Is Chivalry Dead? And Do Women Want it to Be? | Teeny Manolo

Is Chivalry Dead? And Do Women Want it to Be?

By Glinda

Man opening door for woman


Yes, the title is a question because I don’t know what constitutes a true gentleman any more.

You see, I have explained and discussed the differences between girls and boys with the Munchkin, but never in a “girls are delicate flowers” type of way.  He obviously knows that there are physical differences and sometimes preferences toward dolls and such, but that’s where it pretty much ends. I’ve never told him to give girls any type of special treatment just because they are girls.  I’m a feminist like that.

So this past weekend at a family gathering, I heard my father say to my son, “You need to let Jenna pick which seat she wants to sit on, because, you know, she’s a girl.”

And my father meant that in the most gallant way possible, that old-school thought process that opens doors for ladies, pushes in their chairs, and things of that nature.

Well, I have to say my son resisted the notion that Jenna should get to pick something over him just because she is a girl, and I have to say that I sort of agree with him.

Now, if my father had simply said, “Jenna gets to pick first because she is your guest” which she was, that is an entirely different story.   But he didn’t, and the whole situation got me to thinking about how to deal with the whole chivalry thing.

So now I am torn. 

I really do want my son to be the kind of person that opens doors for ladies and pushes in his girlfriend’s chair when they go to a nice restaurant.

But how to do that without sending the message that girls are deserving of special treatment, which many feminists say ain’t so?

Talk about mixed messages.

Any thoughts?

Or am I just overthinking this whole thing?

28 Responses to “Is Chivalry Dead? And Do Women Want it to Be?”

  1. J Says:

    I would say that you teach him to open doors for anyone coming up behind him, or next to him, or with their arms full. And to be courteous and say ‘thank you’ when someone holds the door for him. Car doors? I don’t know. The thing is, most of the guys that I’ve met who take the time to hold a car door open for a lady, later turn out to be more sexist than I know what to do with. There’s that whole undercurrent of protecting her and treating her gently that rubs me the wrong way. Being courteous to guests, to anyone really, that is a much better message for any person to learn, male or female.

    I suspect I’ll be alone on this. I posted once awhile ago on holding doors open, and most of my commenters thought it was a sign that a man respected you, and they liked it. So maybe you teach him that some women like it, and tell him where it comes from, and see what his thoughts are. That’s probably a discussion for when he’s older, though.

    On a side note, I read recently that the reality of the code of chivalry, knights in armor and so on, was nothing like what has been romanticized in literature. Way back in the feudal times, the knight was your feudal lord, and could extort money from you, rape your wife or daughter, etc., in return for ‘protection’. Sort of like the mafia, huh?

  2. class factotum Says:

    I never expected a man to open the door for me at work, but it sure is nice when my husband does it.

  3. Pencils Says:

    I was taught that if I got to the door first, that it’s polite to open it for other people, whether they’re male or female. And to offer help with packages, and to give up my seat to pregnant women, people traveling with small children, people who are disabled in any way, or are elderly. I’m a woman, BTW. I don’t need a man to slide my chair in at a nice restaurant–most of the time the server does it anyway–or to open or close my car door. I’m perfectly capable of doing those things; having a man do them for me goes beyond politeness or good matters and into sexism. And I’m going to teach my daughter this.

  4. pjs Says:

    I have a different take as a mom of two boys. I think the rules of courtesy (rather than using the word chivalry, which does sound a bit like powdered wigs and calling people m’lady) have a practical curbing effect on them which makes them stop and think of not bowling other people over, especially those less physically strong for whatever reason. Two boys heading toward a door is not an exercise in egalitarianism for anyone who has seen it in action; it becomes a rough, good-natured jostling contest, in a way, quite frankly, that it wasn’t for me and my sisters growing up.

    Yes, my husband of 17 years still opens the car door for me when we get to the car. No, I don’t need him to do that. I don’t need him to do the dishes every night either, as I am perfectly capable of doing them, but he does and I am quite happy he doesn’t limit his actions to those only strictly necessary.

    Having said that, choosing a seat first isn’t something I’ve heard of nor can really understand the purpose for. It sounds like your husband was shooting for Extra Credit or something, maybe concerned how your son would act at a family gathering and wanting to put him on High Manners Alert.

  5. pjs Says:

    I just realized the father in question was yours, not the Munchkin’s. Strike the last paragraph.

