Chivalry’s All Mucked Up

As western culture has shifted towards a demand in equality for women the traditional gender roles have been redefined. This change has resulted in a decline for the need of chivalry in everyday society, thus putting men and women in an awkward spot as people’s individual expectations and values often contradict one another’s.

“Aren’t you going to pay the bill,” the hypothetical feminist said to her date.

Whether or not you think this hypothetical scenario is likely to occur it is difficult to argue against the bold contradiction that these two ideals are in conflict with each other. Can and should a self-proclaimed feminist expect a traditional date with a man who wouldn’t hesitate picking up the tab on the first date? What are most people’s expectations on chivalrous conduct today? Do men and women differ in opinion on what is an intended romantic gesture and what is just corny? Is chivalry just in a temporary decline or is it on life support?

Most women these days see chivalry in modern terms as a man showing affection for a woman by going above and beyond as a protector and a romantic by doing all the little things that fathers teach their sons.

Pamela Lee, 35, believes that chivalry is helping or aiding a woman. “Every woman I know appreciates chivalry. It really upsets women when the man is not acting chivalrous on a date. You can see a woman’s face turn distressful when this happens.”

Chivalry began as a code of conduct during the medieval era in Europe as a behavior guide for knights. It comes from the French word chevalerie, which translates as horse solider. It was meant for the sustainability and expectation of upholding values such as honor and nobility for men in the upper echelons of European society. Much of the code was intended for noble behavior during battle between men rather than for a how to guide for the proper courting of Maid Marian.

The word’s intended meaning has transformed throughout the last eight centuries, eventually being linked with the manner of how a man should treat a lady. The modern sense of the word is linked to an old fashioned (but still wanted by most women) value of how a man should behave on date with a women, taking it upon himself to do all the little things that truly shows off to the world that the women he is taking out is special and her personal value warrants special consideration, such as flowers, door opening, paying for the date, and so on.

Diane Phelps, 41, believes in the traditional sense of chivalry. “Chivalry by definition hasn’t changed, but what our society expects has. Everything is less formal, more casual.”

However, today’s interpretation of how to use chivalry is getting a bit murky. In a post-feministic society many men (and women) aren’t sure or simply don’t think that chivalry is necessary anymore. If men and women are truly equal in society (or at least that’s the expectation) then why should chivalry still be practiced? The need for it is evaporating. For instance, if men and women both work, both make money, then the need for the man to pay for everything on the first date is no longer there. Not only is the need absent, but the idea that the man should have to pay for everything on the first date (or every date? Ladies…) seems unfair.

“Aren’t we striving for equality between the sexes? If that’s the case then why should the man have to pay for everything? It’s a double standard,” Pamela said.

So what do guys think of this double standard?

Devin Crumpacker, 28, is in agreement that there is a double standard, but that it’s less noticeable with the younger crowd. “It is in conflict with today’s politically correct ideas on gender for sure, but younger women have altered their expectations to fit society’s mold a bit more than the last generation,”

Devin believes that chivalry is sex based. “It’s the little things we do for the opposite sex, politeness,”

Yes, it’s a beautiful gesture to show your date and everyone else how special you know they are. But how far does one go? Does it even matter anymore if it’s the women who wants to be chivalrous towards her man, or is our society still wrapped up in idea that this is improper behavior, able to change values of racial and gender equalities but incapable of changing a small portion of our cultural values with casual dating?

Ask ten women if they don’t care about chivalry and don’t have any expectations of any chivalrous gestures at all and at least eight will look at you as if you just stole something from them.

Maybe something is being stolen, slowly over time.

The expectations of chivalrous behavior vary from person to person, young to old, and man to woman. It couldn’t be any more muddled.

“Expectations are pretty standard across the board. For me it’s opening doors, paying on a traditional date, flowers, and so on,” said Pamela. “If a woman doesn’t get treated with old fashioned chivalry and expects it, it could be a deal-breaker,”

Diane was a bit more blunt, “Yes, I do [expect it], but have I stood up by the door and waited for someone to open it? Yes,”

Not every woman is so demanding. Many women under 30 seem to have lax expectations when it comes to chivalry. Andria Lewetog, 22, and Mallory Searcy, 22, both seem to think that chivalry is good, but very forgiving if the guy fails in his task to pay for everything or open up the opposite car door. Both also agree that chivalry is more about mutual respect.

“I definitely appreciate anyone’s attempts to be considerate, but I don’t consider myself as the type of person that expects everything on a silver platter. I don’t confine myself to old-fashioned standards however,” Mallory said.

Devin believes that chivalry is good, but over-doing it has led him astray. “You don’t want to come off too strong, but you want to show the woman you care. It can be tricky sometimes,”

Well, now that we’re even more confused on what the standard is, let’s dive back into women’s expectations. Most women over 30 or so seem to have high expectations. The problem with this is that some women’s personal expectations of dating norms exceed the socially acceptable norm for our society as a whole.

The lines are getting blurry.

How did this happen? It’s the nature of the contradiction between new gender roles and old school expectations. With gender equality at odds with chivalry in the ideological sense, it seems that high expectations may not be met. It also tells us that a society that expects both gender equality and chivalry is a bit hypocritical in the sense that even though our society preaches equality under any circumstance (even war as of 2013, as the military has redefined their role) but that the rule of thumb for equality is selectively enforced.

