BBC Radio Wales Debate on Chivalry

// 14 June 2010

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It’s a well worn concept that one might have hoped would have been replaced with a more universal standard of politeness by now but, even in 2010, the chivalrous conduct of men (or the bemoaned lack of it) is still an issue. Meanwhile it seems a woman’s responsibility extends no further than graciously accepting assistance, with questions about our own agency in assisting others, if and when we are able to, being overshadowed by those about the actions and conduct of men (who are assumed to be able to help). I found myself revisiting this topic again on Friday, during a discussion on the Jason Mohammad programme with author Lorraine Jenkin and Peter Foot from the National Campaign for Courtesy. (Scroll through to 1.41.05.)

The following statement from Peter, when asking me about the matter of embarrassment, got me thinking afterwards:

I don’t think a man… if his offer is rebuffed -for instance- by a lady, should feel any embarrassment… All the other passengers would probably think far more highly of him than of a lady who rudely rebuffs…

I responded to this at the time by adding “if she rudely rebuffed, yes” before Jason moved on to a caller but, of course, my reasoning was flawed. It was underpinned by an assumption of a straightforward and unembellished offer that would most likely invite the interpretation that the man in question has good intentions and probably genuinely believes he is being helpful. But what if everything about his body language is positively screaming to the woman that he is lording it over her? What if his manner and tone is extremely patronising? One could, of course, argue that even a refusal, if the woman doesn’t need the seat any more than he does, doesn’t have to be rude but that’s not easy if she’s already had to put up with a load of sexism that day. To use another example, what if a disabled person seems uncivil in refusing an offer of help from me? Would it be fair for me to piously soak up onlookers’ approval of me and subsequent disapproval of that person, instead of considering that she or he had perhaps already been patronised and undermined several times that day and this meant she or he wasn’t in the mood to give me the benefit of the doubt?

I also noted Malcolm from Cardiff saying “I’ve never had a seat given up for me, not that I’d want one. I get up for people”. I wonder how many onlookers would frame a man as rude if he refuses a seat?

The most baffling comment I heard also came from Malcolm:

It should be law for men to give up seats for ladies (all ladies- never mind if they’re pregnant or otherwise), elderly gentlemen or anybody that’s struggling

I got the impression he genuinely meant well but I really have no idea how such a law for men could possibly be implemented. I doubt if there would be room for real equality to be achieved within such an enforcement of old-fashioned social relations and, more crucially, that probably wouldn’t be the point. Women and anyone else perceived to be “struggling” by default would be scuppered, forever in the debt of those enjoying the privilege of perceived strength.

Comments From You

elizabeth rimmer // Posted 15 June 2010 at 8:17 am

I once saw a teenager politely offer a seat on a very crowded train to a lady in her forties. It looked rather dutiful, but sincere, and in no way patronising. She was so angry and rude to him that I am convinced that he will never try to help anyone again. I think the only thing she took from it was that he thought she was old. During my three pregnancies and now that I have arthritis I am only too glad to get a seat, and I’m glad to say I have never been offered one in a way that I thought was remotely patronising. Chivalry goes both ways, I think.

JenniferRuth // Posted 15 June 2010 at 9:49 am

The thing about chivalry is that it’s not really about women at all – it’s about men. Men get to decide which women are worth being chivalrous to and which aren’t. The flip side of chivalry is street and sexual harassment. Even back in ye olden days of yore do people really believe men acted chivalrously to all women? Even the peasants? The prostitutes? Hmmmmm.

Chivalry infantalises women as frail beings who need special protection but hides behind a veneer of “respecting women”. It’s nice to hold the door open for anyone rather than letting it fall shut in their face, regardless of sex. It makes you a pleasant person to offer a seat on the bus to anyone who looks like they really do want to sit down. But in chivalry, the idea of being a nice person to be around only goes one way. From men, to women. So women become these kind of pawns that can be used in a game of “who is the nicest man around” between men. Once again, we become objects with no agency of our own. Or at least, our agency and our actions aren’t important.

The argument for chivalry that I hate the most is that if it were to disappear then men would automatically be horrible to women and be able to punch them whenever they want. Because chivalry is the ONLY THING that stops men from hitting women? Or do they mean that it just wouldn’t have to happen in private anymore? If this really was the case then it positions men as violent idiots who just can’t stop punching unless they have a set of rules that clearly defines who is punchable and who isn’t. Honestly, I have more respect for most men than to believe that bull. In fact, I propose a society where it isn’t acceptable to punch anyone. No chivalry required!

Becky // Posted 15 June 2010 at 12:47 pm

“The thing about chivalry is that it’s not really about women at all – it’s about men. Men get to decide which women are worth being chivalrous to and which aren’t.”

Great point, Jennifer! I was on the bus the other day when a young lad offered his seat to a tall, slim blonde woman (whom he was fairly obviously ogling) and she politely declined saying: “No thanks”. However, there was another shorter woman of a larger build stood right beside her and yet he didn’t ask her if she wanted his seat. If being a ‘gentleman’ is all about respect for women I wonder why she wasn’t accorded EQUAL concern?

In a separate incident, I once also witnessed another young guy within a group of young males – all btw taking up far too much space on the train – purposely put out his foot so that a woman who was fairly obviously transsexual ended up tripping over – predictably to guffaws of laughter. I guess she was just lucky they didn’t beat her up:(

Maeve // Posted 15 June 2010 at 12:49 pm

I agree, why can’t there be a more universal standard of politeness? Can’t it just be about politeness and friendliness? I am female and have often given up my seat/held doors open for other women, esp. women with young children or older women with heavy bags. I’ve never yet had a rude reaction, just appreciation that you’ve got consideration for the person. I don’t want to let a door slam in anyone’s face, regardless of their gender. And I hope they would feel the same way. It’s just basic politeness! I like to think most people adhere to that and just ignore all the hugely irritating media rubbish.

But I also often think – well, I know – that there are a lot of men who use so-called ”chivalry” as an excuse to touch and control women, which is why so many of us are justifiably suspicious and cynical of them.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 15 June 2010 at 1:48 pm

‘Chivalry’ is a particular odious aspect of our male supremacist society wherein because men are supposedly superior, whenever they deign to ‘proffer a seat to a woman or open a door for a woman,’ it is not from the position of acknowledging the woman as human but rather as someone who is too frail to stand/open the door herself. Chivalry is an exercise in male power over women.

Instead I want all men to cease viewing/treating women and girls as dehumanised, sexualised commodities, who can be insulted, demeaned and degraded at will because we are female not male. But we are far, far from even the beginning of viewing women as human, instead diversionary tactics such as ‘chivalry’ constantly rear their head.

