• The end of chivalry

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    I grew up around lots of women. On my mother’s side the woman to man ratio was over two to one. Having a mother who was stay at home during my formative years meant most of my days were spent in the shade of her and the other heroines of our family. As such I feel and several therapists have confirmed I possess a rather sensitive side. I resolutely proclaim a relationship with my femininity without any shame. None of this is to say that I ever was or am now free of those callous behaviors attributable to the average male as my sister and the Queen could attest; but I feel most would concede that among the spectrum of typical manhood my hue is a bit more delicate than most.

    Those years spent soaking in this pool of estrogen have left me with a thick coating of respect for women in general and in particular the conviction that women deserve the same opportunities as those afforded to men, minus impartiality. Yet none of this should be mistaken for feminism; the same southern upbringing that produced this enlightened outlook is far too influenced by traditionalism for such left wing ideologies. So attached to this open mind is a belief that in certain aspects of life there are things men can simply do better than women, which shouldn’t come as any more of a surprise than the fact that there are numerous skills women are clearly more adept at than men. And the failure to recognize either is pure folly and in direct opposition to physiology and centuries of wisdom.

    •♦•

    It was partly this very understanding of the nuances that naturally separate men and women that the code of chivalry found its footing. The medieval knight, by whom the chivalric code was first established, swore oaths of duty in three areas – countrymen, God, and women. The latter shouldn’t be unexpected; King Arthur didn’t presume Guinevere could protect herself from the Saxon onslaught any more than Sir Tristan’s love for Iseult was contingent on her battlefield exploits or her skill with a lance. Both understood that the sexes come with individual strengths and weaknesses, and it’s was the former that required of its owner greater responsibility in deed and conduct. So whether factual or merely literary, medieval chivalry was seen as a celebration of these differences and not the exertion of one’s power over another as some might claim.

    The knight errant unbridled his stallion and stowed away his armor centuries ago yet the ripples of his influence are felt today. Where I’m from boys were raised with an understanding that in the presence of the opposite sex, and especially older women, their behavior was to exhibit those of the valiant knight – courtesy, respect, and thoughtfulness to name a few. My continued use of formality when addressing men and women as sir and ma’am is a throwback to my childhood when such protocols were set forth upon exiting the womb.

    But this general rule didn’t just apply to the widow whose yard I mowed; there was an expectancy that women on the whole, no matter the age, were to be viewed on an entirely different plane – as one might a rare artifact that required special care and handling. But never during my childhood did I – or my friends – take this posture as a form of charity or pity. We simply believed it was part of what being a boy and man was about. We viewed females as beautiful flowers who may find themselves in need of protection from the winds and storms of life and as boys who would eventually grow into men it was our job to heed that call when and if necessary. While there may never be a damsel in distress or a dragon that needed slaying we were to be at the ready just in case.

    Yet this wasn’t a fundamental principle reserved only for those south of the Mason Dixon. I’ve met men from all walks of like that exhibit the same intrinsic awareness that, as men, we are called for much more than the protection of our own self interests. It’s a fundamental understanding that manhood brings a greater responsibility. It’s something every boy knows; when my son is fighting imaginary attackers he’s protecting something – or more likely someone. Most men don’t need to be told who gets off a sinking ship first; it’s stitched into the fiber of his being.

    •♦•

    But what happens when these natural tendencies and inclinations are stifled or better yet rejected? What is the outcome when men are led to believe that this fundamental need to protect is unneeded and for that matter demeaning? Where does it lead when those gender nuances, which helped motivate the knight to risk life and limb, are erased and instead the damsel orders him to hand over the armor and sword and move out of the way so she can fight her own battles?

    The sad fact is the man ceases to become who he was designed to be.

    •♦•

    It’s often wondered where all the gentlemen have gone, the men who would open the doors for women, give up their seat to the lady standing on the bus, and regard all women with the same reverence they were shown in King Arthur’s court. Even I feel the vacuum left by generations of men who have lost touch with the knight they were born to be and many women feel it also. But when a man is told his masculinity is ugly and that impulse he feels to protect and serve is little more than an attempt at control he will begin questioning that very part of himself. When the damsel he was born to save is doing her best to be and act no different and persistently rebuffs his chivalrous acts he will start to  doubt his very purpose. When he’s told enough times that those character traits of a gentleman his father and grandfather pressed into him as a child are now seen as degrading by the ones for whom they are intended he’ll begin wonder if what they said was a lie and he’ll wonder if he should now even bother. When the world stops appreciating the virtues of chivalry for what they are and the gentleman for what he represents the world will wake to find chivalry dead and the gentleman vanished.

    •♦•

    I have the responsibility to teach my son a proper and healthy view of women. To understand and appreciate the differences between males and females and show him how to embrace those distinctions and what they symbolize and the duties they engender. But as culture in general and women in particular do everything in their power to eliminate virtually all contrasts I can’t help but wonder if its futile to try and mold him into a gentleman when the world doesn’t seem to care if he is one?  And I struggle in how to prepare him to treat a woman ‘like a lady’ when it’s becoming more and more apparent she’d rather be ‘one of the boys’.

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8 Responses to “The end of chivalry”

  1. Lori says:

    I was discussing a similar topic with my boyfriend after reading an articla about how men are phasing themselves out. Some men I see are pigeon holing themselves in yard work and employment, while the women I know will all tackle any job, be it male or female. The enlightened men take on domestic duties of child care, cooking, and cleaning realizing that these are tasks best shared (and I can certainly push a lawnmower).

