The Root of Chivalry’s Demise

It’s a Saturday morning. You’re at brunch with your girlfriends recounting the scandalous events of the previous evening. With mimosas in hand and a slew of hazy memories, we vow to forget about the guy who never called the morning after and harden our hearts against another potential relationship mishap. These days, it feels like women are often bemoaning the belief that chivalry is dead. Moreover, we tend to blame its demise on men, all the while failing to see the unfortunate truth that men did not kill chivalry; women did.

When it comes to dating, chivalry stumbled to myth as we women lowered the standards for both ourselves and the men we date. It’s one thing to don a miniskirt to feel sexy and powerful for yourself, but an entirely different thing to wear that miniskirt in hopes of attracting attention from a future one-night-stand. By dressing provocatively with that intent, we invite men to stare at our assets and objectify us. When we forget that we have genuine personalities, aspirations, and thoughtful opinions, our conversations at the bar revolve around what drink we’re having and how pretty we look. Adopting a vapid and meaningless persona only invites conversations devoid of much substance. Such actions convey to women that it’s okay to be indecent or air-headed in order to get men while sending men the message that we are easy. If we don’t uphold ourselves as worthy recipients of gentlemanly behavior, then is it fair to expect such behavior from the men we desire? Chivalry isn’t dead; women killed it when we collectively decided to act as if we aren’t deserving of it.

However, chivalry’s demise isn’t just unfortunate for women, it poses a catch-22 for men too. If a guy spies a girl at the bar and everything about her screams come hither, it isn’t out of the question that he’ll approach her. His first tactic may be of the sensible, polite variety. Perhaps a, “Hi, I’m (insert name here). Can I buy you a drink?” or a, “Hey, how’s it going?” Perfectly reasonable and fairly gentlemanly, but for some reason, she’s not buying it. At this point another guy, one with a little more swagger and far less inhibition, approaches the same girl and this time, she’s met with, “Hey, babe. You look hot tonight. Let me buy you a drink.” To him, the girl smiles and nods only to leave her first suitor incredulous and dumbfounded. Now the nice guy is convinced that the only surefire way to pick up a girl at the bar is to become an ultra-alpha male and assert himself onto a woman. Thing is, most men are capable of chivalry, but this sort of interaction understandably confuses them. If approaching a woman with etiquette and courteous curiosity leads to rejection while a slightly misogynistic and tactless manner helps you score, then it further solidifies the male belief that boorish tendencies are more successful in attracting a woman.

By settling for men without chivalry, women behave with all the provocation and inhibition that is underserving of chivalry, convincing men that we can be wooed without it. And in turn, when men behave gracelessly, it only reaffirms the female belief that men are incapable of chivalry. Now this is beginning to feel a lot like a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” paradigm. Alas, all hope is not lost. Chivalry may feel like its dead, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Chivalry isn’t meant to exist because women always expect chocolates and flowers and for men to always pay for dinner. As gender roles shifted to create more equitable and balanced relationships, chivalry faced a similar evolution. It is no longer about catering to every woman’s whim or fulfilling archaic expectations; it’s more a notion that involves mutual respect and courtesy. In order for women to see chivalry’s revival, we need to learn to treat ourselves with self-respect. Once we do that, men will recognize that not all women can be won with trite compliments or superficial admiration. Admittedly, this sounds like a lot more effort for both parties. But that’s the point. Chivalry demands patience, confidence, and a healthy regard for both the self and the other person, and until we roll up our sleeves and own up to putting in the work to resurrect it, chivalry will remain dead.

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