Monday, September 13, 2010

Something to be said of chivalry

Last night, I had the opportunity to listen to Elder Richard G. Scott; an apostle for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, give a talk to the "youth" of the Church. We call these youth-specified meetings CES Firesides, and among an array of topics, the issue off marriage and dating is one all singles are eager to get more insight, direction, and advice upon. Inevitably, some facet of these talks will focus on the subject, sometimes as a brief mention and sometimes as the entire topic.

Elder Scott talked about marriage, his dear wife Janine, and a variety of other principles. However, the principle I found most fascinating and led me to some reflection, and one he only spent about 5 minutes upon, was the idea of chivalry.

I find myself very old fashioned. I like doors being held open for me, I like "ladies" being treated like "ladies" and given the respect that they once were the consistent recipients of in the days of yester-year. Now, adjust your spectacles because I'm about to get entirely fuddy duddy on you, but I wonder what happened to the days of men standing when a woman enters the room, or when she leaves the table. If such a gesture were to be practiced today... most of us women would look at the standing man like "er... what are you doing?" It's just not... done anymore. Where are the days when men would check their "man-language" aka "overt swears and crass comments" in the presence of a woman simply because it was not to be said in front of ladies; when men would offer jackets, an arm, a kind word, because that's the gentleman thing to do. These are all things we see in on-screen adaptations of Jane Austin movies or from our grandfathers, but as to the modernity of chivalry, well... let's say that the noticeable lack of such things add evidentiary support to the lament, "chivalry is dead," or more optimistically, "dying." Elder Scott mentioned one such nicety that I had never even considered, not even heard of, and I'm one rural traditional hick when it comes to these sorts of things. He lamented that he'd noticed a lot of men, when standing in line, stand infront of their wife or girlfriend. He said this act of standing in front of your "companion" in line was disrespectful and disgraced the value of a woman. In fact... he said it was "downright stupid." This caused me some reflection... as you can see. Not only on the death of chivalry, but on the differing values of generations. We all know that opening the door for a woman is gentile, but who knew that once upon a time, standing in line infront of the women you are with is insensitive and unchivalerous? Perhaps it's as unknown as making sure the man is walking on the "road side" of the sidewalk rather than the woman. It's true.

Elder Scott is an elderly man, one who grew up in a different time and a different era. Among the vast technological advances, Civil Rights movements, feminist movements, equity in the work place and higher education; social norms and a sense of propriety have changed too. Evolved? Progressed? That's debatable - but "changed" - that's for certain.

Of course I'm not here to tell the world of men "be gentleman!" cause truly - I feel their hands are tied. Men have lost some of that chivalry that was once expected, but why? I believe feminism has caused the death of chivalry in society just as much as men's idea of chivalry has wained into just plain laziness and non-attentiveness. Some feminists would argue that chivalry and gender equity are mutually exclusive. Why treat women differently than you would your basketball buddy? Well, because we're NOT your basketball buddy, that's why. And I'm one who believes that women and men are different not just physically, but emotionally, spiritually, and yes, socially. We could make an argument discussing the "social construction" of gender and how dressing babies in pink for girls and blue for boys sets them on a "gender path" society has created rather than one that's naturally embedded into us from before the world was. I, respectfully, disagree that we only differ in body parts, and I think most women would agree with me... that though we lobby for equal pay for equal jobs (dammit!), that we should have the same rights to vote, speak out, and rally for our values as much as anyone, and that women should pursue higher education opportunities that propel them into the workforce, we are still women. We are still different. And a little chivalry... a lot of chivalry... goes a long way in telling a women that you value her womanhood. You value her differences. And you respect her as a daughter of God rather than someone with different body parts made to churn out babies. It goes beyond that... it goes above that... and for me... having a man... a gentleman... offer me a jacket or open the door or speak more gently than he would during a football game with his pals, says more to me about his idea of a woman's worth versus an attempt at "gender equity" by suggesting we "go Dutch" on a date or (and believe me this has happened) that I should CALL HIM for a date "sometimes". Maybe some women swing that way and it could be considered very "modernist" of them. But not THIS woman. Not most women.