Holly Combe // Posted 15 June 2010 at 2:12 pm

I don’t want to let a door slam in anyone’s face, regardless of their gender. (Maeve)

Exactly! I’m not normally one for so-called “common sense” but if there was ever a situation where something straightforward is being clouded with red herrings and unnecessary questions and complications, it’s this one. As Jennifer drew says, all this focus on “chivalry” is surely a diversionary tactic.

@Becky. That’s awful and, of course, such feelings of ownership over the space and bullying stemming from it are actually encouraged by traditional power relations. As JenniferRuth says, street harassment is the flipside side of chivalry and it’s really depressing when that dichotomy is held up as if it’s the only choice.

@elisabeth rimmer. I do think it’s generally best to give the benefit of the doubt and assume a person means well, particularly if nothing in the gesture suggests otherwise. I agree politeness can and should work both ways but I’d say chivalry, as we know it, always encourages and celebrates inequality. It makes a performance out of it and expects all those concerned to rigidly stick to their assigned and restricted role, rather than repay the favour in kind when they happen to be in a position to help in some way or graciously accept it themselves.

Elizabeth Rimmer // Posted 15 June 2010 at 2:21 pm

Two things going on here, and I missed one, as I was quite incensed by the unkindness I had witnessed. Courtesy is the thing, and it does(should) go both ways. Chivalry is something else entirely – it’s like the ‘white man’s burden’ – a way for a group in power to console and admire itself for the hard work of treating the lower orders decently. In the incident that Inspired my previous comment I think the woman was the one in power, as teenagers are pretty much the lower orders wherever they are.

Holly Combe // Posted 15 June 2010 at 2:40 pm

Chivalry is something else entirely – it’s like the ‘white man’s burden’ – a way for a group in power to console and admire itself for the hard work of treating the lower orders decently. (Elisabeth Rimmer)

Absolutely! I think you’ve summed it up perfectly.

With regard to the position of young people, I think you’re right. Teenagers and children are bossed around and told what to do all the time. But it seems ageism is a paradox, with older people often being ignored, dismissed and patronised by a society obsessed with youth and beauty. It’s almost as if power functions as a consolation prize for getting old and, as a woman, that power is limited when society seems obsessed with framing female power as sexual and linked to a very limited idea of beauty connected to youth.

Perhaps the given example is one of those situations that turns intersectionality on its head? Instead of different oppressions and expressions of them shaping one another, they are meeting, clashing and competing for liberation. Actually, can anyone help me out here? Is there a word for this that I ought to know?

Holly Combe // Posted 15 June 2010 at 3:28 pm

(PS: If anyone wants to continue the discussion- please don’t feel like you have to answer my vague and woolly question above to do so. If the answer is really obvious, I’m sure I’ll find it and, if it isn’t, I’m sure it can wait!)

Rose // Posted 15 June 2010 at 3:41 pm

Huh, I didn’t realise that I was ‘struggling’ to stand.

When it comes to giving up seats, I always thought that age/with infants/with bags/medical conditions were the important things.

On the buses I caught to college, it was standard that students were expected to stand for non students (regardless of gender).

I remember once in London being very supprised when I gave up my seat for an older gentleman (taken as a sign of proper respect for the ‘elders’), only for a 30-something bloke in a suit to jump in stealing it before the older man took the seat! When he realised what was going on the guy went a little red – but kept the seat.

I’m 23 and in fine health – in my opinion, there is no one that it is right for me to take a seat from (unless heavily loaded up with luggage).

If I’m offered one, I just looked confused and asked ‘why?’. Nobody has ever given an answer to that, I believe that this is because there answer would not be polite, or kind, it would simply be an insult, (or a sexual advancement).

Last time I caught a coach alone it was 80% empty, and a guy came along telling me to move my bag so that he could sit down next to me. I said no, he said why?

I told him I didn’t want him to invade my personal space. He said he wanted to – and he had bought a ticket, he had a right to!

(Yeah, he had bought the right to invade a womans personal space!?)

I think every women has a right not to have to take a seat from/share space with an individual like that.

Once in Spain, I was lying alone on a sparse beach killing time til my train, and a couple of different guys kept trying it on. One was insisting that he could stop other guys from hassling me (while he kept trying to touch my thigh)- and lay next to me so that I was safe, and hold my bag so I could forget it and close my eyes!

I don’t think he was a thief issue – but his idea of chivalry was clearly that a woman is safe if possessed by a man, and her property/money is safer held by him than her!

And yes, he was insulted and shocked when I told him to get his hand off me and get out of my sight before I called the police.

But hey, I felt insulted to have met him.

If chivalry is about good manners and being respectful – why does it never seem to result in ‘no speaking, no touching, no looking’? – men just seem to use it as an excuse for ‘slimy’ behaviour.

Charlie // Posted 15 June 2010 at 3:59 pm

As a feminist transman in my mid-20s, the question of chivalry is one I’ve struggled a lot with, and particularly this question of giving up one’s seat. There are few variations of masculinity currently available to men. I want to be kind and thoughtful and polite, and I want to be mindful of the way that kyriarchy affects us all. And I’ve worn high-heels around town all day, so I know you don’t have to be older or pregnant to appreciate a seat.

It’s relatively easy to subtly move to another seat or a standing position further up the bus when someone who is obviously older or infirm or struggling with bags or children is getting on, or even to offer up one’s seat in such a situation. But it is much harder to know how to give up your seat, I would say both as a man and as a young woman, when this could be taken as a suggestion that the other person is less capable than you, (or that you’re making a pass at them?) and while I don’t like excuses, this is at least an explanation for why I’ve sometimes not been as (as I would see it) unselfish as I would like to be.

I think something else worth noting is that just because someone is/appears young, or is/appears male, or is/appears healthy and non-disabled doesn’t mean they don’t have a valid need for a seat too, which adds a whole extra set of complications.

Holly Combe // Posted 15 June 2010 at 4:41 pm

@Charlie. I like what you say about the option to subtly move to another seat if someone appears that they might need it for whatever reason. I think that kind of care and discretion would be a good indication that the person has genuinely helpful intentions. In contrast, it seems chivalry is all about the bluster and the glory of the person perceived to have the greater ability, power or responsibility.

I guess there are many pragmatic considerations (such as high heels, as you mentioned) when it comes to why someone might benefit from a seat more than someone else so it’s probably impossible for anyone to get it right all the time. That’s why I think it’s such a shame that our judgment on these issues has been clouded and complicated by years of chivalry and politics. If it weren’t for that, not getting it right every time wouldn’t be a big deal because the action would just be informed by practical assumptions rather than potentially loaded with political ones as well.

