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SEXIST BEATDOWN: For Thee, Fair Maiden, I Would Punch A Thousand Faces Edition

Chivalry! Expert historians assert that this venerable concept has been with us for many a year, dating as far back as the 1995 Richard Gere picture First Knight. But what does it mean to be chivalrous? Does it mean, for example, carrying things that I personally find too heavy for my frail and womanly arms? (Sure!) Does it mean opening doors for me at any opportunity? (Please do!) Does it mean shielding me from traffic with your manly frame as we walk down the street, that passing cars might not behold a glimpse of my dainty ankle and fall into lustful temptation? (Sometimes! My ankles are pretty hot.) Does it mean… PUNCHING A DUDE RIGHT STRAIGHT IN THE FACE?????

Well, yes, apparently that too. For the men must fight to defend our honor, you see! And yet, we somehow end up not benefiting from that, like, at all! Watch now, as Amanda Hess of The Sexist explains it all for you, as did the fair maiden Clarissa in days of old:

By placing a male intermediary between a misogynist and the intended recipient of his misogyny (a woman), the misogynist can walk away from a chivalry-induced fist-fight patting himself on the back for how much he “respects women.” Meanwhile, some blame for said fist-fight can be conveniently transferred onto the woman for failing to take the punch herself. In order to avoid both the fist-fight and the self-blame, the woman has one line of defense—don’t do whatever you think caused the misogynist to get so angry. Don’t wear a short skirt. Don’t protest when he takes your photo in a strip club. Don’t get angry when he sexually harasses you.

So, basically, chivalry sucks, then. DAMN YOU, Richard Gere! Why did you lie to me?!

And yet, perhaps it is more complex than that, my friends. Perhaps the issues of chivalry, lady-infantilizing, dudely honor and The Patriarchy’s Perpetuation Of Violence Even Among Its Ruling Class can be hashed out, between Amanda Hess and myself, EVEN FURTHER! Join us now, for this mighty joust in the honor of Sexist Beatdown.

marktrailPICTURED: Chivalry on behalf of forest creatures. Look, I never said it wasn’t complicated, all right?

SADY: Why hello, milady! Allow me to open this chat for you! And also, all your many doors!

AMANDA: I demurely accept your chivalric advances. Milord.

SADY: Should you not do so, my honor would be spurned! I think it’s really awesome that you wrote about this, by the way. The idea of women as just sort of cred-building vessels for a dude’s Honor. As if dudes were all Klingons and had to fight over Honor all the time because of their harsh Klingon ways.

AMANDA: Right, and of course, we are meant to be flattered by all the polite attention!

SADY: Right. I mean, people object to “chivalry” all the time on the grounds that it infantilizes women. WHICH IT DOES! The idea that I can’t open a door or pay for dinner or walk on the side of the street that is nearest to traffic (this is actually something someone told me once: It’s the dude’s duty to walk on the outside, to protect a lady from traffic-proximity and, one supposes, mud from horse-drawn carriages spattering her dainty gown) makes it seem like you think I’m a freaking toddler. But it’s also a way for dudes to reduce ladies to chips in the ongoing poker game between dudes, the stakes of which are deciding Who Is The Most Manly.

AMANDA: To me, chivalry is shorthand for “How can we treat women like they’re not full humans in the most seemingly complimentary way possible, so that they can not object to not being treated like humans?”

SADY: “Oh, sweetie, let me pay for dinner. Everyone knows you can’t do math!”

AMANDA: And because chivalry is seen through the lens of Doing Nice Things For Women, the idea is that if we get rid of chivalry then men will treat women poorly. I’ve heard people argue that men punching women in the face is a consequence of the loss of chivalry! Feminism causes men to hit women, essentially. But people who further these awesome theories are actually just leaving out the flip-side of chivalry, the one where Men Act Aggressively Toward One Another In Order to Protect A Lady’s Honor, and that side has also got to go.

SADY: Right. That’s the thing, the thing that was most interesting to me about your piece: The idea that Patriarchy is just some grand competition that dudes put on to show who is the MOST Patriarchal, and since our conception of a Patriarch includes violence and doin’ a bunch of broads, dudes are inherently sort of pitted against each other in an eternal punch-off over the broads they do. Granted, one might have absorbed this lesson by watching, like, “Die Hard!” Or any given action movie! But your piece was kind of revelatory to me in that aspect. And maybe that’s why certain dudes think that the only option, other than Patriarchy, is punching women ALSO. Like our only options are to have a Punching Class and a Non-Punching Class, and if we get rid of the distinction, civilization will devolve into one big ongoing bar fight.

