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Is Chivalry Sexist?

That is a ridiculous question.  That people even ask it shows how little regard our society has for respect and courtesy.

I’ll admit, I used to consider myself a feminist.

I’d get all offended if a guy opened a door for me.

I finally realized some years ago that I’m really not a feminist, just an opportunist.  I had this realization (okay, someone said it to me) when I was honest enough to admit that I would totally play the damsel in distress in order to get what I wanted (i.e. getting a guy to do stuff for me).

From there I started to gain a more mature understanding of chivalry.  (Just goes to show, that truth must begin with being honest with oneself.)

The idea that chivalry is sexism towards women is based on pride, and not the good kind.  Some people (see link below) assert that these small acts of kindness, like carrying a bag for a woman, somehow implies that she can’t do it.  So feminist women want to do it just to prove they can.  That is just plain stubbornness, and there is no virtue in that.  It can even be rude.  If someone does something nice for you, why rebuff and/or berate them?

If anything, chivalry is sexist toward men!  It is them, after all, who must go out of their way to show courtesy.  They are the ones who open the doors, carry the bags, and are left standing when there are no more chairs.  True gentlemen are self-sacrificing.  They sacrifice their own comfort for the comfort of others.  Imagine how much nicer the world would be if more people were like that.

Doing something nice for someone else doesn’t imply that you think they can’t do it themselves.  Helping someone shows that you care.  It might be a general feeling of goodwill or consideration for that particular person.  Either way, a kind gesture should be received in the spirit in which it is given.  Life is more pleasant that way.

I know several men who deserve the title of “gentleman.”  They are respectful, helpful, and considerate.  If I needed something, they would help.  It feels really good to be around them.  I feel valued and cared for.  Why wouldn’t I want to be treated that way?

There are plenty of real grievances in the world.  We don’t need to add more strife and contention by manufacturing petty ones.

I was partly inspired by this ridiculous article:

Is Chivalry Sexist? – The Cambridge Student newsletter

What do you think of chivalry?  Is is dead?  Is it sexist?  Does it matter?  Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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3 Comments

  1. Mikey gee says:

    I’d say yes, chivalry is sexist but I am very specific in what I mean. Chivalry is a model of ethics which emphasizes certain universal morals. Feminism is another model of ethics which emphasizes certain universal morals. Actions and attitudes which violate the feminist model are called “sexist.” In some ways sexism is more of a factual statement more than a moral statement, not unlike when a Christian says an action or attitude is sinful. What sinful means is that the action or attitude violates the ethical model of Christianity.

    Chivalry (which is much more than just being nice to women) emphasizes other values than those feminism values (paternalism, hierarchy, and ennobled violence). The two disagree about some ethical positions and so (by my description) chivalry is sexist by definition.

    But I distinguish between ethical models and universal morals. Ethical models are constructed by people as best approximations of how people ought to behave and think. Universal morals are the real deal, the way God Himself made us to behave and think. So if this feminist thinks I am sexist for my paternal family structure or this chivalry person thinks I am wicked for allowing grown women to make their own mistakes I can only shrug and keep my eyes on the true source of goodness.

    • I was talking about the modern conception of chivalry, not the actual historical version, but you bring up some really good points. The word “sexist” gets thrown around so much that I mostly disregard any accusation of “sexism.” I think your use of “sexist” is very much in the minority. When a feminist says something is sexist, it is most definitely meant as a value judgement.

      Since you get to define “sexist” according to your own particular philosophy, why can’t I define “Christian” according to mine?

      • Miley Gee says:

        I believe that the modern aspect of chivalry is still in the modern conceptions. The Southern idea of the gentleman is very gentile towards women but also includes a warrior code and fighting over honor is considered more (not less) civilized.

        I agree that when a feminist uses the word sexist they are imagining it in a universal context but that is the nature of paradigms: to imagine their explanation of existence as universally true. A Confucian who says the emperor’s behavior is blessed by the Mandate of Heaven does not mean that the emperor’s behavior matches the Confucian ideal but he means that there is an actual Ti’en (Heaven/God) who actually blesses those who follow the Way/Mandate. In the same way feminists do not imagine they are projecting their subjective values onto others but rather “saying it like it is.”

        Ironically it is feminist philosophy which popularized this model of criticism and I am all to happy to apply their own thinking to them.

        As for your ability to call yourself Christian… philosophically I do not object to Mormons believing they are Christians since that is what they believe. I object to the soft obfuscation used when it is implied that they are one of many denominations. This was done a lot when Mr. Romney was running for President and was asked about the difference between his and the majority religion.

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