Thought Catalog
October 8, 2014

If Chivalry Isn’t Dead, Where Did It Go?

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What is the issue?

The word chivalry dates back to medieval knighthood, conceived as a warrior code that denotes gallantry, individual training, and service. Over time, the meaning has been used to emphasize knightly virtues such as courage, honor, courtesy, courtly love, justice, and readiness to help the weak. Specifically, it is courteous behavior from a man to a woman.

So, is chivalry dead? Well, some say it’s still alive and kicking, but what really is chivalry? Yes, I’ve given the definition, but isn’t chivalry simply being a good human being?

In modern-day dating, chivalry is the little things like opening doors, paying for dinner dates, giving your jacket to your frail lady date, bringing flowers, et cetera. These are things that women actually do acknowledge albeit silently. He is such a gentleman, we think to ourselves in awe. Women have always been seen as weak because the term feminine is inextricably intertwined with fragility. To be regarded as a lady, we must be delicate. Hence why the term chivalry is almost exclusively used in reference to the act of kindness from a man to a woman. But let me ask you this, why isn’t there a term for women who exude kindness to men?

Men might argue that the feminist movement eradicates chivalry. If women want to be seen as equals, shouldn’t men stop doing chivalrous acts altogether? Why open doors and pay for dinners if women want to be treated as equals? The answer is yes, of course. Any feminist would never expect a man to pay for dinner nor do we expect to have you protect us against incoming traffic when crossing the street. But feminists aren’t to blame for the demise of chivalry, because chivalry itself is a term coined by men to applaud men for being men. Women are just now realizing it for what it is; complete bullshit. You don’t see us coining a term for our gender’s kindness towards the opposite sex.

The term chivalry makes it seem like men are not only expected to be kind to women, but that they should also be recognized and applauded for their behavior. Men should be kind to everyone, regardless of their gender (or sexual orientation, I might add). Isn’t that what chivalry was originally used for? A knight’s honorable character towards everyone? Nowadays, chivalrous acts function like tally marks; the higher the score, the more she will want to sleep with you. Chivalry is not dead because of feminists, it’s dead because men have exploited the fundamental beliefs of the term and used it to their advantage. 

Women, however, have no equivalent term to chivalry. Like men, we are also expected to express kindness towards our male counterparts, but unlike men, we are not lauded for it. Whilst men want to be acknowledged for their chivalrous actions (i.e. hey, I bought you dinner, the least you can do is give me a good night kiss!), women’s courtesy is simply seen as a default setting. Chivalry is engrained in us because it is not socially acceptable to be anything but. It is only when we deviate from the norm that we are called out for being a bitch, for being aggressive, for being anything that challenges the male’s perception of a good woman.

So, is chivalry dead? Well, it is, and it isn’t. Chivalry is now a term to describe male behavior to impress a woman. The word has been butchered, twisted, and rearranged by modern men to fit their liking. However, the inherent act of chivalry, which is that of courage, kindness, and honor from one person to another is very much alive. We just don’t call it that anymore; we call it being a good human. Chivalry (or ‘being a gentleman’) shouldn’t be so applauded, because women are never given the same gratitude when they behave kindly. We shouldn’t pat the backs of men who are kind as if they’re doing such a justice towards females. “Look at me, look how much of a proper gentleman I am by doing so and so!” Recognizing chivalry only enforces the idea that the kindness of a man is much more important than the kindness of a woman; which is rarely ever acknowledged to the same degree. There should be no separate term to describe a man’s act of kindness as though what they have done is so magnificent that it should be commended for.

When men walk street-side, they are seen as being a true gentleman. Oh, what a sight, to see a man risk his life to protect his woman! But when a woman walk street-side or opens the door for a man, no one bats an eyelash. Her kindness is swept under the rug and the world continues to spin. I am not telling men to stop being kind altogether, I’m simply discarding the term ‘chivalry’ because one gender’s kindness should not be celebrated over the other. Being a kind man is simply being a good human being. Kindness is kindness, no matter who you are. TC mark

featured image – Mad Men