    I am a humanist, but the act of holding open a door, giving up a seat, or, as my boyfriend is wont to do, walking on the street side of the sidewalk – I appreciate these things. I don’t think of it as the inherent man protecting woman thing, it’s not about feminism, it’s about courtesy. For the same reason I’ll give a backrub or bake a treat – they are nice ways to treat a person.

    My cousin recently posted a “joke” that stated “Know why men die earlier than women? Shopping doesn’t cause heart attacks, but paying the bills does.” I objected to this and told him so, of course he defended it with “It’s just a joke!” I sighed and explained that making a joking premise of the idea that women can’t manage money or pay their own bills did no one any good (what man would want to marry a woman who operated with that logic?)

    Men may do some things better than me (lifting heavy things comes to mind) and that is fine. In fact, I think most women are accepting of that (that I know). Where we get frustrated is when men refuse to acknowledge that women do some things better than men (have you read the study about when a group of men are in a room the average intelligence goes down, but when a group of women are in a room the average intelligence goes up? We tend to be natural collaborators. Men tend to work better alone. Both have their place.)

    Until men actually do view all the work women do with equal respect to the work men do, we will not be equal. That’s what feminism/humanism is to me. Thank you for your chivalry, I might be even bake you a cake ;)

  2. Lori says:

    And this is why I don’t blog… man I can’t keep on one topic.

  3. Marrie says:

    Incredible post, Kyle.
    When it comes to gender topics I get so frustrated because so many get trapped in the black and white. As if identifying/celebrating the strengths of masculinity somehow minimizes woman and vice versa. It’s ridiculous. Men and women are fundamentally different. Each possessing innate characteristics due to their gender. It’s not to say that woman can not posses masculine traits and use those masculine traits to succeed as well as a man. But certain generalities are fact. Example: Most women do not have as much upper body strength as men. That is not to say that a woman can’t be just as strong or stronger than some men. It’s a general physical attribute based upon our body structure and design. As you know I have posted an article on this topic and believe that when a man opens a door for me he is not doing so to “put me in my place” or that he assumes I am too frail or incompetent to open the door for myself-he is doing so out of respect. That shows he was raised to have manners. Women need to stop belittling men and to stop assuming that the men around them have a collective philosophy of mysogyny.
    Oh, and please teach your son how to be gentleman…then and only then will he find a lady! Women who appreciate manners and chivalry are still out there!
    Marrie recently posted..Slut Shaming Rumors and the Women Who Spread ThemMy Profile

  4. I am often taken off guard (maybe I doth expect too much?) when I go through a door and a man follows behind me and doesn’t even utter a “Thank you”. I won’t even say like a “doorman” because even they deserve “thank yous”. I wouldn’t say chivalry is dead but it has certainly diminished. Actually, in this age of people, not just young people, being self-absorbed, what many may think of as “little things” just don’t seem to matter anymore. Well, those who think they don’t need to hold doors open, or pull out chairs, offer a seat to the elderly or to those who are pregnant or visibly physically challenged — I’m disgusted. I think it is the responsibility of fathers (especially if they’re in the picture) to school their sons about these and other things. But this goes beyond just the “chivalry” aspect…we are failing our kids — male and female — with things I learned before I even hit kindergarten…things like respect for ones self and others. And yes, to what Marrie said above — manners. Where has this gone? Not just with our young people. Have you seen the behavior of adults, and I’m not just talking on reality television. Just walk out your door and it’s on full display.
    Brainy Pint Sizer recently posted..When people need to move on, be unselfish. You have to let them go.My Profile

  5. Wolf Pascoe says:

    Whenever a woman holds a door open for me I always thank her and say, “I appreciate it when a lady acts like a gentleman.”
    Wolf Pascoe recently posted..Losing things, Part 3: StoriesMy Profile

  6. Not me. I won’t refuse chivalry. I believe men and women are equal, but so different. I think we have our things we can do better and so do you guys. I love to be treated like a lady. I love to spend time around gentlemen and refuse to give any time to men who’ve lost all respect for women.

    Not me. I’m old school and this does not make me less than any man.

    Great topic and you dealt with it very well.
    Anne @ relationships blog recently posted..Facebook: Breaking Relationship BoundariesMy Profile

  7. I had trouble focusing on what you said after you wrote that you are not a feminist, so I stopped to respond:

    “the conviction that women deserve the same opportunities as those afforded to men” – this is the definition of feminism. Nothing more, it is just that women deserve equal opportunities.

    The word feminist has been taken out of context and turned into something negative, but its not that women want to be men, or do exactly what men do, it’s just that they want the opportunities afforded to men and the right to accept or refuse them.

    Whether you admit it or not, if you believe women should have equal opportunity you are a feminist.

    Now that contributed my 2 cents I think I can finish reading the post :-)
    Sassy Queenpin Mama recently posted..Between Me and GodMy Profile

    • “this is the definition of feminism. Nothing more, it is just that women deserve equal opportunities. ” – this may have been the original definition and what drove the founders to take the steps they did. However, it is not the definition now.

      To the mind of a heterosexual white male, the feminist movement has become little more than a rallying call for females everywhere to question and criticize the very essence of who I was designed to be. The way I think, the way I act, what I represent — all wrong.

      And should I disagree, God should I disagree, with any of their ideologies them I’m labeled with the feminist ‘ace of the sleeve’ – misogynist. That word is used so often most women have forgotten it’s meaning.

      No, I’m no feminist. I believe that the sexes have roles especially as it relates to relationships and when those roles are confused chaos ensues.

      SPM, don’t you find it interesting that research shows that the highest concentration of anti-depression use is with women? Isn’t that, at all, odd that in this new free more equal world that women, millions and millions of them, need chemicals to operate in it?

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