Vidins’ Guide to Chivalry

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“You don’t have to open the door for me because I’m a lady, you know” the bossy woman said indignantly

“I didn’t open it for you because you are a lady. I opened it because I’m a gentleman” the man politely smiled

You’ve probably heard this meme before, both being praised and refuted by many.

I was having a chat to my bartender therapist about it the other day. In our usual ‘what is it with women’ conversations, we started discussing chivalry. Not too long ago, Boag’s ‘St George’ Beer ran a series of advertisements stating that ‘Chivalry isn’t dead’, and had a competition for men to send in their best examples of chivalrous behaviour.

There seem to be many arguments about chivalry. Check out the tag ‘dating’ on WordPress and you’ll see a range of attitudes from women about chivalry. Some dream of dating (and marrying) a true gentleman, who’ll open doors and pay for meals and be kind and polite. Others proclaim the ‘you go girl’ attitude and encourage the sisterhood to go out and get everything on their own. Many feminist writers aggressively proclaim that chivalry is the domain of the patriarchy and should be smashed and is demeaning to women and blah-de-blah-de-blah angry feminists.

We all know what chivalry shouldn’t be. It’s not a man falling over himself to open a door for a women, then giving her ‘the eye’ as she awkwardly walks by. It’s not a man inappropriately ‘complimenting’ a woman. It’s not buying a gal a drink with expectations attached to it.

What is chivalry to me?

It’s the simple notion of acknowledging others and simply putting that person first in an everyday occurrence. I love watching programs of yore where, when a lady walks into a room, or comes and goes to a table, the men stand up and acknowledge the lady. It’s being, where practicable, opening the door for anyone – being polite, paying respect to seniority. It’s going out of your way for a social nicety, without expectation.

Chivalry is graciously accepting manners, too. We so often hear of stories where anyone (usually a man) has extended a social grace to a lady, only to be shut down and insinuations to him that he is acting out of some 1950’s playbook of social expectations. As easy as it is for someone to show chivalry, it is just as easy to accept chivalry, for no other reason than you acknowledge the ‘givers’ desire to employ a social grace.

In many respects, it’s nice not to be bound by ridged social rules of yore. If I was a lady, I think that it’s grand that I don’t have to wear a hat, gloves and a layer upon layer of hot clothing. As a man, I appreciate not having to wear a three-piece suit or dress up for dinner. In some ways, however, we have lost our way.

So at the risk of offending both sexes, here’s the Vidins’ Guide to Chivalry:

For the Men:
The general question I ask myself before acting chivalrous is ‘would my mum or sister appreciate this’. This works in so many ways. Would my mum appreciate me opening the door for her? Would my sister appreciate me helping her with heavy luggage on an aeroplane? Would my mother be comfortable if I complimented her on a nice perfume or dress? If you think your mum, your sister or your wife would appreciate a random stranger acting this way, it’s generally safe to do it.
-Would your mum, sister or wife appreciate an open door and a ogle at her bottom? No? Then that’s not chivalrous. Would your mum, sister or wife appreciate a man pulling the chair for her at the table and a perv at her breasts as she seats? No? Of course, that’s not chivalrous!
-Men, displaying chivalry involves looking after yourself. I’ve written before about men’s grooming and dressing for office. Essentially, dress up to the occasion, not down to the occasion. Invest in a handsome cologne and be proud of smelling nice. Keep your hair well-coiffed and your breath fresh.
-Acknowledge when someone enters the room. If you are sitting, stand. If someone leaves the table, stand. Regardless if it’s a man or women entering or leaving. Confidently and appropriately shake hands, especially in a professional setting. Both men and women appreciate the integrity of a confident handshake.
-Don’t fall over yourself to be chivalrous. Don’t barge through to be the first to open a door, don’t bumble around trying to assist someone with heavy luggage. There is nothing more undignifying than a man who tries too hard.
-When your chivalrous actions fail, don’t blame the ungrateful recipient. Remember men, many women have been told they can do it all (and lets not beat around the bush – women do have the skills, capability and nous to achieve it all) and don’t appreciate social graces extended towards them. In these cases, don’t blame her or call her a feminist, but extend her the courtesy that she can, in fact, do it all herself. In time, she will find that she will be doing it all herself. No one likes to help the ungrateful.

