Chivalry Is Dead

It always strikes me as curious when a guy – yes, a dude – declares that “Chivalry is dead and it’s women who killed it.” The declaration seems to me an absolution of any guilt for the act of not, for instance, holding the door open for a human being with two X chromosomes. It seems to say, “Hey, don’t call me rude – it’s you gals who wanted it this way in the first place.”

I’m not mad at you.

Heck, I still remember the first time I overheard a girl, I think in college, complain to someone for not putting the toilet seat back down after he was done using the bowl. Even if it took the tone of a sister teaching her younger brother the social norms in life, it was a foreign language to me. Never before was I even aware that such etiqutte even existed. Put the seat down? In consideration of saving that job for a woman who – God save us all – might have to do that before she used the toilet? What are the implications of that, exactly, and in what other manner am I doing too much work for myself? Needless to say, I didn’t really wanna miss out on my own scoop of life – the part of it I was entitled to for being born with … less muscle mass, for one.

Of course, I was not a gal who grew up in-the-know when it came to female matters. Three dudes (and no dudettes as siblings) paved the way before me, and heck if I wasn’t noticing the additional urine drops on the rim as they collected every successive time I had to put the seat down for myself. So really, I don’t know if it was nature or nuture which made Barbies and every other kind of human doll unappealing to me. I picked stuffed animals over infant dolls and was taught chess and baseball card trading were more interesting than playing House. I’d (try to) catch softballs with a leather mitt before ever being curious about mother’s high heels. I was never the most girly girl you ever met – but then again there’s just never a control value to which to compare our lives to; we can only speculate how we might be different if things around us were different. So who knows?

From what it looks like from here, being a benefactor of chivalry, to me, would not seem a free pass. I can see why women have taken a sword through the heart of it as certainly as I’ve helped in trampling on it while completely unaware it was even underfoot. To be on the receiving end of gallantry is to be considered in a separate class. I have trouble expecting things of others based on sex – or tradition, for that matter – just because it’s the way it’s always been done. It can only mean one of two things: That I need help (which is fine but might not be true all the time) or that I’m entitled to a free pass.

Chivalry is just an avenue by which we’re able to make excuses for ourselves. I’m not talking about taking offense at a door being held for me or groceries being lugged on my behalf (only if he is empty-handed mind you – otherwise, I can deal). I’m talking about killing it on my own behalf so that when I’m judged not on my ability but based on my looks or gender, whether favorably or unfavorably, I have reason to complain since I never asked for that free pass in the first place. I’ve a hard time leading someone along on the false hope of outward appearances. How then, do we differentiate when we expect others to take us seriously? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – and if the beholder needs you in a neat little box, leaving the rest of you unappreciated or worse, taken for granted as if non-attributes, then it’s time to move on til you find a beholder who has the well-rounded vision you can complete.

(Hopefully,) Eventually, we all get a little more selective about our beholders because we grow enough as people ourselves to want that sort of compatibility with our partners and friends. Priorities and values. It’s not so much what you can get out of others, it’s about working on yourself so that you become a person who can be proud of the character you’ve developed on your own merits.

Chivalry is dead – but really. So what? Good riddance.