“You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”
Along with some support for the ideas I put forth in yesterday’s post, there are some that spoke up saying I’m just pushing my male ideas onto women, that chivalry is dead and it should stay that way because it’s a very bad thing that’s denigrating to women.
Cue me looking very confused.
Before I get into why this topic of conversation turned me into a seething ball of hatred, let’s look at why chivalry has become, for some, an epithet that means “the code misogynistic entitled male tossers use to impose their imagined superiority on women.”
In Days Of Old
Knights went to war back in the Middle Ages. To differentiate themselves from common folk, since most knights owned land and had other privileges due to their status, they chose to adhere to a code of behavior called ‘chivalry’. The code actually has Islamic roots, with Moorish knights expected to demonstrate “Piety, courtesy, prowess in war, the gift of eloquence, the art of poetry, skill on horseback, dexterity with sword, lance, and bow.” (Source) Christianity imposed more definition upon the code, instructing knights to use their might and influence to protect “weaker members of society.”
Back in those days, this mostly meant women.
For years, women were seen as inferior to men. Men took on the difficult or dangerous tasks of protecting the homestead from rampaging barbarians or going off to slay heathens in a holy war in the the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Women were expected to maintain said homestead, doing the things men couldn’t do because they either weren’t home or hadn’t be raised to know how to cook. This societal structure was maintained for quite some time, and it’s still a thorn in a lot of female sides to this day.
The Modern Interpretation
“Forget about honor, charity and self-sacrifice, the crux of the chivalric code was men imposing themselves upon women. The gentleness and graciousness with which a knight was to conduct themselves towards women was clearly a facade behind which lurked the desire all men have to put women under their thumb. If a man with wealth, title and strength of arms were to act this way, a woman was all but obligated to bow down before him.”
That’s the impression I get from most arguments made against the old chivalric code. And on a certain level, I am incapable of mounting a defense. Women’s rights have been a struggle for years, and many women still fight to prove that they are just as entitled and capable as men. Indeed, in some behavior of men, both then and now, there’s an undercurrent of condescension. “Oh, let me do that for you, my dear. It’s not your fault you’re incapable of rational thought or gross physical labor.”
I don’t think I need to clarify why I agree with the women who get angry at that sort of attitude. Hell, I’m male (at least, I think I am, let me check… *looks down pants* Yep, male) and this sort of thinking pisses me off. Women, from my experience, are tougher, smarter, more cunning, more quick-witted and far more cutthroat than a lot of men out there. Cross a guy, he’ll punch you in the face. Cross a woman, she will not only kick you in the crotch, but drag you into the street and repeatedly stomp on your balls while declaring to everybody within earshot what a fucking douchebag you are. And this won’t happen right away. It’ll happen when you least expect it, and trust me, somewhere in the haze of pain and humiliation, you might realize why you deserve it.
I’m talking mostly in metaphor, here, but I catch you get my drift. Women don’t need special treatment. A lot of women don’t want it. They’d much rather go through their daily lives without anybody taking notice of the fact that they’re put together differently from men.
It’s not going to stop me holding the door open for them, though. Let me tell you why.
I Call Bullshit
It’s not because I’m afraid of getting my nuts flattened, although there’s something to that. No, it’s because I was taught from a very young age through both instruction and experience that women deserve respect and courtesy, just as much as anybody else if not moreso. My mother busted her ass to take care of me and my two sisters, my grandmother taught us everything she could, and my sisters made damn sure I respected them through various means. I observed the way my dad treated my mom, from the good-natured jibes to the way he listened to her concerns, offered advice and worked towards compromise. I was told, and still believe, that holding a door open for a woman, speaking to her with courtesy and considering a woman more attractive if she’s smart, funny and clever rather than based on looks alone isn’t just common courtesy but common sense.
That, to me, is chivalry. It has nothing to do with oppressing women or considering myself superior to them or any of that misogynistic bullshit. Chivalry in my vernacular is and has always been shorthand for “treating people kindly regardless of who they are, where they’re from or what the color of their skin is, especially giving women the respect they deserve because for every kind act I do, at least a thousand other jerkoffs are treating a woman like shit and I want to make a difference, dammit.” I don’t give a damn what the world at large or the mass media or crusaders of womyn’s lib call chivalry, that is what chivalry is to me and I happen to think it’s an attitude that still has merit.
So if I talk about chivalry, or proceed to act in a chivalrous manner, that’s my thinking behind it. Maybe it’s wrong, maybe I’m flawed, maybe I’m still going to get my balls stomped on by a woman who thinks I’m being a condescending dickface. If I am, though, you go right ahead & pour my intentions into the paving machine and point the damn thing at Hell, because I’d rather be damned for seeking a better code of behavior than sit in the darkness cast by the shadow of others, waiting to be saved.
That’s what the word ‘chivalry’ means to me, and by God, I’m taking it back from people who use it the same way tea-partiers use ‘fascist.’