Monday, March 05, 2007

Is Chivalry Dead?

In another forum, there is a debate doing on about chivalry. The question is "Whatever happened to chivalry?" which presupposes it's death.

When I was a little girl, I used to bite my nails. One day, as I was gnawing away, my grandmother (who had grown tired of simply telling me to stop) said "Honey, I'm going to tell you a story:

One day, when you're all grown up, your prince will come. He will ride by on a fine white horse; handsome, strong, proud. He will see you and be smitten by you. He'll stop, leap off his horse, come up to you and fall on one knee..." (here my grandmother dramatically fell to one knee and took my hand in hers). "He'll say 'YOU are the one for me', and then he'll go to kiss your hand, take one look at those nails, and say 'Uh... never mind!' and ride away."

I continued to bite my nails with the secure knowledge that no such man existed. And, I liked biting my nails.

Chivalry originated in the medieval times, and was encourage by royalty because it instilled a code of ethics in potentially unruly courtiers and fellow royalty. Chivalry forced strict accountability to others and encouraged loyalty to the reigning powers. Simply put, it made sense and created civilization where little existed before.

Today, chivalry has evolved into what we call "manners". And, just as it was in the middle ages, those who practice good manners have a better chance at getting what they want, than those who choose to behave rudely.

Manners still belong in our society. Because women are now treated equally, we have equal responsibilities when it comes to societal manners. Although I do not expect men to open doors for me, I thank them when they do because that is polite on MY part. When I get out of a car, I wait a discreet amount of time to see if the man will open it for me. If he does, I thank him. If he doesn't, I do not take offense because this has become a "gray area" in our society and it is not the fault of the man if he does not participate in this archaic, but sweet, custom.

If I am walking down the street, I do not expect the man to stop me before I get to a puddle and, with a flourish, place his coat over the puddle so that I don't have to soil my dainty feet. I would also think he was daft if he wanted to drink champagne out of my slipper. Goodness knows, I don't want to drink anything from ANYone's footwear and unless you have a foot fetish, there is no need to.

Some "chivalrous" behaviors are still welcome, and are still in practice. Sending flowers, writing love notes and poems, and even serenades are wonderfully romantic and sweet. However, I believe that women should do the same: Why should the man do all the work?

And EVERYone should observe common courtesies. "Please" and "thank you" are never out of style. And if you're a woman and you see a man struggling with bags of groceries, it's time for YOU to open the door for HIM.

Chivalry is not dead, and we would be unwise to begin the eulogies just yet. Instead, we need to continue to encourage the little niceties that we do for each other: Simple thank-yous go a long way.

A man once told me that he opened the door for a woman who turned around and reamed him out for being "sexist". As my grandmother would have said, the woman had "poor breeding". Never the less, the man told me that he will still continue to open doors for others. THAT is the essence of true chivalry.


Ed Abbey said...

Chivalry still lives in my life with the exception of throwing my jacket on the puddle. I expect the women in my life to walk around as I do.

When backpacking, I will carry their packs across the streams and give them a hand to balance on. I still won't toss my clothing in the stream for their benefit.

Ellen said...

No doubt the lines have blurred a lot between chivalry and manners as our socities grow in size. What once was expected as excepted behavior is now a little old fashioned (such as the coat over a puddle thing). However, the magic words (please and thank you) shows that you have had good breeding and appreciate common decency... be it from a man to a woman, or vice versa. Manners, in my opinion, should never go out of style. They are a basic element that keeps society civilized.

Whenever anyone holds a door open for me, I think to myself: " Who said chivalry is dead?" It's out there.... just a little harder to find than it used to be.

Great post, Saur. I'm a real stickler about manners, as were my parents, and you said it all so well.

The Lazy Iguana said...

what I like is when I open a car door for some chick and then she gets in and.....sits there.

check to see if the drivers door is unlocked? Hell no. It is funnier to watch me fumble with keys while it is raining.

Of course my current vehicle unlocks all the doors - but other cars I have had did not have this feature.

but I kind of like standing in the rain messing with keys. So it all works out. Sometimes.

