Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chivalry is Dead....And Women Killed It

"Is chivalry dead?"

A rhetorical question posed countless times each day by women disappointed with the actions of some brutish man in their life.

Well, the answer is simple.

Of course it's dead.  And women killed it.

Chivalry is a notion that dates back to the Middle Ages.  Ironically enough, in the Middle Ages, chivalry wasn't just about men giving women special treatment.  Chivalry was a complete social code for the upper classes, and it dictated behavior in everything from correspondence to tournaments to wars to table manners.  It also, of course, dictated behavior in interpersonal relationships among both sexes.  The notion was born from the knighthood institution, and was based on concepts of honor and virtue, and the belief that honorable knights should be devoted to protecting the defenseless - which would have included not just women, but also children, the sick, and the elderly.

In this day and age, of course, when people talk about chivalry, they aren't talking about any of that happy crap; they're just talking about men treating women like princesses.

The whole idea of this special treatment for women goes back to a pre-modern time when women were essentially second-class citizens.  In the United States, women weren't even allowed to vote until 1920, much less hold political offices or any other prominent position of power.  Women belonged to their fathers until they got married, at which time they essentially became the property of their husbands.  Only if a woman became a widow was she ever likely to own land.  Generally speaking, women were expected to pop out babies, take care of the house, and cook meals.  Other than house work, it was extremely uncommon for a woman to have an actual job or profession.

So this is where modern notions of chivalry come from - the idea that men need to protect women, because men rule the world and women are weak, second-class citizens who basically belong to either their father or their husband.  It is the exact same notion that tells us parents are supposed to care for and protect their children.  Children are weak and defenseless and need tender care.  In the same way, a man's wife was like his child, and it was his responsibility to protect her and nurture her.

I don't need to give a detailed explanation about how that sort of social situation no longer exists in our modern country.  Today women have all the same rights, expectations, and privileges as men.  They own property, have careers, make decisions, manage people - all the things that used to be the exclusive purview of men.

And why do they have all those rights?  Quite obviously, because they insisted on it.  Women spent nearly a century fighting for equal rights with men, from the suffragettes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to Rosie the Riveter, to countless pieces of legislation guaranteeing equal treatment for women under the law.  While this was happening, women also began "liberating" themselves and becoming outspoken politically, socially, culturally, and sexually.

The result is that today, women and men have the same social and legal rights, privileges, and expectations.

And the other result, of course, is that chivalry is dead.

In fighting for, and gaining, equal rights with men, women killed chivalry.  Its death was collateral damage in the war for equal rights.  Equal rights between men and women, and chivalry, cannot coexist.  Chivalry existed because women didn't have equal rights with men.  Once they gained those rights, chivalry was forced into the grave of history.

Now I'm not saying that women shouldn't have equal rights.  I'm all about women's rights in every conceivable way.  What I am saying is that women need to STFU about chivalry, because unless they want to return to the days when they were second-class citizens, chivalry is well and truly dead.  Some women, it seems, want to have it both ways; they want to have their cake and eat it too.

Sorry, ladies.  Chivalry is dead.  You killed it.  And you can't have it back.


Anonymous said...

First let me say, that I totally agree with your post, but I also have to note that I don't know a single woman who gives a shit if chivalry is dead or ever laments it's passing.

I do think there is a whole sector of self-righteous, stay-at-home and home-schooler moms who believe they are superior to working mothers. It's this weird Generation X backlash to the idea of ours having been a latch-key childhood, and quite frankly, it's bullshit. These uppity, stay-at-homers get to stay-at-home because they were likely raised in two income homes with all the privilege that can often afford. These two income homes were built on the backs of women who fought to have a right not just to work but to earn a competitive wage and enter higher level professions. Further, the same economic privilege that came out of the women's movement, allowed more Generation X women to go to college or move in other social circles where they could meet highly educated and career oriented men who can fund their lifestyle without needing the woman's second income. It's that group of moral-superiorites, who bleat about giving their children a better childhood than they had because their mother worked that I think need to STFU.

And apologies for my generalizations and blanket statements, but there's no arguing that this is a socio-economic class issue.

Scott said...

I know this post is pretty antagonistic to a lot of people, so let me just point out that what I am talking about in this post doesn't have anything to do with basic manners.

I'm talking about the notion that some women have about getting special and preferential treatment from men. I'm not talking about being nice to people or helping people or anything like that.

I'm also not implying in this post that because women fought for equal rights with men, men now have a free pass to be jerks to women. That's not what I meant at all. I'm talking specifically about special and preferential treatment that goes only one way - men treating women like princesses.