10 Forms Of Chivalry From The Not So Distant Past That Are Alternately Sweet & Super Sexist
Although I'm a firm believer that conventional gender roles should be redesigned, repurposed, and ultimately rendered unrecognizable, I'm not the kind of feminist who minds a man helping me with my coat or holding the door for me. Many say chivalry is dead, and while it may be in the old-fashioned sense of strict, gender-based decorum, some behaviors are so deeply entrenched that they’ll never truly disappear.
Yesterday, the photo of a woman walking on the sidewalk flanked by a man on her left went viral, with the female poster asking what was "wrong" with the picture. Some viewers had no idea what the "problem" was, and, at first I didn't — until I remembered my Southern ex-boyfriend's insistence on sleeping on the side of the bed closest to the door. The rules of chivalry dictate that a man should be closest to harm's way when a woman is present, hence walking closest to the street to prevent cars from slinging mud at her, or sleeping closest to the door to prevent intruders from attacking her first.
Most of us associate this concept of chivalry with knights, but the contemporary connotation of the word only arose in 19th Century Victorian England based upon idealized practices from medieval times. The ideal man as "knight in shining armor" is more of a recent invention than we realize, because honestly, history says that knights were more into raping and pillaging back in the day. But the idea persists, as do the social mores that dictate men should be protective of the delicate little flowers that we females are. Here are 10 forms of chivalry from the not so distant past that are both sexist and sweet — many of which survive today.
1. Walking you to your door at night
As someone who has experienced a high level of street harassment, I cannot stress how important this one is. Yes, I can take care of myself, but I would much rather have someone know I got home safely on the off chance one of said creeps tries anything.
2. Helping you out of a car
I'm on the fence about this one. When ladies wore voluminous petticoats, a man's hand was necessary to extricate oneself from a car (or carriage). However, now that we can maneuver without seven layers, it's not required. Sometimes I'm just not into touching a strange man's hand — it feels kind of intimate — so this one might be well-intentioned but still skeeves me out.
3. Picking up the check
I'm on the fence about this one, too. While it's awesome not to have to pay for food and booze, sometimes letting a man pay gives him the impression that he somehow "bought" your company in other ways. It depends on the guy, really, so proceed with caution. In general, though, free stuff is pretty sweet... as long as you aren't opposed to paying his way occasionally, too.
4. Holding the door open
How can you argue with this? No, I don't want to touch that gross germ-covered door, and yes, I want to go ahead of you so I can get where I'm going that much faster! (Hint: add a little curtesy when you're done just for fun.)
5. Only greeting women in public with whom you've been formally introduced
Think of how this sadly outmoded practice would reduce harassment and unwarranted sleaze bags approaching women on the street? If I can pick and choose which aspects of chivalry to accept, this would be my #1.
6. Offering a woman your seat if there are no others
100 percent sweet. I would much prefer to sit down on the subway during rush hour, sir, thank you!
7. Standing when a woman stands
Eew. That would just be weird and make everyone in the room look like they're trying to do The Wave or something. I'm strongly against bringing this one back.
8. Putting a coat down over a puddle so you can walk over it
I deem this practice pretty sweet, because no one wants to get their shoes soaked through. When the behavior originated, men's clothing was far more fancy, so I cringe thinking of all the fine jackets and suit coats that were ruined in the pursuit of protecting lady soles. However, the way most men dress today makes me think this needs to come back with a vengeance. Throw that old ratty hoody down on the ground, dude, it just might get you laid.
9. Always taking the driver's seat
This is sexist as hell, and we now know that women are better drivers anyways. So no thanks, I don't need you to drive me around — unless I am drunk. Then by all means, I am happy to take the ride.
10. Walking on the outside of the sidewalk
According to the madam of manners Ms. Emily Post, a man should always take the outside of the sidewalk (closest to the cars) to protect the ladies in his presence from splashes and gravel from the road. However, she was also quoted as saying the inside will do just as well, so this one is up for debate.
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