  6. Jennie Says:

    OK, strike me dead… 53 year old feminist. I have always held doors for anyone behind me. I have always given my seat on the bus/train to anyone less able (mother or father with child, elder, disability). That being said, I enjoy having my car door opened on a date or assistance with my seat. It is more courting behavior as opposed to protective behavior and really helpful if one is wearing certain shoes or fashions. I feel it is more an issue of manners and less a feudal possession issue. My dates KNOW I am capable or they wouldn’t have asked me out.

  7. Lori Says:

    “I really do want my son to be the kind of person that opens doors for ladies and pushes in his girlfriend’s chair when they go to a nice restaurant.

    “But how to do that without sending the message that girls are deserving of special treatment, which many feminists say ain’t so?”

    But it *is* special treatment. Some women will like it, some women won’t. As others have suggested, it’s better in a social setting than at school or work, where gender differences shouldn’t attract attention.

    Maybe the best thing is for him to offer it in social settings but be gracious if it is turned down. If a woman turns it down rudely, taking offense where none was intended, your son should still be gracious while knowing that she, not he, is the one who is out of line.

  8. Miss Janey Says:

    Miss J hopes chivalry isn’t dead, for the sake of ALL of society. Miss J holds the door for other women and men because it is right and decent. She doesn’t expect someone to hold a door for her because she’s a woman, but because she’s a person on the planet who deserves at least a modicum of respect. She is flattered that her husband opens the car door for her just as her husband is happy that she sometimes makes him his favorite: macaroni salad. That Miss J can cook and and wears lipstick makes her no less a feminist- just a human with many interests who refuses to accept the stereotype of “feminist” as someone who can’t abide simple courtesy just because its offered by a man. Gracious manners and courtesy to others should be commended and encouraged in everyone.

  9. class factotum Says:

    I did not expect men to open the door for me at work, but I was flabbergasted the day I was stuck in the elevator with the CEO (nightmare! what to say? I could ruin an entire career in 17 seconds) and his 6’4″ strapping aide de camp, who were in Memphis from the NYC HQ. The elevator stopped, the door opened, and the ADC, who was standing behind me, almost knocked me over in his rush to get out.

    My jaw dropped and I looked back at the CEO. He extended his hand and motioned for me to precede him out of the elevator.

    He had manners. The ADC did not.

  10. Melissa B. Says:

    Glinda, what a wonderful question!

    Several years ago, when I was too young and inexperienced to know better, I was dating a Young Man who, while quite intelligent and funny, was also Not A Nice Person. After he broke up with me in the most unfeeling and impersonal way possible (over Instant Messenger, if you can believe it!), I began to reflect on our brief relationship, and I realized that there had been obvious warning signs of his thoughtlessness. When he preceded me to a door, he wouldn’t hold it (one swinging door almost hit me in the nose); at restaurants, he seemed determined to get his order in first, to the point of interrupting me as I was trying to order my french fries; and after our dates, he wouldn’t walk me home, taking refuge in “having a lot of work” as an excuse to avoid going 2 minutes’ walk out of his way to see me to my door. And this was after a couple of fairly scary incidents of violence against women in our area.

    All that by way of saying that I think the things you’re describing are less about treating women like precious delicate helpless flowers, and more about common human courtesy. Don’t drop the door on someone else; don’t interrupt people; do what you can to make sure your friends and dates get home safely. Being aware of, and courteous to, your fellow humans is always a good lesson. I am sure the grown-up Munchkin will not treat his future girlfriends the way this Young Man treated me!

  11. e Says:

    I agree with the idea of courtesy rather than chivalry. He should also learn how to accept a woman who declines this courtesy.

  12. Betsy Says:

    It’s not so much chivalry so much as the attitude in which the chivalry is presented. Rather, I believe that chivalry has evolved and developed into something more akin to ‘respect’ than anything else. Some guys here in the good old UCSC will open doors for every girl when the opportunity arises. BUT some of my guy friends have developed this weird system where they open doors for girls/women/men/teachers they respect. Not that they’re disrespectful to the others, but those have been brought down to something closer to ‘bro’ status. It’s not that the people they do open doors for can’t handle it themselves, it’s that almost like the people they open doors for are good enough people so they shouldn’t have to.

    I like to think this weird development shows that Chivalry is changing back from being just to treating girls like delicate flowers to that of the knights of old who were a combination of courageous, just, courteous, moral and humble. In that vein, not only can men be chivalrous, but women also.

