A feature in The Atlantic on Monday proposed that we modern women should give chivalry another chance. Reviled as sexist acts by our bra-burning foremothers, today’s feminists need not scoff at men who open doors for ladies or refuse to split the check on the first date.
These gentlemen are not assuming that we can’t open our own doors or pay for own meals. They are not making a statement on the weakness of our sex or trying to put us down in any way. They simply like doing it for us because it makes them feel like men.
I’m okay with that. I’m also okay with being treated like a lady, and acting like a lady by graciously receiving any chivalry that comes my way. It makes me feel worth the extra thought and attention of another human being. When a man holds the elevator door, or gives up a spot in line at the grocery store when it’s 5 o’clock and I have my kids with me, or says, "Excuse me, ma’am," after an accidental bump, I don’t feel weak and invaluable. If anything, it makes me feel powerful as a woman that I would deserve that little bit of extra respect simply because of my gender.
Thankfully, widespread female subjugation in the Western world is a thing of the past. Women can do anything men can do, and we don’t even have to worry about male pattern baldness. We can work, stay home, have kids, not have kids, be chefs or doctors or horticulturalists or whatever. We are so lucky!
The Atlantic sums it up nicely:
A story from the life of Samuel Proctor (d. 1997) comes to mind here. Proctor was the beloved pastor of Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church. Apparently, he was in the elevator one day when a young woman came in. Proctor tipped his hat at her. She was offended and said, "What is that supposed to mean?"
The pastor's response was: "Madame, by tipping my hat I was telling you several things. That I would not harm you in any way. That if someone came into this elevator and threatened you, I would defend you. That if you fell ill, I would tend to you and if necessary carry you to safety. I was telling you that even though I am a man and physically stronger than you, I will treat you with both respect and solicitude. But frankly, Madame, it would have taken too much time to tell you all of that; so, instead, I just tipped my hat."
So why not let the men be men? They aren’t treating us deferentially because they view us as powerless waifs -- they’re doing it because we are clearly awesome. And any man who takes a moment to tip his hat to me is awesome in my book too.
Do you think chivalry is making a comeback? Should it?
Image by Stefano Mazzone/Flickr