The death of chivalry is inevitable in this new era of gender equality.
Women, for a long time, were undermined in societies and viewed second to men. Even in families, men were the heads, women were the necks. The following societal structures construed a fallacy of ‘man domination’, one that had no firm basis, other than a reliance on the notion that men were generally physically stronger than women.
In regards to this notion — that was half-true — men felt the need to step down from their high pedestal to stroke their ego, by doing things for women. Things that would generally require a little extra effort. Women didn’t need men to do this for them, but men still did them anyway.
This is what society eventually labeled as chivalry. Courtesy towards women. It was packaged in elegance and splendor, being the only test a man was put through to determine what made him a gentleman. In traditional African societies, this was tested by a man being able to cater for a woman’s need for food, shelter, protection and most importantly a child. In the near-past modern society, this would cumulatively be measured by the thickness of a man’s wallet.
Chivalry, was sold to the woman to compensate for the harsh reality that men had subjected them to. For every opinion that was put off as being silly, just by the virtue of it coming from a woman, a door was held open by a man. The door might not quite lead to the path where she wants to go, but hell, at least he opens doors.
For every slap, jab and kick a woman would take from her husband in the name of ‘discipline’, a dinner reservation would be made afterwards in an expensive, 4-star, posh restaurant in the city. The dinner reservation would be sort of a treat, like giving a kid candy for being so obedient, where all expenses were taken care of by the man.
Chivalry enforced a weakness in women, which was thereafter exploited to suppress and manipulate them.
“I’ve always loved you, and I’ve always felt the need to take care of you. Like a man should. That’s why I make decisions on your behalf. I just want to protect you.” Such phrases would be common.
The underlying truth, however, is that he doesn’t respect your opinions. He probably thinks of you like a toddler; a child who doesn’t know what’s best for them — like a parent feels for their child.
Almost every form of chivalry had an underlying, oppressive motive.
Eventually, some women of the 19th, 20th and 21st century got wind of the illusion that chivalry was. And with this, the fight against women oppression and the fight for women independence began. Feminism.
Interestingly, men felt different about chivalry too.
Men no longer felt the need to protect an independent woman. She can take care of herself.
Men no longer felt the need to open doors for women. If she’s independent, she can hold her own door.
Men couldn’t quite brush off a woman’s opinion. Her opinion was bolder. She wasn’t asking for approval anymore. She didn’t care whether you liked it or not. It was her opinion and only she could change it.
Truth is, the fight for gender equality is a challenging one. A patriarchal society is challenged to it’s core, men have to battle with their cultural/religious views and beliefs, and women have to fight harder to be appreciated and respected equally. The last thing this fight needs is chivalry, something that can be exploited further into taking ten steps back from the progress we’ve made this far.
I too face this battle constantly.
I chose to do things for people, irrespective of gender. Things I don’t necessarily have to do, like: open doors, compliment outfits, pay for lunches and dinners, etc. It has nothing to do with chivalry. It has more to do with being a decent human. Humane love — I don’t think that’s a thing, but what the hell, it is how I feel.
And when I find myself in a relationship, I’ll probably do those same things for the woman I love. Not because of chivalry. Not because she is entitled to it by being a woman. Not because a man must do these things for his woman. But out of love and respect. Out of me wanting her to know how much I love and appreciate her. And this can as well be vice versa. If she chooses to hold the door open for me, I too will know that it’s out of love and compassion.
You see, I have come across quite a number of women. And the ones who deeply believe in chivalry, don’t usually seem to fully believe in equality.
The idea of chivalry to a feminist, I believe, should be repulsive and degrading — that a man should treat a woman like she can’t handle her own.
And so for those who keep reminding the world that chivalry is dying, YES it is dying. And so is chauvinism, misogyny and patriarchy. A new era, born in the 19th century, is slowly maturing and gaining foot in this new world, especially with the millennial folk.
It is the era of feminism, which champions for gender equality. Fortunately, or unfortunately, this era is here to stay.