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The League of Anti
"Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere!"
Monday, April 26, 2004
 
Towards a New Chivalry

Pete Jensen, in his infamous article about chivalry writes, “Nowadays chivalry has become one sided. Not only do women feel free challenge me, I'm expected to give them a five step head start and carry a seventy-five pound pack to "make it fair." I speak gently to them, and they get to berate me like a fishwife. I hold the door, and it's their due. I merit no thanks - why? Because I'm a peasant, as a male. I'm obligated to them, but they are under no obligation in returne. So, speaking in modern terms, we can only arrive at one conclusion - chivalry has been perverted into becoming strictly a regulation of male behavior, of obligating men to behave towards women in a certain fashion, with no commeasurate obligation of a woman to courtesy beyond what she deigns to give.”

However, the perversion of the chivalrous code into something that is self-serving for women’s interests extends far beyond the examples I’ve extracted from Pete’s essay. In today’s modernity, even common courtesy has been confused and intertwined with the modern mythos surrounding chivalry. My thesis for this essay will be that chivalry has not only been perverted, but also institutionalized into the very organizations that form the foundation of our society. I will attempt to show that chivalry is not only an elusive concept, it is also something tangible and real, made distinctive by its uniqueness when contrasted with common courtesy. Indeed, I will show that institutionalized chivalry presents itself as a liability for today’s man, while the practice of courtesy is simply a part of civility.

Institutionalized Chivalry

When most people think of chivalry, they don’t think of things like Affirmative Action for women or favoritism in the court system. Yet I contend that this is the very essence of our collective expression of chivalry. Male prisons for example, have always had worse conditions than female prisons, in terms of facilities. I use prisons as an example, because like men’s washrooms, our facilities are generally worse than women’s in most public institutions (schools, shopping malls, public buildings etc.). If we as men and women think about it, this is similar to how we treat our daughters. We treat them like little princesses. While in itself there is nothing wrong with this, this mentality of chivalristic deference does not evaporate at the higher levels of our society; it simply expresses itself in different ways. Our boys are expected to fend for themselves to a much larger degree for example, while a certain paternal deference and provisions are made for our girls. It is this same extension of chivalry in our public institutions that I term, ‘Institutionalized Chivalry’.

The same case could be made as well for Affirmative Action for women. Bowing to collective guilt and shame, men have raised very little objection to hiring preferences or 55% quotas in favor of women. The ‘Chivalristic’ man would not dare object to such things; after all – he – is a real man. A kind and courteous man, who only wishes to be fair and accommodating. He hears how women have been horribly oppressed for millenniums, and he only wishes to do the right thing, which in this case is to give political pressure groups what they demand. In his chivalristic quest to be fair, such a man has denied himself a level playing field, he has abdicated his fair place, and given preferential deference to one he views as inferior to himself in some way so as to be in need of special assistance. The astute observer will notice how affirmative action for women is never applied to things like trash collection or selective service registration.

Likewise, the same case for institutionalized chivalry could be made of court judges who view women as the perpetual victim, and rule as such. This paternal chivalristic bias exists to such an extent that women face less harsher punishment than men at every level of the justice system; whether it be arrest, conviction, sentencing, or even custody battles.

I submit that the phenomenon of institutionalized chivalry is a factor that adds to the way in which women are treated with (often paternal) preference; as less than full, rational adults in our society. I submit to the reader that such deference on the part of men is irrational, and in fact poses a liability to the free interaction and mobility of men within society.

The case for chivalry versus common courtesy

This brings me to my next point, which I believe is a very important one. As we read in Pete Jensen’s extract earlier, chivalry in modernity has become a concept that is perverted far beyond the bounds of civility, into something that is much more duplicitous that borders on being classified as a feudal relationship with men as peasants and women as noblemen. Pete’s analogy resonates with me because it is based on the comparison with a relationship that has a large degree of inherent deference. This to me, is what has always been the determinate condition between common courtesy and chivalry. These are both concepts with which many people have trouble, as they define them both as the same thing. As we will see, this is clearly not the case.

Common courtesy is easily distinguished from today’s bastardization of chivalrous behaviour as courtesy is something we define as applying to all: the elderly, the unable, and the defenseless. That is why for example, we would define as common courtesy an act such as helping an old woman down the stairs, or opening a door for a man with a large package. Common courtesy is based on need and civility. In contrast, the current understanding of many regarding what passes for chivalrous behaviour is acts like: paying for dates, opening the car door for a woman, pulling out her chair, letting her win, and defending her from slander even at expense to your person(s). This treatise of mine is not a rant against the practicing of chivalrous behaviour to one you love or one who loves you, however. In that case, your chivalry is much more likely to be reciprocated, and appreciated.

What men may find as they continue to practice chivalry in a collective sense, is that they are in fact being taken advantage of. What I mean to infer by that is only the generalities of what most consider chivalry to be. Consider: in any healthy, ethical peer relationship, there is reciprocity. If your chivalrous behavior exists in a vacuum, there is much more of a likely chance you are being taken advantage of. For this reason, I submit that the collective, uniformed expression of chivalry among men is to their detriment. In the 70’s some women lectured men who dared to hold the doors open for them as being too ‘oppressive’ with their expressions of deference towards them. In the year 2004, they are far more likely to utilize your door opening services without so much as a ‘thank you’. Your attempt at expressing what you understand to be chivalrous behaviour is more likely to be met with as an expression of woman’s just due. All of this of course raises the question of whether women are full adults capable of opening their own doors, paying for their own dates, and indeed even subsidizing a man’s existence as a househusband and father.

I am not arguing however, for the end of civility and common courtesy. I am simply attempting to delineate between them, and show how civility and courtesy are possible, indeed quite without chivalry. In the end analysis, I think what we may find lacking in our society is not chivalry, but female chivalry – or – stated another way, the reciprocal reaction for every action. In ideology, theology, and philosophy, perhaps the time has come for us as humans to work towards a female chivalry – a counterpart to our collective expression and understanding of current chivalry.



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