Feminism and Chivalry

I asked a friend "if you could ask a feminist anything in the world, what would it be?" He answered the following:

I often try and carry things for women (like always) and some get upset a bit and go "I can do it myself" and my logic is "yes but it is easier for me... I don't mean to offend you and I hope you would help me out when something is easier for you" Is that sexist?

No. It's just like when some older people get upset if you give up your seat on the bus. Your action doesn't have to do with seeing yourself as superior due to age/gender, it's to do with ease, like you say.

Usually (in my experience as well) people who do not want you to help are not mad at you, their reaction has to do with their own inadequacies, and needing to prove to themselves that they can do X - I used to be like that. It is their problem for rejecting your help (sometimes with animosity), not yours for offering.

Helping anyone with anything is about being nice, not about perceiving the other as weak. We hold doors open for people behind us not because they are weak, but because it is the nice thing to do.


That being said, there are certain people who do aim to assert their dominance over a different gender/age group through comments such as "let the man do it", or "I got it sweetie" - those are sexist, but their tone is quite distinctive in their condescension  and it is hard to mistake one intention from another.

I've also been asked (and read about) feminism's incompatibility with chivalry. Chivalry has many definitions, the one I'll use here is "Courteous behavior, specially that of a man towards a woman". People seem to think that it is anti-feminist to accept chivalrous behavior.

Similar to what I mentioned in response to my friend's question about his behavior potentially coming off as sexist, there is nothing wrong with courteous behavior, as long as it is based on niceness as opposed to the perception of the other as being less. It's okay to pay for someone's drink, and it's okay to accept someone else paying - the key is balance.

In my personal experience, I don't mind accepting a date buying me dinner - I'll pay for lunch next time, or for movie tickets. I don't mind someone giving me a lift - I don't have a car. Accepting gifts/help from a romantic interest is not a sign of weakness, hypocrisy, or anything of the sort - it's a sign of mutual respect and wanting to keep spending time together.

The problem is when this behavior becomes transactional - people paying for others purely regarding their own sexual interests and what they can get out of the situation. That is not chivalrous behavior - that is just self-interest. Pick up artists are a prime example of people who play the chivalry card when in reality their only goal is to hump and dump. They are also the kind of people who assert that all women want to be flirted with by strangers anywhere, anytime.

(I am not putting down one night stands and those who engage in them, I just want to set a clear difference between pursuing one off sex, and pursuing a relationship.)

People seem to have a lot to say about women who get all their drinks for free, and how unfair and manipulative that is. How about the men who buy those drinks? Why do they not get the same level of scrutiny? We know exactly what it is they are after, so why place all the responsibility of manipulation on the woman?

Men are not being forced to spend their money on anyone, they choose to. I, on the other hand, can say how many times I've been forced to accept a drink, only in the interest of making the person go away. That was not chivalry, that was an attempt at bullying me into giving attention I was not interested in giving, and when I did accept the drink but rejected any further advances, I was called a bitch - proof that the intention of the buyer was never just to be nice, it was to get in my pants.

In short, feminism didn't kill chivalry, feminism called out behavior which was trying to pass as chivalry, but in reality was (and is) sexist at best and misogynistic at worst.

1 comment:

  1. Great article Naomi, I love your website, please keep writing!!
    Sophie Soph