I think chivalry also means we’ve been lumbered with a culture that makes it harder for people to ask for help. There’s an assumption that it’s polite for a woman who could do with a hand to wait passively and not take the chance that she could be seen to be making demands (with men often just assumed to not need it at all). But it’s surely perfectly possible to ask someone for help without barking orders at them just the same as it’s possible to offer help without making a big song and dance about it and then getting in a huff if someone picks up on that and is less than gracious in accepting it. Nothing’s ever perfect or failsafe but I reckon it could certainly be so much simpler. It’s all very frustrating.

Kate // Posted 15 June 2010 at 6:09 pm

What the two Jennifers said as always!

The anti-feminist cliche: ‘but I like having doors held open!’

What goes over these peoples’ heads! When they actually get angry that we don’t want a door held open. Everyone knows to have doors held open because you’re pretty/ thin/ a woman is patronising at best and akin to street harrassment at worst. That’s the reason they get angry – it’s the fact we don’t want to be mens’ bitches, not the stupid door. We want to be independent and confident, not have that feeling of ‘ooohh it’s a ladyy’. We don’t need it when we’re rushing off to a job where we get 70% of what a man gets paid.

Chivalry is part of the system that keeps us happy while we’re down, while simultaneously patronising us. I could go into how chivalry is a bad thing.. but my post would go into tl;dr territory.

Holly, it sounded like it was so typical of a feminist debate, the logical realistic contributions of the feminist are shouted down, smirked at and ignored. In debates with feminists, people argue with anything – ‘my nan makes pottery’ would come up as a legitimate argument from a fiery faced man. People know we’re right but have to put up arguments- even really shit ones like ‘men get raped too’ – so we don’t get anywhere. So instead of being given a platform we have to ‘debate’ our oppression.

Holly Combe // Posted 15 June 2010 at 8:08 pm

@Kate. To be fair, I can’t say I was shouted down but I do think the ever-present focus -in discussions about manners- on how men are supposed to act and how we women are supposed to respond is undermining and serves to make matters more complex than they need to be. As you rightly say, chivalry is part of the system that keeps us happy while we’re down. It’s essentially a consolation prize that diverts us away from working towards genuinely equal relationships.

That said, I’m quite happy to have a door held open. I just want 1) for that door opening not to be accompanied by unncessary winks or gestures and 2) the opportunity to be able to do the same for others if I’m the one who arrived there first without being met with an insistant “No! After you!” and subsequent door-off.

Jack Leland // Posted 15 June 2010 at 11:28 pm

I understand the radical feminist position that chivalry is condescension: men performing superiority and enforcing subordination upon women. But one could just as easily argue that chivalry as a code enforces male masochism, explicitly values women over men, and renders male behavior predictable, allowing for intra-male policing of male deviance toward women. Indeed, actual chivalric codes involve chastity, kneeling before women of a certain class, and defending women’s honor with violence against the aggression and impertinence of brutish men.

The critique of this position – that agency is attributed to the man – ignores the code imposes burdens on men, constraining their liberty, precisely so that the agency of women is unencumbered by unpredictable bad behavior by men. Chivalry is not a code that is imposed on women; it is a code that is imposed on men. It’s explicit purpose is to limit the freedom of male action toward women.

Criticizing men for offering to adhere to chivalric norms, then, is having it both ways. Having the benefit of men acting chivalrously, but then also having the freedom to criticize men for adhering to those norms when it is unwelcome. This is a privilege. The ability to criticize harshly someone who has obliged to suffer for your benefit is a freedom most humans in most societies – or forms of social organization in human history – have never had.

Nicola // Posted 16 June 2010 at 10:36 am

@Rose – I had a similar incident to your coach thing the other night on my way home from town (not late, about 9ish), in that there were about three people (myself included) sitting downstairs on the bus when this guy got on. He gave off a creepy air straight away and as he kind of glanced at me I knew he was going to sit next to me, which he then did. I had my headphones on, so I just pretended I couldn’t see/hear him and stared away from him and out the window the whole way home, even when he was stomping his feet and nudging me/leaning across me to nudge the guy in front. It was after a long day and I felt too drained to challenge him (ironically, I’d just been at a training session in which we discussed patriarchal violence/intimidation).

What are people’s thoughts on dealing with situations like these? It’s the only time it’s happened to me but I know I’m not alone in it. I feel like if I’d moved to another seat he’d have just followed me. Not pleasant!

angercanbepower // Posted 16 June 2010 at 12:46 pm

I think something else worth noting is that just because someone is/appears young, or is/appears male, or is/appears healthy and non-disabled doesn’t mean they don’t have a valid need for a seat too, which adds a whole extra set of complications.

Thank you, Charlie! I have a chronic condition which means I find at times I have very little energy and find it extremely difficult to stand. I once had to endure someone ranting loudly at me for about 5 minutes for not giving up my seat to a young mother with a child (who I imagine was also pretty exhausted). I should probably have responded but didn’t really feel like getting into my medical history on a full train, so just sat there in silence.

Laura // Posted 16 June 2010 at 1:03 pm

As a London commuter, I’ve never actually been offered a seat on public transport by a man (a woman once offered me her seat when I was feeling very ill and about to faint – she also gave me her bottle of water. I will be eternally grateful to that woman!), but I regularly come across the dreaded “door-off” situation. This is particularly bad in my workplace – I work for a city law firm, and most of the senior partners are male. They seem incapable of allowing a young woman to hold the door open for them, even if I got to the door first and am empty-handed, while they are carrying stacks of paper and books! It gets a bit ridiculous sometimes: I remember a recent occurence where I had to squeeze under the lawyer’s arm while he flattened himself against the wall, all because he insisted on holding the door instead of me! If I’m out in public and a stranger does that, I’ll usually stand my ground but it’s a bit tricky to do that at work.

The whole door thing really gets on my nerves. As has been mentioned, surely it’s just basic good manners to hold the door for someone if you got there first, or if they’re carrying stuff or are clearly physically struggling with the door. I really don’t see why that has to be a gender thing at all, but I’ve met so many men (and not all senior lawyers of a certain age – I’ve run across this with all generations) who seem wierdly offended by the idea of allowing a woman to hold the door for them.

maggie // Posted 16 June 2010 at 4:13 pm

I wish we could ban the word ‘Lady’. I hate it soooo much.

I agree with the two Jennifers. So eloquently put. Women feel somehow obligated (obligation is another word on my ban list) to sit on the seat that ‘Saint/Sir holier than thou Male’ has so generously ‘given’ to her.