So men, don't be afraid to be gentleman and ladies, let them and for heavens sakes ACT like a lady if you want to be treated like a lady. Times are changing and society has tried to destroy the idea of "gender roles" and create a neutrality where we're all the same. But we're not all the same. I feel gender celebrates our differences and allows us to value one another how we were meant to value one another - as males and females - separate and distinct yet compatible - both bringing different abilities and strengths to the table. Chivalry isn't dead unless we kill it. Like Elder Scott... I think it's pretty stupid that we let such propriety die because society tell us so.... because we value gender neutrality more than the value of gender.


jaime said...

Agreed on all accounts! I am butter in a mans hands when he acts chivalrous towards me. I've only dated one really chivalrous guy (sadly) and it almost made me look past the fact that he wasn't Mormon and marry him because I felt...what's the word?? Adored, respected, princessy, special, worth it...all of the above. My favorite was that he would help me put on my jacket. It was just a little, simple thing, but it spoke volumes! We women need to start letting men be more chivalrous, even if you have to remind them to do it. I will stand in front of a door until Scott opens it for me :-)
It's not just the men that could use a chivalry upgrade though, it's women too. We need to be women worth being chivalrous to and quit trying to be "one of the guys". We're ladies.

Sorry I just wrote a short story, but I have always agreed with chivalry :-)

Annie said...

Amen sister! I'm grateful that Shawn is a gentleman, and one that that impressed me from the very beginning is that he always walks on the outside, next to the road. ALWAYS.

Also, my Mom who works in the temple said that after a wedding ceremony that the groom must never leave his bride waiting. She can leave him waiting, but she is never to be waiting on her groom. I like that idea.

Andrea Jolene said...

Jaime - Amen to ladies acting like ladies instead of one of the guys. Truuuuuue dat. I enjoyed your story... and the helping on with the jacket? Awwwwwww.

Craig Barlow B. said...

This will be somewhat long:

I think I truly would have felt much more comfortable in the 1940s. Maybe the 1950s. I think I would have fit right in.

I think I'm fairly gentlemanly. Sometimes I even wear a vest. However, I do push for a slightly more moderate version of chivalry. I think some gals can go to an extreme where they get overly upset when a fellow fails to live up to their dainty expectations. I think a healthy balance must be met. I don't think a gal should be so helplessly expectant of chivalrous behavior that she is basically setting a trap for any guy who doesn't meet every mark (with a readiness to throw a fit) or refuse to do a simple task in an exploitive situation in the name of reliance on chivalry (but really in the name of manipulation.) Every time I see that situation in process I feel like giving said gal...I don't even exasperated look of exasperation. Paragraph summary = sincerity.

Also, I think there has to be a level of reasonable behavior involved. After all, it just isn't 1940 anymore, and all things (yes, even chivalrous things) don't reasonably fit every modern situation. Sure, it's incredibly chivalrous for me to open the car door each time my gal passenger gets in or out of the car, but sometimes that just isn't going to make a lot of sense. And you know, at a certain level, sometimes the atmosphere is casual. And when that casual atmosphere exists, opening and closing the car door every single time I ever see this lady, regardless of atmosphere, can sort of kill a more comfortable level of fun. Like being forced through every component of a school dance. (I use the car door as an example because it causes me especial turmoil deciding when and when it is not appropriate)

So while some things (opening doors-real doors, being generally polite, offering a jacket) are timeless and good for every situation, some (lying face down in a puddle so you can step on my back) should be saved for the right occasion.

Hopefully this hasn't come off as Craig, the chivalry-hating man. Because actually, I think you are totally right. There is a pretty large disregard or rejection of this type of behavior. I think it should be taken, placed in our current social situation and adapted so it works without getting ridiculous, unreasonable or rote. The three sort of R's.

Trevor said...

Jaime very well said, I hate it when girls try to be one of the guys! For me they are practically impossible to date, all of the roles become confused. Also a little personal tidbit, when girls swear in public... meagatron turn off, gross!!!
Andrea... I've always known you are funny, apparently your wisdom also knows no bounds. We should share some of our other life idea's sometime because I think our minds are one.
thanks for the post,

Just ME the MOM said...

Bravo for you! Let's bring chivalry back, I hope I managed to instill that thoughtfulness for women in my boys. At least to some degree! I watched Elder Scott and so appreciated his inspiring words!


Andrea Jolene said...

Trevor - Our minds are ONE?!?! Well, this DOES call for a celebration of sorts... a celebration of mind oneness. So let it be written.

Thanks for the comments! And thinking I'm funny... I do try... ;)

Craig - sir - wear that vest. Wear it well. And Cheers to your thoughts (you chivalry hater!). j/k.