Amen! Amen! My pet peeves are men offering to carry my (not very heavy) bag and insisting on paying for dinner!

Mystique said...

yesyesyes!!
totally agree with everything...
it's kinda good that chivalry's gone (men don't need to think we're delicate creatures, we can care 4 ourselves thanks you) but what i don't like is how the world has shifted to the other extreme...
men treating women like trash...
yeah, that i don't like.
really like your template and you pic (you look angry. why?)
cud u please giv my blog a look?
thanks.

Raman said...

guess i wasn't too clear.. what i meant was that equality is overrated... there will always be women who are superior to men and vice versa.. lets give politeness and respect where they are due.. again, as you say, irrespective of gender, but dependent on **that** person... why should we strive for equality?

Anonymous said...

Please don't put chivalry and sexism and gender biasing in the same compartment...
Chivalry isn't sexist...
Opening a door, or getting up from a chair so that I can sit - is just a mark which shows that us females are a much superior race than males and it's their way of acknowledging the same.
Respect, equality, courtesy - are a must... I will teach my son this - he has to respect women, treat them well...
If a guy can pay for dinner then so can you... a man paying for his fiancee/girlfriend/wife's dinner is not sexist - it's one way of him showing you love. Though, expecting him to pay for it all the time is bad...
No one raises an eyebrow when the lady pays, why do you raise such a hue when the guy pays??
I'm quite sure guys out there - who treat the girl with respect know she isn't "a fragile, diaphanous blossom!!!"
Your imagination and temper run away with you girl!!!
--- Rakshitha

Unmana said...

Really? I guess it's just rare in India!

Sad, however, that some women like/expect "chivalrous" treatment. I was once dining with a girlfriend and she ranted to me about the guy at the neighbouring table because the woman paid the bill!

anonymouse said...

Mystique, but does a random human deserve better than that? You are being treated like everyone else.

Renovatio said...

See it's easier to say that, and it's easier to keep in mind the whole run-up to relieve doorman duties, but in this day and age, it's hard to know what's kosher.

Hell I've been glared at for holding the Costa door open for someone when she was a half step behind me. That was slap in the face number one.

Slap in the face number two was the next morning, when I took a dtc. A woman got on with a kid slung over each shoulder, so I got up and gave her my seat. Mere seconds later, I feel fingers in my butt pocket, and turn around to see that same woman reaching in to relieve me of my wallet.


Now I was raised a certain way by my dad. When my aunt was leaving, my dad would gently prod me to close her car door behind her. When I happened to be on the same flight to Paki as my French teacher, he'd have me help put her bag up in the overhead compartment, and if there was a bunch of people coming in behind us, men too, he'd tell me to hold the door open for them. With time, those little suggestions of his became habits, and now I don't have him, but I do still have those mannerisms of his that've definitely modeled me as the man I am and would like to be.

Nowadays, people don't know how to react to chivalry, the way I treat chivalry, a selfless gesture you make without thinking about it or labeling it as chivalrous or anything else. They seem to either think you're hitting on them, or else god knows what. A friend of mine asked me to give his cousin a ride home from his birthday, and so, out of habit, I went around to the passenger side, and held the car door open for her and closed it behind her. When I got in the car from my side, she was quiet for a bit, and then asked me, rather nervously, about that. I was definitely surprised, a little shocked too, but more so, disappointed. People just don't know how to react to kind gestures anymore.

The Dude said...

definately agree with you on this... my views on chivalry hold pretty close to what youve expressed here.
heres the rub though: id like nothing more than for decency, respect, politeness, etc to be universal and unbiased, it isnt likely to happen..
im not talking about the irans, etc of the world that live in a diff age - even in a progressive country or a developed one like the us (for eg!) women also have so many expectations and there are so many social habits and standards that make it impossible to affect a change!
eg: guys need to do the asking out at most any age, guys almost always pay the bill if its a one on one outing, most girls/women go out of their way to create the image of the beautiful fragile china doll.. (to name a few)
in a lot of ways men are to blame for many things that bind us - we DO live in a blatantly patriarchal world. but the downside is that only a few truly try to make a genuine change that is good for everyone.
the majorities are divided into the 'traditionalist' who doesnt want to change the way things are and the 'mega-feminist' who wants to change way too much without rational thought. the people who see the truth and want to do the righ thing get confused with one or the other (as youve noticed when called a feminist as you noted) or are ignored cos theyre not loud enough or something..
anyhow, great post, enjoyed it a lot, sorry to ramble in the commentary!
cheers...

??! said...

Here's where we play with nuances.