Holly Combe // Posted 16 June 2010 at 5:01 pm

@angercanbepower. What a horrible thing to have to endure and, IMO, a good example of why it can actually be very rude to berate and lecture strangers about manners. It makes me wonder how much that person was actually thinking about the comfort of the woman with the children or whether the perceived lack of manners was just an excuse to show off to onlookers and dominate for the sake of it.

@Nicola. I guess there isn’t one way of dealing with situations like these and, personally, I find the old advice about trusting your instincts still holds true. For example, it will sometimes be apparent that the space-taker is perhaps not fully conscious of or willingly acknowledging the space-taking behaviour and simply needs an indication from you that it isn’t going to be tolerated (eg: by pointing out the other seats or confidently greeting/acknowledging the person and then standing your ground by continuing to take up as much space as you need). However, there are other times when it’s obvious one has been lumbered with a much more conscious bully who won’t back down and is likely to see a refusal to be intimidated as a challenge. If in any doubt, I would say the safest option would be to move to a seat near to the driver if you can and ring the bell to talk to her or him at the next stop if the bully follows.

Holly Combe // Posted 16 June 2010 at 5:05 pm

@Jack. I accept that chivalrous acts can sometimes be subverted to enforce male masochism. Indeed, it is perfectly possible for a dominant woman to be well and truly in charge and yet still demand to be cherished and worshipped on the pedestal traditionally reserved for “ladies” who hold their part in the traditional bargain by being modest and letting men take the lead (a set-up that seems to be readily be played out between some male bottoms and female tops in BDSM). However, I don’t think this alters the presumed power dynamics behind chivalry as a code of more general conduct. As I think I’ve said before , it’s not such a wonderful thing to be valued, preserved and cherished more than men when one knows it’s because of one’s use value. It’s not much of a reward if the price to be paid is that one’s only moral responsibility is to gratefully receive. (See what Maggie just said about obligation.)

Policing male behaviour and defending women’s honour is often a prime example of female agency being ignored. A woman can be shouting “please don’t fight!” or wanting to defend her own honour, with no more than a little back-up, but the traditional chivalrous battle typically renders her invisible. This isn’t about her at all. If it was, the man claiming to defend her wouldn’t be ignoring her wishes and speaking about her rather than to her or including her. Society trains us to see such a lack of respect as romantic but it often seems to go hand in hand with a double standard that sees a woman as fair game for men’s apparently “inevitable” bad behaviour unless the woman on the receiving end is a man’s Mother, Sister or loved one. Sometimes a perceived slur will not have even occurred and it’s a classic example of that man judging by his own poor standards! In keeping with what JenniferRuth said, it seems to me that the rules on chivalry are underpinned by the insulting view that men are nasty brutes who can only be persuaded to be nice if there’s chivalrous glory in it for them.

I don’t believe for a minute that women benefit from men acting chivalrously. We benefit when people –men and women alike- show consideration towards others without making a big needless gender pantomime out of it. If chivalry’s explicit purpose is to limit the freedom of male action toward women, I would say the implicit one is to limit the freedom of female action towards men or, indeed, anyone who might need help. Why else would some men refuse to let a woman help them? It is not a privilege to have my moral development hampered by being denied the opportunity to assist a man if and when it is possible for me to do so and it is not a privilege to be treated like a moving object with no responsibility to make things happen if and when I can. It’s being denied my citizenship.

Being able to question men’s attitudes towards women is not a privilege. It’s something women have had to fight for. I’d suggest it takes a lot of privilege not to appreciate that. You seem to be saying men’s obligation to open doors, give up seats and fight for women’s honour means women should shut up and appreciate it. Isn’t that kind of how chivalry works? To ensure women’s agency is encumbered through being in men’s debt?

Feminist Avatar // Posted 16 June 2010 at 6:45 pm

@ Jack- you’re right that chivalry has nothing to do with women- it’s about men policing other men’s behaviour. So, it’s not women’s privilege or women’s choice. In fact, in chivalry the only thing (a certain type of) women get to do is stand on a pedestal. And there isn’t any agency in that!

And nobody said that patriarchy doesn’t suck for men too!!

Jack Leland // Posted 16 June 2010 at 7:22 pm

If chivalry’s explicit purpose is to limit the freedom of male action toward women, I would say the implicit one is to limit the freedom of female action towards men or, indeed, anyone who might need help.

I don’t really see how this makes sense. Chivalry doesn’t impose any burdens on women, whatsoever. The entire point is women can do whatever they want because they a presumed innocent and virtuous; men, presumed bad, cannot.

Also, I was not talking about BDSM.

Being able to question men’s attitudes towards women is not a privilege.

Yes, it is. Free speech is a common law right that arises out of the repudiation of the divine right of kings and feudal tyrrany, but it is also tempered by torts such as intentional infliction of emotional distress, false light, disclosure of private facts, defamation, including slander and libel, etc. And many speech acts are not traditionally protected, such as obscenity, fighting words, and incitement of imminent lawless action. So the right to criticize others — who are not politicians — is in fact a privilege and it is subject to regulation by courts and social norms.

Criticizing a man for holding a door after you have walked through it is a privilege.

Holly Combe // Posted 16 June 2010 at 9:14 pm

Chivalry doesn’t impose any burdens on women, whatsoever. The entire point is women can do whatever they want because they a presumed innocent and virtuous; men, presumed bad, cannot.

I disagree. Anyone would think it was somehow commonplace for women to receive no disapproval at all and perhaps even public applause for berating men at length in public for acts of chivalry! I’d say the more usual social standard is that a woman is expected to say thank-you politely and not show any objections if a man gives up a seat or opens a door for her. (I feel this pressure myself and am always polite, regardless of whether I accept the seat.) She is free to do what she wants insomuch as she is not going to be thrown in jail or chased with flaming torches if she doesn’t accept but, as I think the quote from Peter in my blog post indicates, onlookers are likely to think quite badly of her if she rudely rebuffs his offer. There is a social burden on a woman to respond appropriately just the same as there has traditionally been a burden on men to act appropriately. I’ve even seen a lot of people claiming it is women’s fault if men behave brutishly or slam doors in their faces. (I recall Richard Madely once saying he feared being “spat at” if he offered a seat but I have yet to see that happen myself.) This hardly counts as “no burden whatsoever”.

