illustration by Samuel Hoar.
Chivalry has been a moral code for thousands of years, a defining trait of polite and respectable people. In recent years, however, it has received a bad reputation. What once was considered polite, is now, in many cases, looked down upon.
Modern culture has taken the idea of chivalry and twisted it into an act of disrespect. Our culture claims chivalry degrades women, implying their incapability by dramatically rushing to their aid. But is this description actually correct? Does chivalry actually disrespect others?
Chivalry is defined as “Courteous behavior, especially that of a man towards a woman.” By definition, chivalry is respectful, not demeaning. If chivalry is defined as courteous, how could it degrade someone? Additionally, chivalry is not exercised because of a woman’s incapability. A woman is perfectly capable of opening a door, but a man should save her the trouble and effort out of respect for her. Therefore, chivalry does not discriminate against others. Modern culture has assumed an incorrect definition of chivalry.
So why is chivalry dying? History is key in answering this question. In earlier times, women were seen and treated as less capable beings. This is clearly not the right approach. However, modern society has overcorrected the issue to the point that men and women are seen as completely independent when they are intended to complement each other. Because of this overcorrection, a major problem arises today.
The problem is some men believe that it is impolite to be chivalrous. They believe that they should no longer act chivalrously to women so as to not infringe on their rights. However, men do not have the freedom to act however they choose towards women simply because they are valued the same as men. Men still must carry the same respect.
Additionally, some women believe chivalry discriminates towards themselves. They don’t want a man to open a door for them if they can on their own. They believe men are taking matters into their own hands because they don’t trust women with a task or feel they can do it better; therefore women become offended when men offer to make things easier for them.
On the other hand, a simple act of service could be interpreted as a man acting on an attraction towards a woman. Because of how sexualized the relationship between man and woman has become, modern society has defined any act of kindness between them as a romantic gesture.
These misconceptions need to be cleared away before the idea of chivalry has passed away entirely, for it is quickly fading. 1 Peter 3:7 says, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” Chivalry is not only a respectful way of life, it is a biblical one. Men need to step up and back into the role that God has clearly called them into.