And for the ladies:
-Never accept a ‘kind’ act that comes with an ‘expectation’. A man’s kindness should not come with an expectation that you will provide him with your telephone number! Men that hide behind faux-chivalry are mere playboys with outward manners.
-When a man opens the door, a simple smile or ‘thank you’ is all that is needed. It has cost him nothing to open the door for you, surely it costs nothing to extend a nicety back in thanking him. Despite what you may have been led to believe, not every guy wants to get into your pants. Believe it or not, most men simply act this way out of respect. He does not think that you are incapable or in any way needy of a man’s assistance. He is simply being nice, with no expectations attached.
-An un-required offer for assistance can also be handled with poise. Should a man offer you assistance with heavy luggage, or putting an awkward IKEA box in your car and you don’t require his assistance, a simple ‘thank you for your kind offer, I can manage myself’ is all that is needed. Don’t huff about him thinking less of you. Don’t slap back his offer with shrieks of the imposition of 1950’s values. Thank him and move on.

You may think of this as me trying to convince women that men’s egos are fragile, and it is the role of womenfolk to pander to that. To the contrary. It takes a strong man to confidently offer a social kindness to another (man or woman). A truly chivalrous man does not need a quick ego-boost from faux-altruism! He is simply seeing what he perceives as an opportunity to extend a social grace and has the confidence to extend himself in that situation.

There’s no doubt that expectations for manners have shifted greatly over time. Roles for men and women have equally changed – certainly for the better!

I’m interested in your thoughts on chivalry – the good, the bad, the ugly!

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38 comments

  1. paulfg

    Simpering chivalry – bad. Gracious behaviour – good.

    Seen this and relate. Also seen “simpering chivalry” when the boss has a door opened only because they are the boss.

    Take away the “she and he”, take away the “who is more powerful here” – and you are left with gracious behaviour. And gracious is just “gracious”.

    I like your therapist already!! 🙂

  2. revealedwoman

    Oh, swoon, are you tall, dark and handsome? Can I marry you?

    Sorry, got totally carried away there by your treatise on chivalry.
    Having a door held open for me or a man standing when I approach a table makes me feel respected. I would do the same for a man or help with heavy luggage but being treated as a lady makes me feel special in some way (see my post on dating The Gentleman 🙂 )

    • vidinsinbrisbane

      Yes, I am all of those (and modest to boot!) but my heart belongs to another! I’m flattered by your proposal!

      I’m so glad to hear that you feel respected when shown chivalrous behaviour by a gent – it’s the way it should be!

      I’ll certainly check out your post on dating the Gentleman!

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      P

  3. bloggarita

    Too many women overthink simple acts to the point that kind gesture becomes an assertion of superiority and/or an opportunity to stare at her ass.

    (It’s a door. You were walking through it. He wanted to make sure it didn’t smack you in the face or on that bottom you’re so convinced everyone is ogling.)

    I can’t help but feel if there was more door holding and less overanalyzing, we’d have a much happier bunch of people covering this planet.

    Your thoughts were spot on. If he catches the door, I smile and say, “thank you.” Even if he is staring.

  4. indiekari10

    I agree with what you said… I think. I much more so agree with the person who said drop the word chivalry, and the lables man and woman. I love kindness, respect, the value of our seniors you mentioned. I don’t see how the “angry feminists” which are some bad apples, the extremists (in my opinion) are any different than the “grab-ass, expectations for a drink or tire change” men that created the feelings of those women in the first place probably.

    No?
    Oh, and lastly- the golden rule. Treat others as you want to be treated- or as you stated, if your mom or sis would like it. Well the problem is that everyone is different and likes different things. Some can handle others touching their bags (helping) for example. I’m a weirdo and freak out about my personal stuff when it comes to strangers. I have a real therapist. 😉 So you can’t judge based on who YOU know. It’s all Sociology in the end. I enjoyed reading your post.