Sometimes I forget to hold doors. But I will intentionally forget sometimes. Like when there are large crowds, or when a chick is not carrying something. When there are large crowds you can get stuck being the door man. That sucks.

Bird Spot said...

I had to laugh when I read this. My grandmother used to get on me for biting my nails as a girl too.

I did a blog post on it. You can read it here:

Oh, and regarding manners? The same grandmother used to teach us all about manners. One time my surly, adolescent brother stood up when one of my friends walked into the room. My grandmother was so proud of him as standing up when a lady walks into the room is a real gentlemanly gesture. My brother replied, "Oh, I was just getting up to go to the bathroom."
Nice to know about you.

Mr. Fabulous said...

I guess chivalry is another word for it. I always thought of it as just common courtesy. I am very big on common courtesy.

Jenn said...

Did men really used to put their coats over puddles? I always thought that was just in the cartoons.

Senor Caiman said...


I do everything in my power to make a woman feel special. I've also had sex on every first date. Chivalry is not dead and its worked every time.

Hans said...

How do you handle it when your heading out a door that opens out and the person is coming in? Particularly if it’s a heavy door. Do you dive out the door, spin and hold it open or do you push the door open and stand back and try to hold it open from the awkward flat angle that you have to create to allow them room to pass by? I’m a big man 6’4” and 250+ lbs so the flurry of having me blast out the door and spin could be a little frightening. So I usually find myself pinned flat to a wall, sweat beading on my forehead and arm shaking as I try to keep the door from slamming in some ladies face.

Debbie said...

I like to have a man open a door for me and I always thank him with gusto when he does. I always try to make sure I help the elderly with doors and packages and any who need help.

Example is how our children learn and we have to make sure we show and teach them how to have those "manners".

My Hubby took lessons as a boy and is very well mannered. I have had to learn to slow down and give him the chance to open the door, and to help me into the car! He does this for his daughters and they love the extra attention he gives them!

Chivalry is not dead just needs to be shown more often and taught a lot more!

Saur♥Kraut said...

Debbie, very true. Your husband always sounds like such a great catch!

Hans, :-D An excellent question. Myself, I end up holding it open and flattening myself against it. No doubt, there are awkward "door opening moments".

Senor, ahhhh, ever the classy guy. ;o)

Jenn, from what I've read, there was a particular incident where a man of the nobility did so, and it made history. I've read that others did it, as well.

Mr. Fabulous, I would agree with you.

Bird Spot, I will definately check out your story! Thanks for dropping by. A funny story about your brother, BTW. It sounds like something one of MY brothers might have pulled when they were kids. :-P

Lazy Iguana, you'd be amazed how many men I hear gripe about this! I can't imagine being a woman and sitting there passively, waiting for the guy to use his keys to get in! Especially when it's raining!

Ellen, thank you! Coming from a caterer that has to know more about manners than most people, I consider it a true compliment.

Ed, goodness! That's wonderfully chivalrous, but if I were hiking with you, I would be able to cross a stream on my own and carry my own backpack. I suppose that much would depend on how far you were trekking. It doesn't do to have one person get worn out from shouldering the other person's burdens, but on a short hike it wouldn't make much of a difference.

eddo said...

I think many men have been snubbed or treated rudely by women when they have tried to be chivalrous. It's happened to me on more than one occasion, but I still try to be a gentleman and I remind myself that if someone doesn't appreciate the door being held open for them then they have issues that are far beyond my understanding. I just smile and move on to the next woman and hold the door for her.

I once even started to write a poem on the subject, I remember the first line:

I got up so fast
I bumped my head
But it was too late
The woman already muttered,
"I guess Chivalry's dead."

Great post Saur, I've missed you, but I'm back with a vengeance! :)

Saur♥Kraut said...

Eddo, I have missed you. I'm so sorry I can't get over to your wonderful blog more than I do. It's always a treat to read, and I'm so happy you popped over. *hugz*

Hans said...

One thing that nobody has mentioned is standing when a woman enters the room or returns to the table. Its not as much about manners or courtesy but it makes the person feel special and important. Isn't that the heart of chivalry?