Like SD, I believe in the concept of chivalry per se - and I do believe it's sufficiently different from courtesy. But not sexist chivalry.

Holding a door open for everyone - that's courtesy. Holding a door open when you're already wet and somebody's running for it - chivalry (also stupid, but chivalrous). Holding a car door for friends to get in - courtesy. Holding a car door open for friends to get in, realising there's not enough space for you, and offering to make your own way - chivalry.

So yes, chivalry can exist, but it's not solely a male dominion. The guideline should be - the disabled, elders, children, and then anybody else looking needier and more tired than you.

That said, there are women who expect the whole 'Ladies first'. Social conditioning perhaps. But also, perhaps, the concept of being pampered. So having a door opened for them, could be more about being pampered as a person, than because of being a woman.

Mahogany said...

I guess what it boils down to is politeness is good. And oh-so-rare. And gender-neutral. And preferably, as SD points out, accompanied by a smile.
While chivalry is just a euphemism for the sexual politics of the dark ages.

BTW, Punk, you've won an award. Hope you keep making the blog-trolls' fur fly!

bendinggender said...

clap clap clap clap! i enjoyed this post. thanks:)
can add to the examples of unwanted, pretty much MCPish 'chivalry' till the cows come home.
like the time i wore a halter neck top (note- my shoulders were showing, not my - gasp - breasts) and had a brother in law glare at every guy who looked my way!!!
perfect example of someone showing how much of an ass he is. in other words- a 'chivalrous knight'.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

I wont be able to answer comments until much later tonight (Eastern time). So please feel free to pick apart, address or debate each others comments! I am loving the way this discussion is shaping up!

Anonymous said...

Hi Megha,

I agree with your points on chivalry. The door stuff, totally get it. But I also insist that as people, we recognize what we are good at what we need help with. I really really cant carry heavy stuff and my husband is stronger than me (biological fact), so I dont think it is sexist at all if he carries more than his equal share. I make up for it in other things I can do better, thats all.

I think the other extreme of feminism (not this post, but in general) is to ignore our own short comings and refuse any help, when we can direct our efforts at something we are actually good at.

-Meghana

Anonymous said...

Twice in the same day

It happened with me today. Morning I landed at the client's place a little late for an important meeting. I said to myself, "If I rushed, I could get in on time". I was doubling my steps with a monster of a backpack on me. As a consultant I did not have an access card. Luckily for me, there was someone coming out of the building and I could see her through the glass door. I rushed in and as she opened the door, I sneaked in loudly appologising for my actions. It happened to be a beautiful 20 something and as I rushed ahead, I could hear her faint words say "bastard". I was terribily embaressed. I dint however take it too much to heart since being a consultant in the television industry, I had become immunised to see these words being used quiet liberally. At 32, I cant understand it but hey thats the media world and they do pay my paycheck.

That evening round about 4, I had another meeting and had a lot of time on hand. As I was waiting near the building to get out someone came in and gave me the access. This guy went past me and I was about to go through when I noticed this lady with lots of books standing behind. The same lady who I heard say "bastard" in the morning. I did appologise for the morning incident and held the door open for her. She plainly and rudely refused. She said, you go out first. I was stunned and positively offended the way she said that. It was not even a courteous "after you". She acted like I was some dirt freak hitting on her. She was pretty young, 20 something maybe and positively attractive.

Yes I did deploy a short cut to rush into my meetings.

Sometimes I think women take this very seriously. Not every man out there who opens doors thinks that he needs to as a male open doors for a woman, else degrade his masculanity.

honestly I am clueless as to why some women behave this way.

Pritam

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Ragnell: I wonder if he would have gone through the door as easily as he did, if the two people weren't behind him, you know?

@ SD: One quibble,

(a) Chivalry that has a gender connotation is clearly patronizing and therefore essentially violent and unwarranted. However, there is nothing wrong with the actual act of chivalry. I know a few people who - open doors for everyone/men who will walk in through doors opened by women etc.

Chivalry is not the same as good manners. Chivalry is also not above 'gender connotations'. The act of 'chivalry' itself in it's conception and meaning and practice is meant to be heavily gendered.

Now I don't disagree with your comment at all, I agree with pretty much everything that you said. But equating an antiquated practice such as chivalry and confusing it with general courteousness and decency is what I have a problem with.

@ A'mouse: You uncouth person, you!

@ Rohini: Ah, the paying for dinner horror. I didn't even get into that in the post because it'll just make me madder (heh).

