My hypocritical views on chivalry

Is chivalry dying? In some ways, women may be killing it — me included.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn
Oct 27 · 6 min read
Photo credit: OpenClipArt-Vectors/Pixabay

Every second and fourth Saturday afternoon, I am asked the same question by at least a handful of men: “Do you need help with that?” or “Where is your car?” And my response is always the same, “Nope, I got it.” I twirl around, content to do my job as the Sergeant at Arms.

After each Toastmasters meeting, off I scurry to lug a bin, cloth banner and a T-banner stand from my club’s lobby area. I have no idea how much the bin weighs, but another member told me she felt the bin was “too heavy.” All I know is I can do a bicep curl with my 25-pound dumbbells, and this bin isn’t heavier than those.

These Toastmasters members (always male) who ask to assist me are taller and bigger than me. And I know a couple of them can carry the bin with ease. Still though, I’m not interested in their help. I stand there expectantly waiting on one of those same taller, bigger men to hold the door for me. I would judge them if they didn’t immediately do so. (They are gentleman, and they always do.) A couple of times I’ve walked down the street with the bin in my arms, trying to find my car. And the same men, walking side-by-side, have offered to switch places with me and hold the bin while I hold the banner and T-banner stand. I refuse a second time.

I’ve convinced myself that it is counterproductive for someone to carry something for me that I can physically carry myself without breaking a sweat. My arms work just fine, thank you.

Where my chivalry hypocrisy starts

Photo credit: shonamcq/Pixabay

When I was in high school, I played the alto saxophone. And I’d have to bring that instrument home with me at least once per week to practice. Two neighborhood boys went to my high school, and we’d regularly walk home together.

One of them would chat away with me and kept his hands empty. The other one insisted that I walk on the inside of the street and took the saxophone from me. Sometimes he’d even offer to walk me all the way home so I didn’t have to carry it for one whole block. I rolled my eyes and snatched my saxophone case, while he looked guilty as I kept walking. I always preferred my home commute with the latter boy. To this day, I still appreciate the way his mother raised him. I knew as a teenager I could’ve carried that alto saxophone as easily as I now carry my Toastmasters bin. But I skipped along next to him, happy to be relieved of the saxophone that I barely wanted to play anyway.

Photo credit: Alex Powell/Pexels

I thought about that saxophone walk recently when I read this user’s tweet in the early part of October:

Next to the tweet, he posted a GIF of Mister Rogers (from the ’60s sitcom “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”) putting on a clown mask. And my lip curled up in disgust. I was so irritated by the clown GIF that I typed this response faster than Kermit the Frog on a typewriter:

I cannot count the number of times a man has stood up for me on an El* so I could sit down, even though there was absolutely nothing wrong with my feet and I wasn’t even wearing uncomfortable shoes. I just wanted to sit down and appreciated the offer. I have scowled at countless men who man-spread or sit comfortably on a train without a care in the world for the woman standing above them clutching onto the poles of the El. What a jackass.

But arguably, couldn’t the same rationale for me carrying a bin to my car be used for why I shouldn’t expect someone to give up his train seat for me (or the lady who ambushed her way to it)? Isn’t it as physically possible for women to stand up during a train ride as it to carry a bin to their cars? Sure, it is. The difference is simple: I don’t want to!

But who am I to judge the guy who wanted the “cute boy” on the train to sit next to him? Hell, if I saw a cute guy on a train, I’d most definitely want him sitting next to me. But I’d cringe at the thought of dating him if there was a woman nearby and he didn’t offer her his seat. I unapologetically still believe that the woman was owed that sitting option and should’ve been asked first. And yes, I know that is confusing to some men.

“I don’t need any help”: My mantra as a little girl

Photo credit: BilliTheCat/Pixabay

“I don’t need any help,” is a comment I constantly made as a kid to my father, who was amused by me trying to do everything by myself. He thought it was cute. But my father is also the same person who has told my mother to “let a man be a man” and walk on the outside of the street. My grandfather has insisted on doing the same thing when the two of us have taken a neighborhood stroll. I come from a family of men who thoroughly enjoy being men — chivalry included. They hold doors. They lift furniture. They grab grocery bags without being asked. You almost have to pry the steering wheel away from them on road trips. They don’t hesitate to help you move and will move you out of the way if you’re not lifting fast enough. Sometimes I mind. Most of the time I don’t.

When chivalry is taught and appreciated

Photo credit: JD Mason/Unsplash

When men occasionally challenge me about my views on chivalry and letting a gentleman be who he is, I get why my actions send mixed signals. I thoroughly believe the person who asks someone out on a date should be the one who pays (and I never ask first, so by default, the man pays — unless you’re this French Fry Guy). But I have no problem paying for a follow-up date.

My hearts all aflutter when a man reaches his hand out to help me out of a car or opens a car door. Meanwhile I often hog the driver’s side of the car. And while I have no interest in anyone pulling out my chair or putting a jacket over a puddle, I smile from ear-to-ear when a man holds out the empty arm sleeves of my coat.

I’m a bag of chivalry hypocrisy. But I am only one woman. And every woman will not agree with my views on what’s a deal-breaker and what’s to be expected between a man and a woman. So if you want to know how you should treat the (new) woman in your life, the best way to do so is to simply be who you are. If she likes it, keep doing it. And if she doesn’t, then you just saved yourself a train seat and a heavy bin to carry. It’s a win-win.

* The “El” is a common term used for subway trains in Chicago.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

14-year journalist; freelance writer/editor (Upwork); Wag! dog walker; Rover dog sitter; Toastmasters SAA & member; cohost of Do Not Submit; Shamontiel.com

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