And what’s so advantageous about being presumed innocent and virtuous, while men are presumed to be bad? As well as insulting and underestimating men, I’d say such a standard acts as a form of social control over women. It breeds a culture of fear where far from being presumed innocent and virtuous, we women are actually being warned that we had better make sure we’re innocent and virtuous if we want to avoid unleashing the wrath of the man-beasts. It sucks big time for everyone, IMO.

…So the right to criticize others — who are not politicians — is in fact a privilege and it is subject to regulation by courts and social norms.

Well, yes, but I don’t really see your point here because men have this right too. The ability to harshly criticise someone who has apparently “obliged to suffer for your benefit” is not a freedom exclusive to women and it certainly isn’t always men on the receiving end of such criticism. For example, parents are expected to make whatever sacrifices are necessary for the sake of their children and people criticise parents (especially mothers) all the time.

Criticizing a man for holding a door after you have walked through it is a privilege.

So too, then, is criticising a woman for not being gracious in her reaction! This is all beside the point anyway though because I haven’t actually said I am critical of men holding doors open. Indeed, I think they should if they can, just the same as I should if I can.

Jack Leland // Posted 16 June 2010 at 10:08 pm

I’d say the more usual social standard is that a woman is expected to say thank-you politely and not show any objections if a man gives up a seat or opens a door for her…onlookers are likely to think quite badly of her if she rudely rebuffs his offer

Aren’t the onlookers right? If she rudely rebuffs his offer, then she’s rude! Certainly society in general has a right to criticize people who are rude.

I agree that these are generally held privileges, but they are still privileges, contra above:

@ Jack- you’re right that chivalry has nothing to do with women- it’s about men policing other men’s behaviour. So, it’s not women’s privilege or women’s choice.

Women, in fact, do have privileges, including those arising out of chivalry.

As well as insulting and underestimating men, I’d say such a standard acts as a form of social control over women.

One could say your argument is a form of social control over men. The presumption that men are underestimated holds them to a feminine standard of virtue and innocence that perhaps men cannot, by and large, meet, but women, by and large, can (whether they want to is another matter). Furthermore, calling an “insult” what may in fact be an accommodation for men’s lesser ability to act civilly or humanely (if women are set as the baseline) only sets men up for failure, if they try, and ostracism (you’re weak!) if they admit it isn’t an insult, but that they genuinely lack virtue. In other words, your viewpoint is just a way of protecting female privilege by placing men in the position of either consenting to being judged by female standards they can’t meet or admitting moral inferiority and being accused of dodging their obligations to be judged by female standards. Either way, men must be held to standards they cannot meet and criticized for failure to perform. Act chivalrous, or don’t, but you will be socially punished no matter what, because women have the feminist privilege of emasculating you.

Holly Combe // Posted 16 June 2010 at 10:43 pm

Who here said men are “weak” if they lack virtue? Not me. I just think it’s misrepresentative of women and men alike to claim or imply that women somehow find it easier to be virtuous and innocent while men have a lesser ability to act in a civil manner. I’ve seen plenty of evidence to the contrary and I think stereotyping the sexes in this way fails to consider that not all women are the same, not all men are the same and we’re all capable of challenging our conditioning. All this stuff about “feminine virtue” and “female standards” and apparent emasculation sounds very deterministic to me and I find it hard to believe you really buy into it. These are hardly standards men are incapable of meeting. All is being asked is that we all take a little time to consider the people around us rather than help/not help/refuse help according to a person’s gender. I really don’t see that men are somehow innately incapable of that. Plenty of guys actually get it right so it just isn’t true that men will somehow be “punished no matter what”. That’s what makes the focus on chivalry in discussions about manners so frustrating. It doesn’t have to be difficult.

If it’s somehow “emasculating” and a “feminist privilege” to dare to criticise men’s behaviour towards women, I can’t help but wonder what the alternative is.

With regard to onlookers being right to criticise a woman who rudely rebuffs a man’s offer, I actually agree but doesn’t that mean it is equally rude for man to rebuff me when I take the trouble to hold the door open and absolutely refuse to walk through (thus expecting me to let go of the door so he can take it)? Isn’t it rude for a man to rush ahead to step in front of me so he can get to the door first and hold it open?

Jack Leland // Posted 16 June 2010 at 11:07 pm

I really don’t see that men are somehow innately incapable of that. Plenty of guys actually get it right so it just isn’t true that men will somehow be “punished no matter what”.

I did write “by and large”. Holding up those atypical guys perhaps makes it worse for the typical people.

Isn’t it rude for a man to rush ahead to step in front of me so he can get to the door first and hold it open?

Not really, no.

Holly Combe // Posted 16 June 2010 at 11:09 pm

Why not?

FeminaErecta // Posted 17 June 2010 at 9:12 am

The Metro letters page today features a highly insulting letter from a man called Dean who was told by a woman who he opened a door for that she was perfectly capable of doing it herself, and has therefore decided women should ‘carry their own prams’ seeing as ‘you fought for equality’. The ridiculous argument that feminists are evil because men don’t get to patronise any more, even though they might have been taught its polite to fuss around women like they’re china dolls incapable of doing anything for themselves is ridiculous- its like saying its OK for older people to be rascist because that’s how they were brought up.

Yes Jack Leland, it is rude. You are presuming that the woman follows the same cultural understandings you do. By all means, hold a door open for someone, but to rush ahead of a person only based on their assumed gender and open a door for them (unless they’ve got their hands full or something) is patronising.

childerowland // Posted 17 June 2010 at 9:22 am

Chivalry doesn’t impose any burdens on women, whatsoever. The entire point is women can do whatever they want because they a presumed innocent and virtuous; men, presumed bad, cannot.

This certainly wasn’t true in the past. In the past, chivalry, or male protection of women, was given in return for women’s lifelong obedience. You can still see this in old-fashioned marriage vows; men vow to protect, women to obey.

Rose // Posted 17 June 2010 at 10:20 am

I find it incredibly insulting when a guy refuses to walk through a door that I’m holding. He is not treating me as his equal.

I find that to say ‘no’ to a guy is socially considered ‘rude’, even if he is acting in an intimidatory manner at the time. I’m considered a feminine fail if I act as an equal standard human.

There is no freedom or favour in having to smile and thank people for treating you as lesser.

Once in a uni studying physics I was paired with this guy that was checking all my calculator sums on his calculator – and congratulating me for my acurate results. Everytime. (Not behaviour he showed to other guys in the group).

Now that’s chivalry! Helpful, polite, well meaning – but all based on the idea that I am somehow less capable and in need of support, even when doing simple daily activities.

He thought he was being a saint, I thought he was being a ……… .

He ‘was’ critising me, and my competence, and everyone around loved him for it.

