Ask most dudes why it appears that they have abandoned their chivalrous ways and they will likely blame women. Most of us are too independent for our own good and any attempts to do things like opening doors or pulling out a seat for a woman will likely result in evil stares, a lack of a thank you, or sucked teeth. In some respects, I kind of understand how they reached this conclusion. I remember my own trepidation over the guys I’ve dated who insisted on walking on the side of the sidewalk closest to the street. I never understood the purpose and quite frankly, neither do any of the guys I’ve dated. When I would ask why, the closest I got to an answer was that, just in case a car jumps the curbs and plows into us, he will get hit first. “Well, since you are not Iron Man, odds are that the car will hit you and keep going until it hits me,” I would say in response. He would scratch his head, “Yeah you’re probably right, but still…”
But still, we did it anyway. Sometimes chivalry just doesn’t make sense. Like how my last ex-boyfriend used to hold the car door open for me. Sounds like a courteous gesture, but it used to irk me. I told him this once. Like for one, it was my car. You holding the door of the driver seat, which I had to unlock and then lean over and unlock your door (this was pre-automatic locks). I mean, wouldn’t the courteous thing be for you to get your own damn car so I don’t have to drive us all around town? He didn’t think of that. But the larger point was that I could tell that his heart just wasn’t into it. He would open the door and blindly close it, regardless if my legs were even fully inside the car. It was fraudulent chivalry. Like someone, maybe his dad, threatened him years ago with, “Son, always open the door for a lady or I’ll beat the crap out of you.” And for the rest of his life, every time he saw a car door and a woman, the fear of God would creep into his heart.
Anyway, he concluded I was never satisfied. Maybe I’m not. Maybe my insistence – as well as necessity – on independence has jaded me to the helpful hands of a strange man. However, being a modern woman does not mean that I am no less deserving of common courtesies. I have no desire to be genderless and not to be seen as a woman by anyone. If a man wants to hold a door open, help me to my car with heavy bags, or open a car door for me, then he is welcomed to do so. But I also feel that if it doesn’t aid in my general welfare, how exactly is that being chivalrous? And more importantly, why should I be compelled to take it? For instance, if you are closing car doors on womens’s legs or holding a door open for me –even though I am still half way down the block, which means I have to run up the block just to make it through the door (or risk being on the receiving end of a male attitude), it doesn’t seem very thoughtful. Instead, it just seems like I am being forced to subjugate myself to your good deed for the day, no matter if I needed the deed or not.
In the end, I think that chivalry is less about reinforcing social norms reserved for gentlemen and ladies and more about manners. Good manners. And the lack of chivalry among men doesn’t mean that all things are equal. Equality to me means being paid the same amount for the same work whereas being chivalrous just means adhering to our own personal code of values and virtues about how to treat people. You know, with respect, compassion and most importantly, thoughtfulness? Regardless of gender, I think that in these graceless times, we all are in need of – and could offer up – a helping hand. I am no more or less prone to holding a door for a stranger struggling with heavy boxes if he is male or female. And I expect all people, regardless of gender, to do the same.
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