Tarnished Sophia has written an article titled “Chivalry Is Dead, Long Live Courtesy” which contrasts Chivalry with courtesy pointing out that courtesy is for everyone and poses no thorny ethical or moral dilemmas while Chivalry is for women only whether the woman wants it or not. The implication being that courtesy is preferable to Chivalry because of courtesy’s simple and uncontroversial nature while Chivalry is loaded up with all sorts of “baggage” that makes people, certain people at least, uncomfortable.
First off what is courtesy exactly, what is it based on? In the Merriam-Webster online dictionary it says courtesy is “polite behavior that shows respect for other people; something that you do because it is polite, kind, etc.” Merriam-Webster says about Chivalry “an honorable and polite way of behaving especially toward women.” I think there are two key differences between the two concepts as reflected in their dictionary definitions. Chivalry has in it the concept of “honor” while courtesy merely refers to “respect.” Honor is a stronger concept than respect; honor implies heroism and facing danger and sacrificing oneself on behalf of another while respect simply implies holding someone in high regard and not being rude or insulting them. The other aspect of Chivalry is the “especially toward women” part.
Courtesy seems to be derivative of a kind of humanitarianism, love of ones fellow human beings, the desire to help others because they are fellow human beings just like we are; the spirit that we should all help each other and be kind to one another and respect each other’s humanity as human beings.
Chivalry is derivative of something else; derivative of men’s love for women primarily in its romantic form with a generalized halo effect so that women in general are viewed by men in general in a way similar to how the man in love views the woman he is in love with.
Courtesy is kind, Chivalry is romantic. Courtesy is one human being to another. Chivalry is the man to the woman.
Tarnished starts out her post with three vignettes of Chivalry in action in the modern world and then offers the hypothetical alternative scenario of how things would be different if the principle in operation in these scenarios was courtesy rather than Chivalry. In reading through the vignettes what interests me most is the psychological motivations of the actors. Why does the man act as he does in each case and why does the woman act as she does in each case?
In the first scenario Tarnished presents it is the holiday season and a man sees a woman struggling to get a bunch of packages into her car and helps her. The woman thanks him and the man walks off totally ignoring a man struggling to get packages into his car. One might think the man’s act of helping the woman was courtesy but the fact that the man completely ignored another man struggling in the same way proves his motivation in helping the woman was Chivalry instead.
I am assuming the woman in this scenario was simply grateful for the help and didn’t ask questions about why the man was helping her exactly. As for the man, in the man’s image of himself he probably sees himself as a protector of women, a good man doing right by women. Seeing a woman he could help probably gave him a masculine thrill, an opportunity to show how manly and heroic he was, an opportunity to be “the good guy” in a woman’s eyes, an opportunity for a kind of romantic charge. This spurred him into heroic action to help the woman with her packages she was fumbling with. When the man’s heroic deed was done he then saw a man in the same situation a little while later and thought to himself “I hope that poor guy can figure all that out” and went on about his business.
In the second scenario Tarnished presented the issue is who pays for the date. According to the professions of the man and the woman the woman probably made more money in this scenario but the man wanted to pay for the date, the man insisted on paying for the date. This made the man very proud of himself while his date felt “dejected” after her offer to pay for half the date was refused.
I can understand the man’s motivations in this scenario; he wanted to be the breadwinner and the traditional man who pays for the woman and gives to the woman a good time. Why the woman reacted negatively is harder for me to figure out. Maybe she felt like a free loader or a beggar or something; maybe she was proud of her own career and her own money making and wanted to advertise that she was a woman who was “carrying her own weight.”
In the third scenario that was apparently something that happened in Tarnished’s own life she was going to the bank where she had to walk through two sets of doors and an older man was in front of her. The older man held the door open for her and Tarnished walked through the door thanking the older man. Since Tarnished reached the next set of doors first Tarnished figured she’d return the favor and hold the second door open for the older man to walk through just like he did for her before. The older man didn’t take kindly to this and came up to the second door and then held the second door open motioning for Tarnished to walk through in front of him. When Tarnished just stood there not complying with his request he barked out “Women don’t hold doors for men. Now, march in there!” Tarnished then decided to make her deposit using an ATM machine rather than the tellers inside and the older man finally walked through the second door himself muttering under his breath “rude bitch.”
Dang, talk about Chivalry gone wrong! I think I can understand the older man’s actions quite well but I can also understand Tarnished’s actions. The older man and Tarnished clearly had different ideas of what the little door holding ritual was supposed to be about. The older man had a traditional notion of what holding the door open for a lady was supposed to mean and Tarnished had a modern feminist notion of what holding doors open for people was supposed to represent. Tarnished was clearly not going along with the older man’s script and tried to turn holding doors open from a Chivalrous gesture into a courteous gesture. The older man however definitely saw what he was doing as Chivalry and not courtesy and mightily resented Tarnished’s effort to convert his Chivalrous intent into courtesy instead. So a confrontation developed where the older man insisted on his Chivalry and Tarnished refused to go along with his Chivalry leading to the confrontation to finally be defused by Tarnished finding a way to not have to walk through the door by going to the ATM instead. It seems at first the older man was insisting on his Chivalrous intent that Tarnished did not want to cooperate with and then things escalated to the older man issuing an order to Tarnished to accept his Chivalrous intent where Tarnished then did not want to “obey” his order.
