Chivalry is about respecting and honoring women. A woman has something a man doesn’t have; she has qualities and abilities a man needs but a man doesn’t possess himself, things the man only has access to through interaction and relationship with woman. In addition children need women, the community overall needs the feminine touch and the contributions women are best at providing as women. It is this fundamental reality that the woman possesses something precious and special as a woman that is why the world needs Chivalry, why the man owes the woman Chivalry as an acknowledgment of this power that women have that must be honored and respected.
Zarehalization has just written an article on this subject, “It is called: Chivalry,” that addresses this issue that I think is quite good. He starts out saying (emphasis in original):
“Chivalry is not dead or alive. Chivalry is chivalry, you either have it or you don’t, and the woman’s eligibility for it is completely irrelevant.”
I am so glad Zarehalization added in that bolded part; he is emphasizing that Chivalry comes from the man as an expression of the man. At the end Zarehalization makes the poignant and true observation (emphasis in original):
“But regardless who the girl is . . . men have to always treat a woman like a princess, because the worst type of girl was once a beautiful little innocent angel, she just turned into something that her father or family did not expect, due to many reasons, one of them being the assholes like you that didn’t treat her right starting at the age of 14. A real man got nothing to lose when he treats a girl with outmost respect, after all, would you want anyone to treat your daughter, niece, little sis, cousin, or your mother, the same way that some of these “boys” do?
Didn’t think so.”
I want to emphasize the line “A real man got nothing to lose when he treats a girl with utmost respect.” Chivalry is its own virtue, it is good in its own right, it justifies itself. A “real man” is strong, he is in the authority position, he is not making himself vulnerable and endangering himself by treating a woman with the utmost respect. The real man indeed has “nothing to lose” by treating women right; treating women right is good by itself and justifies itself. Treating women right is what Chivalry is. Treating a woman right is about the man, it is not about the woman. A man treating a woman right is showing himself to be a good man; he is not making a statement one way or the other about the woman, he is making a statement, a positive statement, about himself.
Things get tricky when you start talking about the relationship dynamic between men and women, when you start talking about reciprocity, when you try to put Chivalry in the overall relationship context between men and women. Zarehalization’s article kind of drifts in and out between Chivalry being specifically an attribute of men’s behavior towards women and Chivalry being a more amorphous concept like politeness, courtesy, or respectful manners that both sexes participate in. I like to draw clear boundaries between what is Chivalry and what is simply politeness and respect and courtesy. I also want to stay away from ideas of reciprocity and whether or not the woman is “deserving” of Chivalry. Sometimes Zarehalization’s article is quite clear that Chivalry is how men act towards women; at other points in the article the boundaries are blurred between the man’s role and the woman’s role and one might get the idea that Chivalry is a kind of mutual support arrangement with men and women participating equally.
Chivalry, how I define it, is entirely and only a male behavior. Men are the actors and women are acted upon. Also Chivalry is part of an overall gender hierarchy; men dominant and women subordinate. Chivalry is part of an interaction between the sexes but the female response to Chivalry is not Chivalry itself or part of Chivalry itself; it is instead the reaction to Chivalry. The man’s duty to be Chivalrous is unconditional precisely because Chivalry is specifically male and is therefore not dependent upon the woman in any way. Chivalry sets the stage of what the male / female interaction is about, it creates the moral setting within which the interaction between the man and the woman takes place. Before Chivalry enters the picture the man and woman are equal to each other; after Chivalry is introduced by the man the woman loses her status as an equal and becomes subordinate. Likewise for the man his taking on his Chivalrous responsibility places him in the dominant role in relation to the woman.
So Chivalry serves two purposes that are related to each other; the first is to provide for and protect the woman and the second is to subordinate the woman to the man so that the man can continue to provide for and protect the woman.
When Zarehalization is being clear that Chivalry is a male duty towards women on behalf of women his gender hierarchy assumption is also clear with the man being dominant and the woman subordinate. When however Zarehalization drifts into presenting Chivalry as more a form of mutual benefit and mutual obligation men and women give to each other then his implied gender hierarchy is more equal and more feminist. Patriarchy is about men giving to women; it is very clear and very one-sided. Feminism is about men and women giving to each other in a supposedly equal fashion where the emphasis is on reciprocity and mutual benefit.