@ Raman: Why shouldn't we strive for equality? (Nothing to do with 'chivalry' or the like. This is just a question)

@ Rakshitha: chivalry isn't sexist

Please read the post again and carefully, this time.

Opening a door, or getting up from a chair so that I can sit - is just a mark which shows that us females are a much superior race than males and it's their way of acknowledging the same.

Again. Please read the post. Or better still, look up chivalry, read about its conception and practice and what it signifies today. I am sorry, but how did you come up with the fact that since we are 'superior' men fall over themselves to show us respect? Really? There are so many problems with that statement, I don't even know where to begin picking it apart.

No one raises an eyebrow when the lady pays, why do you raise such a hue when the guy pays??

Sigh. Is this a real question?

@ Unmana: Yes, because chivalry is understood to be generally 'romantic', when in reality it is not.

@ Renovatio: Exactly. Gestures like opening doors, etc should be automatic and selfless without attributing it to chivalry and I do the exact same (or try to). I open doors for people etc, you know, the works. While I've gotten into many polite arguments (hee) with men going "no no you first", I've never had people jumping to conclusions that I was hitting on them. But maybe, thats because I'm in the yoo yess? People generally are more courteous here, on a more basic level, so a kind gesture is not looked upon suspiciously? At least, as far as *I* have seen. (before anyone jumps down my throat)

@ The Dude: Yep, it can all be traced to patriarchy. It is truly insidious, to put it mildly. And rambling is good! So don't apologize for it. :)

@ ??!: I dislike chivalry because of the sexist and more often than not, classist implications of the entire system as it was always practiced (and still is practiced today, albeit to a different degree).

But I do have a problem with people equating chivalry with good manners or being helpful. The underlying implications of chivalry have always been gendered, and that is never a good thing, however harmless or unimportant it may seem. So yay for being generally polite and kind and helpful, but lets leave out the gendering please. And thats basically why I dislike chivalry, in a nutshell.

@ Mahogany: I guess what it boils down to is politeness is good. And oh-so-rare. And gender-neutral.

Damn you. For pretty much boiling down everything I've rambled on in the post, into a few crisp, short sentences. Meh, now why didn't I think of that? :D

And thank you! Schmooze, eh? What a glorious word!

@ Bendinggender: Oh but you exposed shoulders! That is a crime against humanity. Your brother-in-law should have also delivered a punch at anybody who dared to look at you, for good measure. :P

@ Meghana: Sigh, I have said this a gazillion times in the post and the comments, but I will say it again: I have nothing, I repeat, nothing against people helping each other. This includes, yes includes men helping women as well. But when they start refusing my help, because it is not 'chivalrous'(not openly stated, but implied), then thats where I have a problem. Get it?

@ Pritam: I am not a psychologist. And I'm sorry I'm being dismissive here, but I don't feel comfortable indulging in castigating other women, and your comment reeks of that.

Anonymous said...

Hi Megha,

My point was not against men refusing to take help. I think we sometimes overthink the gestures. If a person happens to hold the door open for us, then we should try and take it at face value. It is a person helping out another. Just because it is a male holding the door, I am not going to throw a fit because it *might* have been some form of bastardized chivalry.

I give people the benefit of doubt...I guess.

-Meghana

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Everyone: For comments (future) which may look like any variation of the following, I have tried to clarify to the best of my ability.

1. But what is wrong with women wanting to be helped?

2. But why are you against chivalry, when its just about good manners?

2. Women are just as demanding of chivalrous behavior from men as men are willing to give it.

I have clearly tried to explain and answer these questions in the post as well as in the comments. Chivalry as a practice must die because of it's classist and sexist connotations. Chivalry is not the same as good manners. If you believe that it is, or if you have formulated your own definition, please read up on what it is. It is good manners with a catch. The catch being the underlying classism and sexism. Get it? That is why I ask you to examine the practice of chivalry and what it's connotations are.

That is why I don't like chivalry. But that does not mean that I am asking for a) Women not to be helped, b) A sudden death of good manners, c) Everybody being unhelpful to each other.

Also I will not tolerate anybody castigating or bashing women for this. This is not about gender bashing, but examining a practice which plays into gender stereotypes behind a smokescreen of 'good manners'.

I will not reject any comment which looks like any variation of the points I have mentioned. But expect a marginally snippy answer if you do. That is all.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Meghana: I am not over thinking a good gesture. I started thinking about chivalry when men actively refused my help when I offered it, like the example I have mentioned in the post. Do you get it now?

sd said...

Agree with your "quibble":) And basically we agree, which is ...good!

Anonymous said...

