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Chivalry Shouldn’t See Gender


A few months ago, I went on a date with someone who, in my mom’s opinion, was one of the sweetest guys on the planet — and he was — but something about the experience didn’t sit well.

He opened the door for me, carried my coat, pulled out my chair, refused my offers to help pay for the meal, and had bought my movie ticket in advance.

All good things, right?

But they weren’t. It made the date feel like I was in the presence of an adult, not my friend. I even found myself sitting up stick straight in my seat for fear of being improper. I probably looked like a scarecrow being propped up with a pole.

I didn’t realize what it was that made me so uncomfortable until I thought back over the date later that night.

I don’t want to be treated differently simply because I am a girl.  I don’t want men to open the door for me because I’m a girl, I don’t want men to constantly offer me their jacket because I’m a girl, I don’t want men to pull out my chair before I sit because I’m a girl.

If I go through the door first, I will hold it open for you even if you’re a man. If you want my jacket, I will give it to you. If you need me to help you carry your books, I will.

Chivalry should be a two way street. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate it when people hold doors for me and help me carry my books, but girls should be willing to help out men too; it should be customary for everyone to be chivalrous to everyone. Gender shouldn’t even be a factor.

I’m not the first woman to find issue with the principles of chivalry, and I won’t be the last. The principles to which I object — the ones that represent the way negative in which our society views women — have been a point of contention for many decades.

I want to know that the reason people are polite to me is because they are polite people. If you do hold the door for me, I’m not going to feel offended and yell at you for thinking I’m a subservient woman who can’t open the door for myself; I’ll be grateful and smile in appreciation.

I just don’t want the reason you open the door for me to be because I played with Barbies as a kid.

The mentality that chivalry represents is one where women, with their historical role one of a caretaker to children, need to be protected from the world. At it’s heart, that means that the role which women have historically filled is less respectable and less powerful than that of men.

It’s not.

And, in today’s society where ever more women — though still not enough — are joining the workforce, the stereotypical gender roles are thankfully becoming increasingly obsolete.

While there is a biological basis in those gender roles, I can assure you that I am strong enough to put on my own coat. Holding a door open for a man isn’t going to use the whole of my physical capacity.

Our culture’s adherence to stereotypical gender roles isn’t going to be solved purely by modifying the definition of chivalry, but this simple alteration to our behavior would be a conscious step toward editing the perception that women are the weaker gender. It’s an opportunity for us to encourage everyone to be kind and courteous without basing that kindness in the fact that my favorite Disney character was Sleeping Beauty.

Our society’s inherent belief that femininity is secondary to masculinity is reinforced on a daily basis; the words we use, the advertising we see, and the way we act all reflect it. If we were to stop rooting our kindness in gender, we could rid ourselves of one avenue through which that precept is deepened.

Open that door because treating other people with compassion and kindness and humanity — regardless of mental or physical capacity, regardless of gender, regardless of race, regardless of age — is the decent thing to do.

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Comments (4)

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  • J

    Jamie K.Nov 9, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    Why do you keep on focusing on “opening the door”. If we are talking about holding our own in the workforce, shouldn’t you put more focus on paying for meals and movie tickets?

  • L

    love thisNov 9, 2013 at 7:56 am

    I would just like to compliment you on this article because I thought it was pretty fantastic for a couple reasons
    1. the topic was something very interesting and relevant (to me at least, as I’ve felt the same discomfort as you had on that date but not been sure how to respond to it without seeming either indulgent or ungrateful)
    2. you discussed the history behind this imbalance of chivalry, which made your proposed solution more convincing in that you could see it as necessary to go along with other progress
    3. it made me really happy that you didn’t dismiss chivalry all together but said that it should be a matter or kindness and not of gender (which seems like an obvious thing but a lot of times when people discuss this they don’t mention it)
    4. most importantly, I was impressed that you brought the article full circle by actually proposing a simple way we can all consciously change our behavior. so often I’ll read articles, in the oracle too(no offense ily guys), which make a really good point about something that could be better in society, but either fail to suggest a way to change it, or suggest something unrealistic.. and that just makes it into an angry rant as opposed to something progressive and realistic that could ultimately make a positive change (such as this article)

    woah this got super long sorry. just know someone appreciates what you’re doing with your writing & keep it up oracle!

  • M

    MitchNov 9, 2013 at 3:02 am

    Nice article, great writing style… but I still see her viewpoint as short-sighted. When I open the door for a woman, especially on a date, it has less to do with me wanting more power and it has more for me to do with wanting to treat that woman with more respect because I like her. There’s a fine line between equality and short-sighted feminism.

    I don’t see anything ‘dominating’ about a guy wanting to pay for his dates’ meal. After all, if he was the one to ask her out, I think that’s a fair deal. If someone, regardless of gender, invited me to lunch and offered to pay, fine.

  • C

    CAKNov 8, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    I dunno the girl i went out with LOVED when i did all that stuff for her, i guess it just differentiates between girls