  13. JS Says:

    I’m all about holding the door for anyone, male or female, who is behind me when I get to the door. But I’m struck by this insistance that holding a car door open, or pulling out a chair, for women exclusively is courtesy and not chivalry. To me, that’s a distinction without a difference, and kind of dodges the question. Call it courtesy or chivalry, but why would a man hold the car door open for a woman, but not another man? Why wouldn’t a woman pull out a chair for a man? The answers to these questions don’t necessarily make someone sexist or anti-feminist, but we should at least be open about what those answers are, and what they say about our perceived roles as men and women in society.

  14. Terry Jay Says:

    If you hold the door for a woman you are instantly labeled a hopeless sexist and there is a strong suspicion that you perform unspeakable acts withe small furry animals. But common courtesy is still somewhat reluctantly acceptable.

    Practice common courtesy and let the nags chatter.

  15. Chloe Says:

    There’s nothing sexier than a chivalrous man.

  16. Phyllis Says:

    I agree with Pencils and that’s how we do it too. I’ll add to that list: letting passengers exit elevators, subway cars and trains before you get on them.

  17. Robin Says:

    No conflict here. Feminism is all about women demanding special treatment. Unless they’re demanding equal treatment. But only feminist women get to decide what treatment they’re demanding on a given day. And don’t question their demands. They’re womyn.

  18. hickchick Says:

    Perhaps chivalry simply evolved as a matter of logistics. If you know, for instance, that the man is going to hold the door you don’t have to worry about awkwardly bumping shoulders when you both walk through. It doesn’t solve the problem of how your gesture will be interpreted. Instead of disecting this for meaning perhaps you could get a better sense of the person performing a chivalrous service by talking to him and LISTENING to his answers.

  19. Kristin Says:

    My father, a good old-fashioned conservative man, taught my sister and me to be considerate of everyone. You hold doors, particularly if the group coming up behind you has any of your elders and betters. No chair-holding or car-door-opening for us, though, since we never wore elaborate and trailing skirts, nor were we being helped up into carriages. Let the Victorians have the Victorian customs. And if a custom is worth it–if it really is considerate, and not just patronizing–then it’s worth being considerate of men as well as women. (And let’s not forget that more attractive women have long benefited more from “chivalry” than less attractive women. Not nice, but true.)

    And, of the subject of men I have known, I never met a man who talked about chivalry who wasn’t trying to impress me with what a nice guy he was, and I never met a man who needed to impress upon me what a nice guy he was unless he wasn’t. My boyfriend–a genuinely nice man–never once had to tell me that he was nice; he demonstrated it in a million ways, including respecting my autonomy. Sometimes he holds doors for me. Sometimes I hold doors for him. It works.

  20. whiskey Says:

    It’s time to get real. Your sons will either win in the ruthless, no-holds barred competition for women, or LOSE. Remember, the pill, condom, anonymous urban living, and rising incomes for women have COMPLETELY changed the game. Women don’t want or need “nice guys” (who are losers) and instead want challenging, dynamic, exciting, and socially dominant winners.

    Moreover, women by and large are willing to SHARE the few men who meet these criteria of excitement and social domination. You may not like this, it is however the social reality.

    Your task, is to prepare your sons for either a life of unhappy loneliness by feeding them pretty lies based on faulty, long-ago ideas of past female preferences, or giving them the tools to understand what potential girlfriends and wives REALLY want from them: excitement and dominance.

    This means ALMOST never holding open doors, etc. that were part of the old chivalrous order. Because it puts them as fawning, supplicating Beta types that women abhor. [Doing this after dominance/excitement in a relationship is established is wise, as long as it is infrequent and surprising, not something expected.]

    You may not like this, but women killed Chivalry. They killed it by finding men who exhibit this outside special occasions in a relationship to be fawning, supplicating, desire-killing Beta men who they want to turn off any exhibition of desire for themselves. If your sons have anything beyond drunken “mistakes” in terms of sexual relationships with women, it is essential they know what women want (excitement and dominance) and give them that exactly. By suggesting that women are doing themselves a favor by doing things for THEM, not the other way around. The way a dominant, exciting, in-demand by other women Alpha male does.