Although I was the one being mistreated, if I had complained/told him to stop, people would have thought (even) less of me. It would have seemed rude for me to say that I didn’t want to be treated as defective!

The situation is sick.

Lucy // Posted 17 June 2010 at 11:06 am

I have never had a seat given to me by a man on the tube, but there was a stage when I was a bit more overweight, and whenever I wore a certain dress young women would offer me their seats, it can only have been because I looked pregnant. I was always really impressed that young women were so nice! And always slightly unimpressed that no men ever offered me their seats when I wore that dress. The idea of chivalry is irrelevant in today’s society, ‘good manners’ and consideration for others is what is important, for everyone.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 17 June 2010 at 11:08 am

Women’s speech is only a privilege if you assume that not-speaking is the default. I tend to think that speech- and the right to criticise (admittedly within some limits) is a human right- not a privilege.

Becky // Posted 17 June 2010 at 12:56 pm

Jack, you say that chivalry doesn’t place any burden on women but I feel I’d have to disagree with you there – as at the end of the day – it’s men who get to decide which women are *worthy* of receiving it and therefore retain all the power.

Like for instance, the incident I witnessed on the bus the other day when the guy offered his seat to the young woman whom he found physically attractive yet had no concern whatsoever for the other woman standing right beside him because basically he just didn’t ‘fancy’ her.

So, that basically is discrimination towards women based on a purely sexist patriarchal valuation of womanhood, isn’t it?

Chivalry can be used as a weapon by denying it to women who don’t meet male notions of femininity. How many guys would give up their seat on a bus or train for a woman who looked obviously transsexual, for instance? I have seen one purposely tripped up though and nobody else (apart from me) helped her up from the floor or even looked beyond their newspapers or took a moment to pause from their conversations on their mobiles.

This is hardly surprising, though. Historically, it has only ever been a minority of women who have been deemed worthy of chivalry anyway. They had to be of a certain class or race. And this rings true up until very recently. Sojourner Truth’s words which I’ve quoted below come from the 19th century, but I would guess that as recently as the 1950s there were very few white Southern ‘Gentlemen’ who would have given up their seat on the bus to a woman whose skin colour was different from his own. In fact, famously, one of them demanded that a black woman – Rosa Parks – give up her seat for him.

“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman?”

Feminist Avatar // Posted 17 June 2010 at 1:59 pm

Is it just me, or is Jack’s argument essentially- ‘I am being nice to you and you are not being sufficiently grateful’.

Jack Leland // Posted 17 June 2010 at 2:49 pm

Women’s speech is only a privilege if you assume that not-speaking is the default.

My point wasn’t to cabin off women’s speech from other speech. My point was that all speech criticizing private individuals is a privilege in that it is not absolute and not a part of the core of political speech against public officials. There are many things anyone might say against private individuals that are regulated (slander, libel, fighting words, etc.).

So, that basically is discrimination towards women based on a purely sexist patriarchal valuation of womanhood, isn’t it?

I would not dispute this, but I don’t think this is sexism. Men face all sorts of discrimination – indeed, everyone does – because of appearance or grooming. That’s not really the same as being prevented from going to college or owning property because of your genitalia.

it’s men who get to decide which women are *worthy* of receiving it and therefore retain all the power.

Would you consider chivalry a just system if women could demand it from men at whim, then? My point is that criticizing men who are chivalrous – or chivalrous under the “wrong” conditions – is that system as well as precisely the system that we have. Look at the response to my comments!

The idea of chivalry is irrelevant in today’s society, ‘good manners’ and consideration for others is what is important, for everyone.

I agree. I just think that chivalry, under many of the conceptions people hold, can be a form of good manners. Not that I practice it.

Yes Jack Leland, it is rude. You are presuming that the woman follows the same cultural understandings you do. By all means, hold a door open for someone, but to rush ahead of a person only based on their assumed gender and open a door for them (unless they’ve got their hands full or something) is patronising.

How would you know why he is rushing ahead to open the door? Perhaps he is just being nice. This is the problem. A guy could just be nice and he’s punished for it. That’s wrong.

Victoria // Posted 17 June 2010 at 2:58 pm

As an air cadet, I remember once when my squadron was acting as a ‘guard of honour’ for a local banquet. We lined up in height order and the last two were told to hold the doors open so the mayor could enter. When the officer realised that the last two both happened to be female, he immediately made us swap places with two males. Because having females hold a door open would be horrific.

I have no problem with other people holding doors open for me, but only on the condition that they have no problem with me holding a door open for them. Chivalry is outdated, politeness, however, is not.

Karin // Posted 17 June 2010 at 3:01 pm

Here we go again. Troll hijacks debate, gets loads of attention.

Holly Combe // Posted 17 June 2010 at 3:45 pm

Hi Karin, I do see your point and I realise it’s easy to fall into the trap of paying more attention to the person one disagrees with but I think some of the stuff Jack is bringing up is really interesting and serves in many ways to demonstrate that chivalry really IS a problematic replacement for basic politeness. I don’t think Jack has hijacked the debate, as people are still coming in and giving examples. I want that to continue so I’ll try to be brief here:

Okay, so being able to criticise private individuals is arguably a privilege (for anyone) but if that was your point, Jack, I don’t really understand how it relates to the issue being discussed. I’m also not sure how it “isn’t sexist” for a woman to be discriminated against by a would-be chivalrous man “on a purely sexist patriarchal valuation of womanhood” (you said you didn’t dispute the latter so I’m confused). I also don’t see why we should write off such prejudice on account of it being a micro example of discrimination rather than something really obvious like a group being prevented from “going to college or owning property” because of their genitalia. And, yes, some men do suffer from discrimination because of their appearance and, for the record, no it isn’t any more acceptable than when women suffer it but how men look isn’t generally a factor in their traditional ascribed role in a performance of chivalry so, again, I don’t see the connection for the purposes of this discussion.

Would you consider chivalry a just system if women could demand it from men at whim, then? My point is that criticizing men who are chivalrous – or chivalrous under the “wrong” conditions – is that system as well as precisely the system that we have. Look at the response to my comments!

If I’m reading you correctly, I hardly think the response to your comments is somehow an example of women demanding chivalry from men “at whim”! Yes, there have been people in this thread talking about times when they were ignored or could have done with help but I don’t think anyone has said such assistance is purely the responsibility of men. The implication, IMO, is that making a song and dance out of chivalrous conduct (which already ignores the responsibility to respond politely to offers of help to oneself) wears a little thin if it then becomes apparent that help is only being offered to pretty ladies perceived to be worthy of such attention rather than people who are perhaps most in need.

