Somewhere out there is an old wagon weighed down by a pile of dead practices like removing a hat during a meal or curtsying and tipping hats as a manner of greeting. But chivalry is slung over on the top and it’s crying out, “I’m not dead yet!”
In the days of King Arthur and Monty Python, chivalry was a religious, social and moral code that the knights were required to abide by. Over nearly a thousand years, chivalry began to take on the connotation that a gentleman had to behave in a traditional and honorable way in the presence of a lady (such as opening the car door for his date and paying the dinner check). But it seems that the term continues to radicalize even more in recent years. Are we to assume that because it is common for a woman to pay for her own meal or open her own door, that chivalry is dead?
I say, chivalry isn’t dead, it’s just changing style. And for centuries, we’ve been thinking of it wrong.
Women (and men) aren’t one-size-fits-all. You can’t expect someone to fall and swoon at your feet if you open a door for them. Anyone can open a door, but if you can make someone feel comfortable and respected even without doing said things, then I believe you have achieved honest and true chivalry.
Furthermore, chivalry is not limited to romance. In fact, it’s most common form is platonic.
Chivalry has branched out into acts that men and women should both follow, despite gender, social class, or relationship status. Chivalry is looking behind you when you open the door, to see if someone is there. It is offering to pay for someone’s meal not because you are a man and you have to, but out of the kindness of your heart. It is respect and making others feel comfortable. And that goes for women too. It shouldn’t be about gender but about being a genuine person.
My hostility toward traditional chivalry is not that it belittles women, but that the gestures often become an easy facade that many men put on. Growing a relationship with someone is not a step-by-step guide, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. Each person is different in their preferences. It’s not easy, and it takes time and effort and getting to know what someone else prefers.
People have become so hard-wired to think of the next move that will make them look chivalrous, rather than just lending help and making others feel comfortable because that is who they are.
Yes, I know, there are men that can employ traditional chivalry without causing an awkward tension. And I believe this is because they recognize that chivalry is not chivalry if it inconveniences the receiver more than the giver.
If the new and innovated way of chivalry is the Holy Grail, then I think we’ve finally found it.