I wonder about the older man’s life. I can imagine that holding doors open for women as they go into banks, as they go into stores, as they step into cars, has been a cherished part of this man’s life for years; for decades even. I bet this man has ritually opened doors for women hundreds of times, maybe thousands of times. Imagine all the doors there are in this world that have to be opened and every time a man happens to be physically closer to a door a woman wants to walk through that is another opportunity to provide to the woman a little Chivalrous gift of holding the door open for her to allow her to walk through the door first. What a beautiful ritual. It’s brilliant really. Every man can participate in the ritual of opening doors for women and he can do it repeatedly. Another opportunity to open a door for a woman may happen once a week for years; year after year after year. Opening doors for women could serve as a constant reminder to women that men are in service to them and it serves as a constant reminder to the man that he is in service to women.
So just like the older man had done hundreds of times before routinely he saw that he had an opportunity to hold the door open for Tarnished and so he took it. There was a problem however; there were two sets of doors to open and to be a Chivalrous man he had to open both of them for the lady. The second set of doors to open provided an opportunity for mischief; maybe the lady would end up doing something really crazy like trying to open the door for him instead. After Tarnished turned the tables on the older man completely messing up his script then things degenerated into confrontation as the older man struggled to put the world right side up again as it should be with men in service to women as is the natural order of things.
In the three scenarios Tarnished laid out the alternative courtesy version of how the event might have gone instead is presented as the superior outcome. In the first scenario the man helps both the woman and the man put their packages in the car. In the second scenario the man and woman share the cost of the date with no objection from the man making the woman happier. In the third scenario the older man accepts Tarnished holding the second door open for him and is thankful for it; both Tarnished and the older man being heartened that there are still polite people in the world.
When I look at the three scenarios I feel good about what the man did in each case; I am glad the outcomes are what they were rather than being converted into their courtesy equivalents like Tarnished is advocating for. The idea that men will just passively give up Chivalry as soon as a woman shows the first hint of discomfort with it is a rather shocking idea. The idea that men have some sort of obligation to go along with the destruction of Chivalry just because some woman out there doesn’t like it is quite outrageous. I am glad that the men in the scenarios listed stood their ground. I see the older man at the bank as being especially heroic because he was practicing Chivalry in a strictly idealistic way to a woman who was a complete stranger to him and better yet he tried to exert authority over the situation when the woman was messing things up with her crazy feminist egalitarian ideas. If there were more men like him around to impose discipline on disordered women the society would be a lot better off than it is today. The older man learned his sense of ethics and his sense of how relations between men and women should be in the past when society functioned a lot better than it does today.
Tarnished is presenting the alternative scenarios of courtesy as better because in the courtesy scenarios there is no conflict and everybody is happy. The problem however is that the conflicts in the Chivalry scenarios exist due to the women in the Chivalry scenarios trying to undermine the Chivalry being practiced on their behalf; the conflicts in other words are based on the woman violating the rules of good gender relations. If the man just surrendered to the woman’s demands in each case then the gender dynamic would have been broken for good. With the man resisting the woman in the woman’s attempt to abolish Chivalry there is still hope that a positive gender dynamic can be maintained or rebuilt. If men give up the fight then the battle is truly lost.
What is wrong with men loving women? To say that Chivalry is bad is to say that men loving women is bad because after all that is what Chivalry is based on; it is based on men’s love for women. Chivalry produces a huge benefit for society; men providing for and protecting women is a huge benefit to society. The proper care of children is dependent upon Chivalry as Chivalry is the mechanism by which men provide support to women so that women can then care for children.
Courtesy and generalized generosity towards others has its place but Chivalry has its place to, a very important place in human affairs.
Tarnished ends her article saying:
“Chivalry is an outdated concept that disenfranchises both men and women, though in very different ways. Courtesy is a valuable concept that tells us to be polite and helpful to all others, regardless of age, creed, skin tone, sex, or orientation. I know which one I’d pick for a better society. How about you?”
Courtesy is a very weak ideal that can only help at the margins; and besides nobody is against courtesy so advocating for courtesy is meaningless. Perhaps humanitarianism is the broader more fundamental ideal that courtesy is the symbolic expression of so it might make sense to advocate for humanitarianism to help society in a more significant way but again nobody is opposed to humanitarianism so I don’t know what advocating for more humanitarianism would mean or entail or what difference it would make. It is always good to tell people to be more generous and to be better people but I don’t know how much difference it will make.
Chivalry however, Chivalry is a very powerful idea that society is hugely deficient in due to feminism and it is something we desperately need much more of as a society. What would I pick for a better society? There is no doubt about it; I would pick Chivalry.