In terms of the motives of a guy rushing ahead to open the door, I appreciate one wouldn’t necessarily know. It’s actually a question of the manner in which it’s done but, unless he proceeds to immediately slam the door in the face of the man just behind me, I agree this is a good reason to try to give a would-be helper the benefit of the doubt. But, regardless of whether one chooses to make an issue of it at the time, that scenario is a common one and I think we’d be kidding ourselves if we write it off as never anything more than someone trying to be polite.

Jack Leland // Posted 17 June 2010 at 3:59 pm

help is only being offered to pretty ladies perceived to be worthy of such attention rather than those who perhaps most in need.

Alright, but perhaps this is what I was referring to. Looking to the need of those in help is a broad and humane way to look at it. But what if that’s typically how women think? What if men think “save the hotties to improve the gene pool”? You’re arguing that men should adhere to a cosmopolitan standard that women prefer, rather than express their own agency.

JenniferRuth // Posted 17 June 2010 at 4:04 pm

Becky –

I love your comment – it really gets to the heart of the matter. Especially this:

Chivalry can be used as a weapon by denying it to women who don’t meet male notions of femininity.

Brilliant quote from Sojourner Truth too (I always go and read that speech when I’m feeling down because it never fails to fire me back up!)

Jack –

You don’t get to define what somebody else should find “nice” – a lot of men use this defense for street harassment as well as chivalry. I’m not buying it. You seem very concerned with how women SHOULD react to chivalry rather than listening to how they actually feel about it. And of course, it’s you who gets to define how they should feel. Colour me surprised.

Holly Combe // Posted 17 June 2010 at 4:05 pm

@Jack- That’s not typically how women think at all because we aren’t any more naturally virtuous than men. We also don’t univerally prefer a more “cosmopolitan standard”. We all have prejudices that are worth challenging and, though we all have the free choice to think whatever we like, I don’t think using our “agency” should be an excuse not to address those prejudices. It’s a cop-out.

Jack Leland // Posted 17 June 2010 at 4:09 pm

Well, then how do you reconcile that many men may simply have a different view without being sexists or wanting to perform sexism? If the dispute is really about a guy seeking to be nice, but having a narrow view of whom he should help, and a woman who is offended because she thinks all help should be equitably distributed, what does that really have to do with sexism? It seems it’s the woman telling the man that his view of humanity is narrow and should be broader and more egalitarian. How is that not a woman of greater virtue instructing a man on how virtuous he ought to be?

Juliet // Posted 17 June 2010 at 4:13 pm

‘I think some of the stuff Jack is bringing up is really interesting’.

Do you really and truly, Holly?!

I don’t.

I just read (another) brilliant Twisty post, “Hanging chads of Savage Death island bore the shit out of spinster aunt”. As one commenter puts it:

”Other feminist blogs talk to mansplainers, answer all feminism 101’s and go along with all dudely derails. Let chads in other than for entertainment and in seeps the poison”.

She’s got a point!

Holly Combe // Posted 17 June 2010 at 4:19 pm

@JenniferRuth. Exactly. If a standard behaviour is directed at someone/a group, it stands to reason that group should be able to express how it effects them and if the people engaging in the behaviour really mean well, they should listen. There are many situations I can think of where I have privilege. This surely means if the behaviour I am exhibiting in response to that is actually unhelpful, I ought to change it. Or to use an entirely different example and cut out any questions about privilege, let’s say for argument’s sake I made the silly decision to start adhering to a strict social code around men (perhaps all men or perhaps just those I deemed attractive) because I somehow believed that, as a group, it was good for them whether they liked it or not. I think I could reasonably expect the guys for whom it wasn’t doing any favours to tell me so.

Jack Leland // Posted 17 June 2010 at 4:27 pm

let’s say for argument’s sake I made the silly decision to start adhering to a strict social code around men (perhaps all men or perhaps just those I deemed attractive) because I somehow believed that, as a group, it was good for them whether they liked it or not. I think I could reasonably expect the guys for whom it wasn’t doing any favours to tell me so.

You mean like ignoring unattractive men in public? Undesirable guys never confront hot women who ignore them in the street. They’d be accused of street harassment!

Holly Combe // Posted 17 June 2010 at 4:29 pm

Fair point, Juliet but you do seem to have taken what I said a little out of context in not including the reason for my interest (i.e. the demonstration that “chivalry really IS a problematic replacement for basic politeness”). It makes it sound as if I am being gurued by Jack rather than challenging him!

I realise one has to consider the bigger picture and all those taking part when in a discussion space but what about letting stuff through to prove a point?

And, Jack, I can’t say I’ve ever confronted a guy for ignoring me/not being attracted to me. The idea of even contemplating doing such a thing is ludicrous.

Addendum: And “undesirable guys never confront hot women who ignore them in the street”? I know it’s off-topic and I’m not about to turn this into a debate about street harassment but you have got to be kidding?!

Jack Leland // Posted 17 June 2010 at 4:38 pm

Jack, I can’t say I’ve ever confronted a guy for ignoring me/not being attracted to me

Right. But criticizing a man for helping attractive women but not unattractive ones is just that…and if being ignored by men who refuse to act chivalrously toward you is a problem, why isn’t being ignored by hot women when you walk down the street a problem? Either way the other person is implicitly commenting on your appearance as a member of your sex.

Holly Combe // Posted 17 June 2010 at 4:49 pm

Jack, I don’t think anyone here has said it’s a problem if men “fail to act chivalrously”. As you know, the whole discussion is centred on chivalry being a problem that gets in the way of basic good manners. I also think it’s completely derailing to conflate simply not acknowledging someone in the street (or, perhaps, ignoring someone’s attentions) with not receiving help that you genuinely need just because the would-be helper doesn’t find you attractive and I’m not going to publish anything else that attempts to do that.

Juliet // Posted 17 June 2010 at 5:29 pm

Dearest Holly, my point was that it ain’t even worth your valuable vitality challenging the likes of Jack. As I think you’re beginning to realise.

You could add a snarky little comment to each of his diatribes to give us a laugh. Entertainment value!

Josephine // Posted 17 June 2010 at 5:31 pm

Can I just add something?

You don’t deserve a pat on the back for doing one good deed and expecting people to pay attention to it.

It seems the thread of this conversation is moving towards the direction whether we should praise someone for doing something nice. That’s the crux of the problem. Nice people don’t expect to be rewarded for good deeds.

If you’re focusing on whether someone’s a nice guy because they open doors for women, you’re focused on the wrong action.

Kristin // Posted 17 June 2010 at 5:45 pm

Jack Leland, put a sock in it!