  5. Amy

    It will be a sad and sorry day for mankind if, or when, chivalry dies. While I appreciate the mammoth mountains our radical feminist fore sisters moved…they have left in their wake a ridiculous notion that women can do anything or can do everything themselves. I, for one, don’t want to carry my groceries to my car, juggle heavy things and try to get a door open or change a flat tyre. Please boys, keep showing respect for the fairer sex! x

  6. The Red Warlock

    Excellent blog, thanks for posting! I love chivalry and extend it to both males and females. The other day at the gas station a man in front of me dropped some money on the floor and i rushed to pick it up for him. As i passed it to him he gave me a sort of humored WTF? look as though he was surprised that i did that for him. The whole opening doors thing has become a second nature thing now but i don’t do it to be chivalrous, i just do it. It’s fun being polite to people. There is a bit of a rebellious side to it for me as well. When ever i offer a stranger a kindness or courtesy i always feel like i’m giving a big F*%$ you to all the rude people out there….like i’m taking back a bit of this world for myself.

  7. Reflections from Randy

    I was raised by an old fashioned grandfather who taught me to hold doors, stand up when a lady enters the room, and walk on the outside when walking with the lady. I used to walk my clients from my office to the courthouse and women seemed confused that as we crossed the street I always moved to the outside of the sidewalk (facing the street.). People stare as I pull out the chair for my wife to sit at a restaurant.

    Simply a matter of respect, not a comment on the ability of the woman to do it on her own.

    Nice article.

  8. sothislife

    Excellent blog!
    I always just say thank you when some one helps me or offers to help. But I can remember dating a man who got so upset when I opened the car door for myself when getting out of the car. I actually stopped dating him because of this because with him it was a power play…I tried waiting for him to open my door and it took him usually 4 or 5 minutes to get to my side, while I sat in the hot car (Florida).

  9. monaissa96

    I love it! I agree. Women nowadays degrade themselves and don’t know what they’re worth, and men blindly act accordingly. Wish things were like the old days….

    Oh btw feel free to follow my blog, I’m also interested in this stuff

  10. EmmieElle

    I was a feminist at age 8…there was one boy in my class who always held the door for me and it drove me crazy. Flash forward a few years. I left the cozy, chivalrous south and moved north where I quickly noticed the absence of chivalry. There is nothing inherently “bad” in the lack of chivalry…I never felt disrespected or offended by men. But I wholeheartedly believe that southern gentlemen (or anyone else who engages in acts of respectful, authentic chivalry) have a tad bit more going for them.

      • EmmieElle

        I think that all of my experiences–not just living in the north–led me to mellow out a bit. I learned to tease apart some of my “feministic” tendencies. I have a stronger reaction when someone doubts my abilities because I’m a woman than I would have towards a man opening a door for me. So, I wouldn’t say that my feminism is stronger or weaker…just different. And that difference is a result of various life experiences.

  11. lilkaraphael

    Though I never EXPECT it, I am always appreciative of any act of kindness. I am trying to raise my teenage boys to be gentlemen. I would hope and pray that chivlary is not dead. It may be on life support, but not dead yet.

    • vidinsinbrisbane

      Gday Sean!
      I ‘guest write’ for Fake News Down Under (an epic newsreel if there ever was one!).

      This is my ‘main’ blog. The ‘Vidins Travel Blog’ is kinda abstract and not really about travel, but I like writin’ it from time to time. When the mood pops up.

      I hope that makes sense!

      • Sean Smithson

        Ah. All clear now man. Well I do love the stuff on Fake News. I guess because I know a bit about Aussie culture and know a shit load of guys from there too it makes a lot of sense to me.

        I’m sure I’ll enjoy the ‘travel’ blog too!

      • vidinsinbrisbane

        I’m already feeling the loss. Tell me when you have said beer and I’ll have one at the same time so we get this strange beer drinkin’ synergy happenin’.

        And I’ve just realised you broke your code on not commenting on other peoples blogs!

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