11 June 2012

CC04 - Chivalry is Dead, and Feminism Killed it.

The Intellectual Fallacy of Chivalry in the Modern Age

Chivalry can be defined as "favourable or courteous treatment or behaviour towards women, especially by men" and I'm concerned with this notion that a man is OBLIGATED to behave in a chivalrous manner towards women, and that the failure to do so is indicative of misogyny.  The belief that I often see women in today's modern age expressing is that if they're not being treated favourably, then they're being discriminated against, or that the person who's not favouring them is doing it because (s)he hates women.

The very notion of chivalry is predicated on the idea that women are poor, weak, and incapable of self-actualisation, and thus, must be treated deferentially in order to protect them from all the nastiness in the world.  This is because, it can be argued, that in the days before modern science and medicine made living a productive life relatively easy to the way it was even two hundred years ago, a woman's life was worth far more to the survival of the species than that of a man.  The prolonged protection of a man's life made little sense, particularly after he'd sired children, but protecting the lives of the tribe's women, usually through the sacrifice of the lives of the men, was paramount to survival.  Women carried, birthed, cared for, and taught the children in the tribe, and losing a woman often meant losing a whole family.  Losing a man simply meant that man's woman found a new man.  A woman's role was far more important than that of a man's, and thus women were held in higher esteem and more resources devoted to their protection.

This sense of "protect the women at all costs" evolved into the chivalric code that permeated the middle ages, and with which we readily identify, even today.  However, in today's age, when technology has advanced to the point now that women can take care of themselves with relative ease, the need to protect them from the burdens of life is no longer needed.  After all, in an age when women are demanding fair and equal treatment, then they deserve fair and equal treatment. Treating people differently based solely on their sex is the very definition of sexism.

The concept of chivalry itself is misogynistic, in the idea that a woman must be protected from all the nastiness in the world because she, as a woman, cannot handle it. So, while women will often bristle at the idea that they are incapable of holding open their own door, or paying for their own meal, or fighting their own battles, they still expect that men behave in a manner that prevents them from HAVING to do these things. They want the favourable treatment without understanding the unfavourable discrimination that inspires it.

An argument can also be made that chivalry is misandrist, in the sense that men are obligated to carry the burdens of women in addition to their own, that the needs of men are secondary to the needs of women. When women were believed to be (or in actuality were) unable to meet their own needs, chivalry was needed to ensure women's safety and wellbeing. But in an age when women have the opportunity to, and are quite capable of, meeting their own needs, then the obligation of shifting the burden of meeting those needs to a man simply because he's a man is misandrist.

If you're a female, worthy of dignity and respect, and deserving of fair and equal treatment, then you had better not expect a man to treat you favourably because of your gender. Whomever gets to the door first opens it, walks through, and then the polite thing to do is hold the door open for whomever may be following. Whomever asks the other out on the date pays for the date. And if you pick a fight or get attacked, it's not the duty of a man to come to your aid.

The societal pressure on men to behave in a chivalrous manner (pay for dates, hold open doors, act as unpaid bodyguards for random women, etc.) is an obligation that no longer carries advantage.  We have a word for obligation without advantage.  It's called "slavery".  Thus, obligating a man to behave chivalrous towards a woman is akin to enslaving that man to the woman, that he is responsible for her welfare and wellbeing, merely by virtue of her sex, often at the expense of his own.

Now, please understand, that it's not to chivalry itself that I'm opposed. What I'm opposed to is the expectation of women that all men behave chivalrous, or that women are entitled to favourable treatment by men simply due to their gender. Let me say that again. It's not the ACT of chivalry that's wrong. It's the EXPECTATION of chivalry that's wrong. A man can still choose to behave chivalrously towards a woman, but it is not his DUTY to do so, and women have no reason to feel entitled to it.  In fact, chivalrous behaviour doesn't even have to be sex specific.  Women can hold open doors for men, etc.  So the idea that only men can be chivalrous and only women can be the subjects of that chivalry is flawed.

Examples of chivalrous behaviour that some women tend to expect from men:

1) Holding open the door. Chivalrous etiquette often dictates that if a man and a woman approach a door together, that it's the responsibility of the man to open the door, wait for the woman to enter, and then follow behind her. Whomever gets to the door first is deemed irrelevant. This is what's called the "Ladies First" rule. Preferential treatment based on gender is sexism, plain and simple, and no one should expect it. If the genders are treated fair and equal, then it shouldn't matter who opens the door for whom.

2) Giving up a seat. If there are ten seats available and twelve people show up, then chivalry demands that a man who has a seat must give up his chair to a woman who is standing. Irrelevant, it seems, is the consideration of who was on time and who was late. "First come, first served" apparently only applies between men. If a man arrived at the function on time, then why should he be expected to stand so that a woman who was late and couldn't get a seat can sit? If she wants fair and equal treatment, then she can stand. Maybe next time, she'll be on time. This also goes for buses and trains. A man is not obligated to give up his seat to a woman any more than he is to do so for another man.

3) Carrying luggage/parcels/groceries/etc. The expectation that a woman who is carrying something heavy must be relieved of her burden by a man is another example of sexism. If a woman has a heavy bag, then she is responsible for carrying it. Again, I want to point out that if any person sees any other person struggling with a heavy load, then the polite thing to do is offer assistance, regardless of gender. But the expectation that a woman, merely by virtue of being a female, is either too good or too weak to carry her own bags and thus must be rescued by a man is sexism. A man is not obligated to carry a woman's bags any more than he's obligated to carry another man's.

4) "Women and children first." The idea that a man must face danger or sacrifice himself to ensure the safety or wellbeing of a woman is another one of the chivalrous obligations that is unjust in a society where women deserve fair and equal treatment. A woman's life is worth no more and no less than a man's, and yet, men are easily obligated or expected to sacrifice themselves to ensure a woman's survival, and a man is deemed a 'coward' if he allows a woman to suffer harm in his place. "Ladies first" only seems to apply when it comes to walking through doors or deciding who gets the first turn in a game. "Ladies first" is conspicuously absent when it comes to facing danger.

So, ladies, if any of you are ever annoyed, irritated, or upset at a man for not holding a door open for you, consider whether you're entitled to that treatment because you're incapable of fending for yourself. If you can open the door yourself, then you shouldn't be expecting a man to do it for you, because when he doesn't, it's because he's offering you fair and equal treatment, something that everyone deserves, men or women.

Basically it comes down to one thing.  If a woman believes that she is entitled to a form of treatment or allowed a certain behaviour and the only justification she can call upon is "because I'm the girl", then that's an aspect of this chivalrous entitlement to which I refer.  In my personal life, I've known quite a few women who honestly believed that they didn't have to carry boxes, or shovel snow, or pay for drinks, or whatever, because "they were girls".  The only reason you shouldn't carry a box is because you're weak.  The only reason you shouldn't shovel snow is because you're weak.  The only reason you shouldn't pay for your own drinks is because you're cheap.  Being a girl has nothing to do with it, unless you want to equate being weak and poor with being female, and that's an assertion I do not accept.

Chivalry and Sexism are two aspects of the same issue: gender discrimination. Fair and equal treatment means that favourable treatment based solely on gender is just as wrong as the unfavourable treatment.

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