Wednesday, 28 October 2015


This word is being bandied about a lot lately. I have heard men saying they 'believe in chivalry', suggesting that this is a desirable quality.

What is chivalry?

The word ‘chivalry’ actually comes from ‘chevalier’, meaning horsemanship (not a promising start).

Chivalry is a Medieval code of conduct associated with knighthood, which included things like honour, love of your country and loyalty. It’s about men fighting other men (it’s not getting any better).

Chivalry also developed into the idea of ‘courtly love’ - the idea that a knight should serve a lady, and after her serve all ladies and be respectful to women.

These codes come from a time when it was never considered that women could have the same abilities as men, that they could make their own decisions or claim equality. It was inconceivable. In that world, where women didn't have opportunities and couldn't earn their own living, chivalry was a way of protecting a vulnerable section of society.

Chivalry is condescending

Chivalry casts women as fragile, delicate creatures in need of protection and special treatment. The moment we accept this designation, we can no longer expected be treated as men's equals, because we are accepting we are their inferiors and we need them to protect us.

I’m all for honour in war and that sort of thing - being polite to people before you run them through with a sword, and only doing it if they’ve done something really naughty like taken your land.

But the subtext of the ‘courtly love’ side of chivalry is that women should sit about looking pretty and appreciative while men charge about wounding each other in their names (jousting), holding doors open for us, and occasionally writing bad poetry.

Women are very capable of opening doors and writing out own bad poetry. We can also engage in dangerous contact sports, should we wish.

Chivalry sets women on a pedestal

The thing about pedestals is they keep women out of trouble. You're up there, looking pretty and sitting on your perch so you're not going to be campaigning for equal pay or anything like that. In fact, why do you need equal pay when some nice chivalrous man can keep you in the manner which you've become accustomed?

The phrase 'I believe in chivalry’ translates as; ‘I’m deeply sexist – I expect men and women to conform to pre-conceived gender roles. I'll hold doors open for you and occasionally buy you dinner, but in return you should do all the cooking and clean the bathroom regularly.'

If a man wants to behave courteously towards women, then that's fine, just don't call it chivalry. Call it being nice. Or just not being an arse.

Hold doors open for us because we're human beings, and it's not nice to have doors slammed in your face. And we will hold doors open for you in return.

Leave chivalry in the past

Looking to the past for a code of how to treat women is a really bad idea. Living in the West today is about the best it’s ever been for women. There may still be improvements to be made, but it’s a sight better than it has been at any time in the past. We really shouldn't be looking backwards.

The best way to be show respect to a woman is to treat her as your equal, not a princess.

No comments:

Post a Comment