Scott Farrell comments:
Many people note the decline of “chivalry” (although they’re really referring to “courtesy,” which is only a part of the ideals of chivalry) in the world of dating and relationships today. While some applaud this decline with the belief that chivalry robs women of “empowerment,” it is important to remember that this element of chivalry was born in the world of 11th century Europe — a time and place when women were truly disempowered. The new sense of “courtly manners” or courtoise that became part of the Code of Chivalry gave a new level of prestige and authority to women (at least, those of noble birth). In short, men of the court were taught to actually care about earning a lady’s good opinion — something that had been lacking in earlier centuries.
Today it is important to realize that the courtesies of chivalry can be misused as tools of dominance and manipulation by men and women alike. At its heart, however, the sense of chivalry in a romantic relationship (from a first date to a golden wedding anniversary) is the straightforward demonstration of respect and commitment — a sense of giving and selflessness that expects nothing in return. Far from abolishing chivalry, the women’s movement has simply shown that both partners have an obligation to demonstrate and expect chivalry in a healthy relationship.
In a poll conducted for the conservative Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute, researcher Ashley Crouch explored the gap between the expectations and applications of chivalry among college-age men and women. Although some might say her conclusions harken back to a day when the customs of chivalry placed unfair social burdens on men and women alike, her findings do provide some valuable food for thought. She reveals a very important and often overlooked point: Chivalry is a function of caring, and without it, a relationship becomes “all about me.” Following the noble customs of chivalry and courtesy is an important means of establishing a relationship with a sense of commitment, respect and sharing.
Who says guys can’t communicate? A recent survey I took suggests that guys are eager to offer their opinions, if we ladies will only listen. Unfortunately, when the subject is the near-extinct idea of chivalry, many women are quick to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear. Yet so many of us women spend our days lamenting broken relationships and marriages and wondering, Where have all the good guys gone?
Last summer I polled college guys from across the country and abroad at the National Young America’s Foundation Conference in Washington, D.C. Ninety-three percent of them said that chivalry has decreased in current times, and 84 percent of that group attribute this decline primarily or at least partly to the rise of radical feminism in society.
One man stated that feminism “devalued chivalry and made it seem sexist.” Another man proposed that the “I-don’t-need-a-man culture has crippled chivalry in the public sphere.” Yet another said that it was “difficult” to be chivalrous because some women portray chivalry as “subordinating, disrespecting, and devaluing.”
It seems that men are lodged between a rock and a hard place. If they try to be chivalrous, feminists call them sexist. Yet if they treat us the way the feminists say we want to be treated — the same as a man — we complain of not getting enough respect.
How do guys define chivalry? Three out of four responded that it had to do with respect, honor, and courtesy towards women. One man spoke openly: “Chivalry is the notion that a man has the duty to respect and serve women.”
Another man affirmed: “It is a set of manners and respect a man should show to a woman as a demonstration of respect towards her.” Another guy said women “need to understand that chivalry isn’t being put down like feminism would like you to believe, but rather is a way a woman can command respect from a man.”
Too often, however, these same men lamented that their efforts to be chivalrous were met with scorn.
Perhaps that’s why the majority of guys surveyed agreed that chivalry would be easier to practice if girls would show some appreciation. One man described it thus: “In each ‘chauvinistic pig’ is a D’Artagnian waiting to break out. Help him!”
Ladies, if you do want respect, take a stand and reclaim chivalry — for guys’ sake as well as your own. If a guy exhibits chivalrous behavior, compliment him. If a man opens a door for you, thank him.
Interestingly, most of the men indicated that it would be easier to behave chivalrously if women would show more respect for themselves. “If women date unchivalrous men,” one of the men surveyed said, “then we see that we don’t need to be chivalrous to be with a girl. Also, women should be conscious of how they act — if they don’t act like a lady, they won’t be treated like one.”
“Expect men to rise to the occasion,” another guy said.
Respect isn’t the only thing at stake for us women. Chivalry can also be better for our health. If we sit back and let good, old-fashioned male courtesy die, men will pursue relationships less and pursue hooking up more. As Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute Senior Fellow Miriam Grossman, M.D. writes in Sense & Sexuality: The College Girl’s Guide to Real Protection in a Hooked-Up World, hard science shows that casual sex makes women more vulnerable to emotional and physiological health problems, including depression and sexually transmitted infections.
Ladies, there are plenty of good guys out there, and their message is clear: Bring back chivalry.
The ball is in our court, ladies. Let’s do something with it.
© 2008 Ashley Crouch
About the author: Ashley Crouch is a student at the University of Dallas and a former intern at the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute. This article is reprinted by permission from the CBLPI website.