“The same women that demand gender equality will be put-off if a guy doesn’t pay for the date,” Pamela said. “We [women] want equality. We demand to be equals, and we should be equals, but there’s a contradiction between modern feminism and chivalry. Looking at all my peers… and many women don’t want to admit this, but when they see a man is not acting chivalrous it’s off putting. They want to have their cake and eat it too.”

The notion of selective equality and a veering contradiction of equality doesn’t negate the progress made via race and gender relations and equality in our society. It does, however, simply point to the fact that sometimes people have to be told what to think in order to do what is right. The thought is scary.

Casual dating isn’t a hardline subject worth any special interests groups or historic court room rulings, so there really isn’t a wide-spread rule-of-thumb to go by. Most of us built up our value system from what our parents handed down, later refined it, and have taken it from there. The changing beliefs on gender roles in general society have changed so fast our personal values on chivalry are murky. The contradiction of current expectations and those of forty years ago can be confusing, forcing one to adopt a set policy they think is best for them.

In other words, what one person may expect another will not.

“I think it should be a two-way road, not like the old days. Whoever asks the person out, guy or girl, they should be the one to pay for the date. That’s the way it should be today,” said Devin.

Not all agreed with Devin’s point of view. Although Mallory and Andria agreed with Devin somewhat, when Diane was asked the same question she answered in a very matter of fact tone. “The man should have to pay for every date. My time is valuable,” said Diane.

These differing expectations become very important when dating, because there are deal-breakers that some women simply are not willing to bend, preferring to cut all ties before realizing that it could be a simple case of miscommunication or a misunderstanding. If the expectations are unclear and vary wildly from person to person, it’d be a safe bet that if the man truly likes the woman he takes out, he would undoubtedly act more chivalrous if she preferred it.

“The expectations are different between men and women. There’s suppressed friction between the sexes,” said Pamela.

Of course this may seem to be an obvious answer to a simple problem, but because times are a changin’ so fast with gender roles the contradiction of feminism and chivalry can lead a guy astray, down the thought pattern that if he does act chivalrous it could come across as offensive, as if by picking up the check he’s really just implying that women are far too poor to pay for their half of the bill.

The generational gap may explain some of these differing opinions on what to do or how to act. Many people over 35 agree that chivalry is lost on the younger generation. “Yeah, it’s definitely losing the generational battle. Most guys my age just don’t act chivalrous,” said Andria.

Mallory sees herself as a modern woman that is a bit more open-minded.

“I definitely appreciate anyone’s attempts to be considerate, but I don’t consider myself as the type of person that expects everything on a silver platter. I don’t confine myself to old-fashioned standards however,” said Mallory.

Andria thinks chivalry is dead for her generation altogether. She doesn’t believe that younger guys are living up to their part.

“It does happen here or there, someone acting chivalrous, but most guys these days don’t seem to place the same importance to it like they used to,”

Let us not get too caught up in the idea that younger guys don’t act chivalrous. Sean Cornell, 18, is definitely a chivalrous guy. Finding out early in life that chivalry breeds positivity he always picks up the check on the first date. “I like to do things for women when we go out,”

Sean admitted that being a man and acting “In control of the situation, in a good way,” has its benefits. “Girls seem to like it,” said Sean.

But is Sean alone in his generation? “I don’t see myself as being anymore chivalrous than the average guy. I don’t think chivalry is dead, but it is dying,” Sean believes that although his generation still practices chivalry, it is less common among young teens then someone his dad’s age.

Can chivalry go too far? Could pushing the envelope with flowers on the first date be a cornball move?

“I don’t think chivalry can go too far, but if a guy is pressing it can come off as desperate,” said Pamela.

Even in today’s day and age one cannot go wrong with too much chivalry, in most cases at least. It’s more about who you’re with and what you’re doing. Doin’ too much has become a catch phrase but it simply does not apply here.

“I don’t think that too much chivalry is bad, it’s not really a put-off. What is a put-off is a guy trying to move to fast or talking about marriage right away. Now that’s a put-off,” Mallory said.

The others at the table agreed. All were women and all believed that discouraging chivalry in any form would be a bad idea, especially now as it’s dying, gasping for air already.

Devin disagreed. “There was a time that I bought a woman a piece of clothing on the first date. It turned out bad. It was definitely a case of doin’ too much,”

Since most of us are in agreement that chivalry is at least dying it begs the question, who killed it? According to most women it was women themselves. Many guys feel the same. “Feminism and chivalry are at odds with each other,” Sean said. “Feminism is almost the opposite of chivalry, and it’s kind of a battle between the two,”

Pamela agrees. “How can anyone say there isn’t a double standard when it comes to men and women? If women demand equality, going to war, getting paid the same, wanting to do all the things that guys do but still expect the guy to pay for everything there lies a conflict and a double standard,”

The decline of chivalry is due to changing values in our culture. As women make close to the same amount of money as men, especially on the lower end of the socio-economic scale, the need for men to flaunt them with gifts becomes irrelevant outside of culture. Other factors include the rise of feminism and equal rights, which is by definition in total conflict with the cultural ideal that men should control the situation when out with their dates, picking up the check and opening all the doors.

Chivalry is not going to die anytime soon, however, because there is still a demand for it. To be fair, feminism will not kill it off because there are too many women that still crave it and too many guys still using it. Even if it conflicts with the general idea of equality, it serves as a staple of western culture and the general idea of it is just too romantic for anyone to care.

Sean explains how this chivalry business will stay alive.