    If you doubt me, check it out yourself. Observe what women do in relation to men while being picked up: in bars, coffee shops, the bookstore, and other social gatherings. In almost all cases, exhibitions of chivalry kill desire, while being a “jerk” creates it. Yes it is ugly. Thank the expression of female hypergamy and the lack of any need to filter for commitment and faithfulness.

    Your sons are either happy and fulfilled with women, or angry and lonely. It is entirely your choice and you will shape their destiny (and lack or presence of grand kids). If you end up with no grand kids — you’ll only have yourself to blame.

    [I don’t like the general lack of politeness. I find it crude and debased. However, it is the natural outgrowth of ruthless sexual/mating competition. One run by, I might add, women.]

  21. JS Says:

    Wow, thanks for “breaking it down,” whiskey. Tell me, how long have you been scared of every woman alive except your mom?

  22. chachaheels Says:

    I’m with Jennie on this: I practice my manners whenever possible–if I reach the door first or if I see someone is burdened and should have the door held open, I’ll open it and hold it for him/her. If I’ve a seat on the bus and I see someone who can obviously benefit from it if I gave it up (pregnant woman, person with a lot of parcels, older person who should sit to be safe, etc.) then I’ll stand and offer it.

    However, if I’m in a man’s company and we come to a door and he does not pull it open and hold it open for me, (or open a car door for me while I get in, or pay for dinner if he takes me out, or give up his seat so I can have it, or…the thousand other things a man should do when he’s with a woman) I’ll have very little to do with that man again. Date, friendship, work relationship/environment, what have you.

    And it is precisely because I’m a feminist that I will expect this. It is NOT “special treatment”. Chivalry–which isn’t really chivalry here, just common sense good manners to respect a woman–does not have to die; and there is no greater delusion than to think this world is “post” feminist. Not by a longshot. What we’re talking about here isn’t about feminism so much as it is good manners, which recognize that there is an inequality in the way society privileges men over women pretty much universally. The least a man can do to curb that socially sanctioned and institutionalized misogyny on a personal level in his relationships with women is get the door so I don’t have to. Sheesh.

  23. Lori Says:

    When one person or group is treated differently from another, that is, by definition, special treatment. (Good manners, on the other hand, can be practiced by anyone, towards anyone.) It’s nice if you’re on a date, but not so much among your peers at work or at school.

    And sorry, whiskey, but I never got the memo on the appeal of men who treat women like garbage–unless the woman thinks she’s worthless. The boys I knew gave up the seduction community antics by the time they graduated from junior high school.

  24. SusanC Says:

    Some traditions like holding doors are still valid today. However, I’m less keen on some of the older practices, like all men rising from their seats when a woman walks in the room. Obviously that was from a time when women in a professional workplace were rare, and it seems to serve no purpose other than to say “Oh boy, we got ourselves a real live woman in our meeting- woohoo!”

    Likewise, when person A invites person B to a restaurant for dinner, A should expect to pay for B (though B may certainly offer to contribute and should probably avoid ordering every single expensive item on the menu) because it was A’s invitation. A and B can be of either gender- long gone are the days when only men asked women out to dinner and only men could afford to pay for it.

    But back to the subject of raising kids- the easiest way to deal with this is to tell kids (boys and girls alike) that gestures of common courtesy should be extended without making a big deal out of them and, in the rare occasions they are turned down, they should accept these rare refusals without taking offense. Being gracious and thoughtful of others are attractive traits in anyone. (And for the few mental cases that think nice = wimpy… well, your child doesn’t need to date them anyways.)

  25. monkeyparts Says:

    I like holding doors for people, I think it’s nice. The only time I don’t like other people holding doors for me is when I’m still 20 feet from the door, and I have to speed way up or continue to mosey and feel bad about it.

    I think some of the really unfortunate stuff that whiskey said sounds like a TV and movie stereotype of “what women are” … a few women are manipulative, a few men are pigs … most of us are just people trying to figure out how to make it through the world.

    I have to pity anyone whose life-view gives them such a rigid and unpleasant view of ANY group.

  26. catch Says:

    When dating a feminist, she wants equality, so treat her with no more courtesy and deference than you give a man. That is equality. If she really is a feminist, that’s what she wants. If she’s a non-feminist she would want to be treated with chivalry very likely.

    For feminists, the rule of thumb is: if you wouldn’t open the door for a man, give a man your jacket, pay for a man’s meal, help a man carry something or what not, don’t do it for a feminist. Show a feminist the exact same (equal) level of courtesy and deference you would show a man.

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