"I think the other extreme of feminism (not this post, but in general)"

I was reacting to some of the comments for this posts that kinda said...hey it is a man holding the door, so it is my right to refuse or I wont be free woman. Nothing against what you said...I totally agree with you!

Meghana

Anonymous said...

Megha: Reminds me of the work on benevolent sexism (Susan Fiske, Princeton).

"Benevolent sexism (a subjectively favorable, chivalrous ideology that offers protection and affection to women who embrace conventional roles) coexists with hostile sexism (antipathy toward women who are viewed as usurping men's power)." (Glick and Fiske, American Psychologist 2001).

Unfortunately the study finds that while women reject hostile sexism they often endorse benevolent sexism.

Chivalry like benevolent sexism is similarly insidious in that you'll always get this "what you are asking me to be less polite" kind of argument.

And while we're on the topic, refusing to go dutch on a date? Eeeeeew!

n!

anonymouse said...

Hmmm, have you thought that some people just don't like to be helped until they ask for it? It isn't necessarily sexist behaviour (possibly stupid).

The Bride said...

I may be playing the devil's advocate here because I haven't really figured out my take on this issue myself except that i'm not one of those 'oh no chivalry is dead' types but I think there's some amount of over-simplification going on.

For one, the form of chivalry you're describing seems on the way out. The more interesting issue would be to examine the women who still cling to it than to bash motley crew of men who actually go about holding doors open for women. I tend to see these guys as relics of a time gone by and smile amusedly.

Second, while I agree that the origins of most of these gestures lies in the assumption is that women are 'the fairer and weaker sex' and that is no doubt irritating. However, could this form of chivalry be seen as one form of mating ritual (while allowing for other forms where the woman is allowed to be the aggressor) that has become very standard? If so, it is very difficult to just say 'it should go away' because it is linked to the way human sexuality has been construed and played out over the years and if you throw it away, you have to find something else to replace it that everyone accepts.

It's kind of like Nietsche declaring 'God is dead' but then religion continuing to be practiced to this very day. The reason the idea of 'God' or heterosexualilty in its current state cannot and maybe should not be undone so easily is because it's existed for so long.

Also, would it be possible to take the gestures that currently signify patriarchy and turn them into something that's acceptable to us all? Kind of like how in some countries the burkha (again I'm conflicted of this but in some cases it has worked) was turned into a weapon of empowerment for women.

Does any of this make any sense?

I'm also a bit surprised at the vehemence of your dismissal of Pritam's comment. If you can castigate men, then why not women if they seem to be overreacting or behaving petty? I guess I didn't get why you seemed so offended by his example.

??! said...

This is why I did not comment originally - you tend to get too bogged down in technicalities and nuances.

Ok, the original concept of chivalry is no longer relevant. We agree on that. Now tell me how you can differentiate between a man holding a door open for a woman through courtesy, or a man holding the door open out of a ladies-are-weak attitude. At one go, without knowing anything about the guy before or afterhand.

Go on.

Chivalry as a practice must die because of it's classist and sexist connotations
Norms and concepts mutate - you should know that more than most. The point that SD, me, and a couple of others are trying to make is that chivalry does not have to be only associated with sexism. It might have, but today, it could go on encompass a wider range of behaviour, a broader kind of attitude. And I still maintain that chivalry can be a step higher than courtesy.

So harping on that "chivalry must die" is (to put it nicely) slightly anti-progressive in itself.

Sue said...

Something I've been saying for some years now, actually. I'm all for chivalry -- so long as it crosses genders. And why not take it further? Why don't men hold doors open for transsexuals?

FJ said...

Good one!

This is how I am going to take it. If I naturally tend to be chivalrous around girls (particularly the ones whom I like and want to make a positive impression), I would continue to be so. If I dont feel like, I won't. If I sense that the girl is not comfortable with that, I am very happy to let her open the doors, carry her stuff and move her chairs etc. I really don't mind!! As it is, it is complex to understand what girls think, now one more variable to take care of. :D

La vida Loca said...

hmmm never though of chivalry this way (actually I dont care about it)..quite an eye opener. Although I have to admit I like it if my guy opens doors for me :)

Nath said...

I don't see why everybody equates chivalry to holding doors open. As your dictionary says: chivalry is just a set of knightly 'virtues'. Being chivalrous involves blindly following orders, slaughtering infidels, protecting the weak (as long as they aren't infidels) and so on. Opening doors doesn't have much to do with it.

(Unless you are protecting someone who fears doors, presumably.)

Suki said...

Woman, I'm sleepy as all hells but you have me hooked. You rock!

And I totally agree.