Maeve // Posted 17 June 2010 at 5:53 pm

I commented earlier that I wouldn’t want to let a door slam in anyone’s face, regardless of their gender.

I’ve changed my mind. I would ‘really chuckle at letting a door slam in Jack Leland’s face.

Get him outta here!

Holly Combe // Posted 17 June 2010 at 5:58 pm

@Josephine. I agree. I think that’s how we’ve ended up in the mess we’re in. It seems we’re encouraged to use apparent altruism as a way to reinforce and rejoice in privilege. No-one’s perfect and we all do things for reward sometimes (or a lot if we’re honest, probably!). But it seems we’re all being actively trained to miss a straightforward point, in order to stop us from understanding that it is often actually very little trouble to do things to make everyone’s lives a little easier (with the exception of those who see anything that doesn’t reinforce some privilege over others as a terrible affront that constrains and oppresses them).

Denise // Posted 17 June 2010 at 6:04 pm

Some cruel commenters here clearly don’t appreciate Jack’s attempt to share his unique male perspective on shrivel-arse behaviour, not to mention his worthy desire to improve the gene pool!

Jack Leland // Posted 17 June 2010 at 6:43 pm

I would like to sincerely apologize for conflating street harassment and chivalry. But I would reiterate that my position has not been about protecting privilege. Rather, it has been about criticizing the notion that there are not different kinds of privilege that overlap and interact. It really isn’t true that chivalry is all to the benefit of men and only to the harm of women. I certainly agree that no one should be rude to anyone else, but that just isn’t the world we live in.

I only have one further quibble, and that’s this: Nice people don’t expect to be rewarded for good deeds.

This is untrue. Altruism often has a selfish motive behind it (tax write-off, etc.), and usually evolves as a social norm because it is optimal for the group. (Cooperation is more profitable than slash-and-burn competition.)

Just as a personal point, I hold open doors whenever it seems appropriate, and I don’t really use appearance as a factor (other than, gee, she has a cane). I most certainly do not rush in front of women and then expect something in return for holding open a door. But I would do so if she were carrying a package, etc. I’ve also hit elevator floor buttons for someone carrying laundry in his hands. I agree that this might be generally thought of as “nice,” but what holds me back from being nice to everyone is that some people give off negative vibes. Some of those people are women with chips on their shoulders. They are preventing me from being nice, not guarding themselves from sexism. I’m not a sexist.

Shea // Posted 17 June 2010 at 8:35 pm

Ohhhhhhh bad science alert!!!!!!

“What if men think “save the hotties to improve the gene pool”?”

if thats what they are doing then evolution has had it! This is a first class misunderstanding of how evolution works. Seriously, how many ways can a comment be wrong?

I agree with Juliet and the others – can we stop giving so much discussion space to someone who really adds nothing constructive, interesting or valuable to the debate?

Rose // Posted 17 June 2010 at 11:43 pm

My not wanting to be offered a seat based on appearance isn’t out of some virtue – it’s simply if a man gives me a seat based on his summing up of my body, thats not someone I’d feel comfortable sitting next to.

He’s not doing something ‘nice’, he’s trying to ‘pick out a call girl’. He’s a creep.

Some guys are great, moral, considerate, intelligent, ethical lovelies – but much like the female population, some are a nightmare. Chivalry seems to give the nightmares a soap box from which to claim rights over women, (and tell them how to feel about it).

The equality issue really says that people treat each other well because thats what decent people do.

In chivalry, its about weak, feeble, needy, unable sorts being assisted by their physical superiors.

(Ability is totally a question. I once had a shocked response from a friend after I walked through a door held open for me by someone in a wheelchair. They held it comfortably and guestured politely – who the hell was I to tell them that they were ‘unable’).

Holly Combe // Posted 18 June 2010 at 11:06 am

Exactly, Rose. We have all this emphasis put on apparently rude women berating men just trying to be nice but people’s assumptions about disabled people when it comes to helping others often go completely uncritiqued.

Jack, I really am going to keep this brief now because it’s not fair for one commenter to dominate the direction of the discussion like this and there are other threads that deserve more attention anyway:

1) I appreciate the initial apology. However, I’m not sure why you’re now criticising the notion that “there are not different kinds of privilege that overlap and interact”, as nobody made that claim in this thread. In fact, the discussion with Elisabeth further up highlighted it.

2) Nobody said chivalry is “all to the benefit of men and only to the harm of women”. To quote Feminist Avatar, “nobody said that patriarchy doesn’t suck for men too”.

3) No-one has suggested that not expecting to be rewarded for good deeds is something that comes easy and I’m sure the concept that “altruism often has a selfish motive behind it” will not be new to readers. As I said, “no-one’s perfect and we all do things for reward sometimes (or a lot if we’re honest, probably)”.

4) I’m glad you do nice things for people but I’d invite you to consider the idea that some of those people giving off “negative vibes” or “women with chips on their shoulder” might actually be seriously weary of the shitty treatment they’ve already experienced that day. I mentioned this in the original blog post. Just because that’s not your fault (and it goes without saying that no amount of shitty treatment gives anyone the right to bully or abuse) doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give people a bit of leeway if they’re less than gracious and warm towards you. Preventing you from “being nice” may well be the least of their worries.

It’s not all about you, Jack. It’s also not all about me so, much as I could quite happily continue indulging myself in pointing out the flaws in your arguments, I’m not going to comment on this any further.

Jane Buggs // Posted 20 February 2011 at 11:13 pm

Hi, I haven’t read all the comments here and I’m not sure if someone has mentioned this but chivalry is almost certainly not what you’re describing. Chivalry as an ethos originated from just before the 1100s and an example of medieval chivalric behaviour that is used to prove its existance was when Thomas Holland prevented some women from being raped by the english army in Caen in 1419. I realise this is coming across as patronising and probably quite annoying but at this moment I am writing an essay on chivalry and it is killing me to see it used in this way. What chivalry used to be was an elitist code that largely recognised prowess in battle as an achievement, the attitude towards women was a relatively small part of it. What you are discussing probably originates from some form of victorian etiquette? Im not really sure, but it is not chivalry.

Holly Combe // Posted 23 February 2011 at 1:49 am

@Jane Buggs. I appreciate what you’re saying about where chivalry originated as an ethos. However, I don’t see why an awareness of its history should negate from its current usage and the commonly understood meaning that was used in the radio debate above. Plenty of the current definitions of the term reflect both the origins of chivalry and the most familiar aspect relating to “duties to women”. The phrase “knight in shining armour” seems to reflect this too.

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