I like to keep things clear and one-sided. Chivalry is part of the wider ethic of patriarchy; Chivalry is the male side of patriarchy. Chivalry is male, it is not female. Chivalry is entirely men giving to women. Chivalry is the subordination of men’s interests to women’s interests.
There was an interesting commenter responding to Zarehalization’s article by the name of Lolenjoy. He starts out, rather pompously I think, declaring:
“Chivalrous acts can be broken down into two categories: basic respect/courtesy and benevolent sexism. Holding a door? Courteous, and hopefully you would do it for the guy behind you too. Always insisting you pay for everything? Sexist, especially if she would like to pay (or split the bill) and you won’t let her.
You will note that everyone deserves courtesy and respect, so saying some women don’t ‘deserve’ chivalry is a bit mean-spirited (although obviously no-one deserves the sexist part).”
In terms of how I define things, Chivalry is entirely benevolent sexism. I specifically exclude basic respect / courtesy from what my definition of Chivalry is to not confuse things. Chivalry is specifically about how men should treat women. A man always insisting he pay for everything is definitely Chivalry and it is definitely good. Whether or not the woman approves of the man insisting on paying for everything is irrelevant. Chivalry is not based on the woman’s preferences or the woman’s desire; it is based on the man’s duty towards the woman. If a woman is complaining about the man paying for everything there is definitely something wrong with that woman. Women are definitely entitled to benevolent sexism, they are entitled to Chivalry. Whether or not they “deserve” Chivalry is irrelevant because Chivalry is about the man’s virtue, not the woman’s.
Later on Lolenjoy makes the comment (partly responding to a comment I made earlier in time lower down on the comment thread; when he refers to “men like Jesse” he is referring to me):
“Simply: a lot of men expect something in return. He outright says he expects women to be obedient towards men, an extremely sexist concept that should have died out in the fifties. Even if you personally don’t think your possession of a penis enables you to boss 50% of the world around you have to consider what effect your ‘chivalrous’ behaviour will have on women. A lot of them with experience of men like Jesse will simply feel that you are doing it because you have ridiculous and outdated expectations of the man/woman relationship.”
First off, I expect women to be obedient to men with a demonstrated commitment of Chivalry towards them; though “expect” might not be the right word here. A woman has an obligation to be obedient towards a man with a demonstrated commitment of Chivalry towards them; whether the woman lives up to her obligation and is obedient towards the man in real life is another matter. Also in this context Chivalry goes far beyond merely opening doors for women and other symbolic gestures; Chivalry is the entire men “providing for and protecting” women obligation.
Is this concept “extremely sexist?” Perhaps for the modern era it is. The past however was much better in terms of gender relations than the present. Such “extremely sexist” attitudes should have never died out or weakened in the first place; society works much better with sexist men ready to assert their natural authority in relation to women and women obeying good trustworthy men as they should.
When I as a man give to a woman Chivalry I am not expecting “something in return” as the point of Chivalry is the woman’s benefit, not the man’s benefit. A man might well receive a benefit from being Chivalrous and thereby being a good man but Chivalry is a duty whether it benefits the man or not. Me being Chivalrous imposes an obligation on the woman I am being Chivalrous towards to obey me but the woman obeying me is not “something in return” as the woman is obeying me for her own benefit, not for my benefit.
As far as the effect Chivalry has on women? Chivalry has an unambiguously positive effect on women as the whole point of Chivalry is service to the woman. A woman may not feel positive about Chivalry being directed towards her but the woman’s feeling state in reaction to Chivalry is not the point; the point is to serve the woman based on objective criteria of what is in the woman’s best interests. Chivalry is something men impose upon women in service to women based on male defined objective criteria.Do I have “ridiculous and outdated expectations of the man / woman relationship?” No. Patriarchy is always the way relations between men and women should be; it never goes “out of fashion” or becomes “outdated.” Feminism is what is ridiculous. Gender equality is what is ridiculous. Look at what a mess relations between the sexes have become. This is all because of the false and artificial gender equality paradigm. When men and women are equal men don’t give to women anymore and when men stop giving to women women can no longer give to children and society falls apart. This is not just theory; this is what the history of feminism has clearly demonstrated to us.