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Monday, June 4, 2012

Is chivalry dead?

A Twitter friend of mine suggested I write a blog on chivalry. Recently he held the door to let a lady walk through and she made a rude comment stating she can hold her own door. He didn't know what he did wrong.

Sometimes women believe chivalry is rooted in sexism and outdated. That it is based on women being the weaker sex; A man must hold the door for her, stand when she gets up to leave a room, pull out her chair when she wants to sit down or help put on her coat.
Or is chivalry just good manners and good upbringing?

According to the dictionary, chivalry means the medieval system of knighthood; knightly qualities, bravery, courtesy, respect for women. Manners means polite social behaviour.
My friend is part of a generation that was told by their mothers to open the door for a lady. I was raised in a generation that expects him to hold the door. I am always appalled when a man doesn't open the door for me. My first thought is "Who raised him?"

Manners are a totally different thing. Manners are teaching your kids not to spit on the sidewalk or fart at the table. That's a totally different set of "raising" rules. I don't believe enough parents teach manners either.
I do teach my son to be chivalrous. It's not something I put on my "raising" priority list. It's something that comes naturally to me. Maybe I am turning into my mother, but when I am going somewhere with my son I always say, "Go up ahead and hold the door please" or "Let the lady go ahead of you" or "Help your grand-mother with her coat." I expect when I am not with him he does it on his own. I would be upset if someone told me they saw my son walking into the mall and he slammed the door in a lady's face. I would also be upset if they said they saw him slam the door in a man's face.

I also apply the same rules to my daughter. I am always saying to her "That's not very lady like" and she says to me "Mom, you're the only one who says that!" I don't care. Telling her to "Sit up straight" or "Skirts should be at the knee" or "Put leggings on if you're wearing that wide belt. Ladies don't spend the whole day pulling their skirts down to cover their behind!" or "Don't chew with your mouth open."
Both are warned not to spit in my presence or fart at the table. Manners are equally important for both sexes.

I like the way that Princess Catherine has brought being a lady back in vogue. She was criticized by the media for wearing nylons with her dresses. Really! The horror! A young woman with class! How awful for the media. Wearing dresses that touch her knee! My God, how will they sell papers? Pearls, those pearls passed down from her Mother, the tart! How dare she. After a decade of Pop-princesses that drive drunk and show up at events with no underwear, Princess Catherine is a welcome sight for mothers of teenage girls.
It is chivalry that reminds a man to hold the door for a lady and let her walk through. It's good manners to hold it for your male friend. Either way it doesn't make you a bad person for doing it.

Recently I met a friend at Tim Horton's for lunch. As you may know, I had surgery on my back at the end of March. Having two titanium rods screwed into my spine has left me unable to walk without a cane for a while. So I am still new in the "disabled world" and learning how to maneuver around.  
My friend had arrived before me and was sitting down with her meal. I went to counter and ordered mine. Then I was told to go to the counter at the end to get my tray. I struggled trying to keep my purse on my shoulder, lean on my cane and balance my tray filled with hot coffee and soup. There were several people standing around me and I couldn't help but notice they all looked at their shoes or the ceiling. Knowing they should do something but not sure what. A man sitting in the corner stood up and walked over. He said, "Missus do you need some help?" He didn't wait for my answer and took the tray from my hand. While he walked me to my table he said to the crowd, "You see the lady needs help and not one of you would help her!" They all looked away.

My friend had her back to me and wasn't aware that I needed help. The funny thing was, this man was the most unlikely knight in shining armour that I have ever met. He was covered in tattoos including a huge spider web that covered his entire face and several other works of art like sculls and crosses on his neck. If I had spotted him across the room, knightly qualities like bravery, courtesy and respect for women would not be adjectives I would have used on him. I would expect to see him on the nightly news being led into the court house in shackles. He certainly gave my friend a fright when she looked up and saw this man laying a tray down at her table. His taste in art work was definitely different than mine but someone raised him right.
Was I insulted? No I was thankful. I learned that knights come in all kinds of shining armour. Did it make me feel like a weak women? No, not at all. I would hope my son would do the same thing. It just made me feel crappy for judging a knight by the cover of his armour.

My husband was an officer with the Navy and is a retired police officer. He is both an officer and a gentleman. Chivalry is second nature for him. For almost 20 years he has held doors for me and pulled out my chairs at formal events (nightly meals at home don't count). He helps me with my coat always but we are equals in our marriage.
Is chivalry sexist? What if a gay man holds the door open for a woman? What if a trans-gendered person opens the door for a woman?  Are they doing it because they are sexist and because women are the weaker sex? I hold open the door for older ladies and let them go first. Am I sexist?
Listen, most women I know can kick your ass. There's nothing weak about them. Remember, Jane Fonda introduced us to aerobics years ago. We can mess you up bad. Ain't nothing weak about the sisters! We've been doing for ourselves for years.

I think women who say things like "I can hold my own door" are rude.  Plain and simple. It's just not lady like behaviour.

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