Looking to resolve your ambivalence about chivalry? Hermione Granger has some wise words for you. Emma Watson said "chivalry should be consensual" during her HeForShe Q&A on Sunday afternoon. In other words, don't feel guilty for enjoying a free dinner on that next OKCupid date. Just don't accept that free dinner if you aren't comfortable with it, and maybe return the favor at some point.
In her talk at London's Facebook headquarters, Watson said that she "loves" chivalrous behavior like men pulling out chairs, opening the door for her, and taking her to dinner. Rather than being sexist, she sees these customs are just "polite," and said that they should ideally go both ways. "Isn't that just a nice thing to do for something else? I love having the door opened for me," she said. "I think the key is: would you then mind if I opened the door for you?"
Like us all, Watson has definitely run into some uncomfortable situations concerning the issue. The Harry Potter actress recounted a story where she invited a man to dinner and offered to pick up the check. "It was really awkward and uncomfortable. It was not going down well," she said. "I'm sure he would say he was a feminist but he was just like, ooh, I'm not really sure about this, it's making him feel a bit tetchy." She was able to take the good with the bad in this situation, and was grateful to ultimately start a dialogue with him about why he felt uncomfortable.
Watson then distilled the issue in the following perfect sound bite:
The key is chivalry should be consensual, both parties should be feeling good about that. I think it's a problem when people expect things to be a certain way, to follow a certain status quo.
The customs of chivalry are clearly rooted in men being breadwinners, and it can definitely be interpreted as everyday sexism. But unlike in the days of King Arthur's Court, we have the freedom re-interpret how it works today. In other words, don't feel obliged to let your boyfriend pay if it makes you feel weird. Alternatively, if you love being paid for, do it up! If you feel like things aren't entirely balanced, maybe just pick up the bill another time. As Watson says, the important thing is that you don't feel like you're forced to submit to a social convention that you aren't comfortable with.
Besides, being out with a guy who strong-arms his way into paying against your protestations is just as uncomfortable as dating a guy who pretends he forgot his wallet at home the moment your bill arrives (true story of one of my dates). It all boils down to people being considerate of others' feelings and respecting each others boundaries — otherwise known as being polite.