AMANDA: Haha, right. Like: There is a set number of punches that a man must administer in order to get laid, or whatever, and the rules of chivalry dictate that those punches must be delivered to the faces of other men, not women. Once chivalry is dead, men will have no helpful rules informing them who to punch in order to get laid! This will be a very bad development for humanity! Punches for all!

SADY: And then, men who are seen as insufficiently punch-prone — men who are, in effect, like LADIES, or who take the sides of ladies in a manner other than punching some dude cause he was rude to the broad they’re doing — are seen as defectors from the Manliness Wars. AND DEFECTORS GET PUNCHED! I’m really just super-interested in this; that misogynist violence gets aimed at MEN who are seen as insufficiently misogynist. I mean, you can see it all over; in homophobic hate crimes certainly. Because gay dudes are targeted because they’re gay, but the underlying assumption in a lot of gay-hating thought is that this makes them somehow like women. And therefore appropriate to hit.

AMANDA: And hey, sometimes it works into making that guy a misogynist! “I got punched for some lady? The world is sexist against men! I will spend my days fighting feminism in order to avoid getting punched again just because I’m a dude!” But my very favorite anti-feminist argument is that anytime a man treats a woman well for any reason, he’s being chivalrous, and since feminists think that chivalry is bad, we have no obligation to treat women with respect anymore ever. The end!

SADY: Right. That’s the thing. Like, “I helped you move! I held your arm so you could jump over that nasty-ass puddle! I refrained from sexually assaulting you! ALL EXAMPLES OF CHIVALRY. What will you do if it’s gone? Get sexually assaulted by me?????” “Probably!”

AMANDA: haha

SADY: Like, there has to be some social contract in place so that treating women LIKE THEY’RE PEOPLE, with a minimum of empathy and decency, is not only possible if we also treat women like they are all T-Rexes with tiny little arms that can’t reach doors over the length of their large and cumbersome dinosaur bodies. Or a less confusing metaphor! Like, I’d like to think that people are capable of recognizing that ladies are people and can do stuff, and that one ought to treat them well FOR THAT VERY REASON.

AMANDA: OK, but where is the part where I get to punch someone?

SADY: Haha, yeah, that’s the part that puts the lie to my theory. Because Real Person Who Can Do Stuff status has historically been reserved for (certain) dudes, and apparently they’re all punching each other CONSTANTLY. So! Like, I think this is honestly getting into a real and structural point about the Patriarchy, one which makes me feel very ’70s to point out, but: A structure of society based on violent dominance perpetuates violent dominance even betwixt members of its ruling class. The idea is that power — or, hell, personhood — is based on being able to keep other people down by any means necessary, but it’s not like dudes are all working together, because the only way they can understand their right to personhood within this context is by their utilization of violent dominance. So The Man is not only keeping us down, he has to keep The Other Men down as well. So that he can remain The Man.

AMANDA: And there’s only one The Man.

SADY: I heard it was Willem Dafoe? Or Ernest Borgnine, but he might be dead. So.

AMANDA: Time for a Battle Royale! I do love that we have a sport where you win by punching someone until they can’t get up anymore.

SADY: The Ultimate Expression of Manliness! And then we find out that sometimes those dudes actually hurt people in their private lives, and are like, “whoa. But we told you that your value was specifically dependent on your being really good at violence! I don’t understand WHY THIS HAPPENED!” I mean, I was recently looking at murder statistics, and it is a fact that men simply DO kill each other more often. Women are killed less, and kill less, but when someone kills a woman, it is like really super-likely to be someone with whom she has an intimate or sexual relationship. I mean, that to me is How Patriarchy Works: Dudes kill ladies with whom they have private relationships, but then, they also go out and kill each other because they cut each other off in traffic or said something shitty at a barbecue or whatever. My point is, there has to be a way to maintain a social accord with our fellow citizens that is not based on (a) being the best puncher, or (b) being widely regarded as too weak and childlike to punch.

AMANDA: and (c) confining your punching of women behind closed doors because punching a woman in public makes you a sissy also.

SADY: Right. Because that’s chivalry. Noting that “chivalry” itself is descended from ideas about knights and fair ladies formed in a time and place where women literally had NO RIGHTS WHATSOEVER; women were a “protected” class, but the “protection” was from, like, someone other than your husband who had the legal right to beat you for disobeying. “Chivalry” was code for, “stay in the house and I’ll protect you from dudes what might sexually assault and impregnate you, that I might sexually assault and impregnate you with no worries as to whose baby you’re having.” “Also you’re probably like fourteen.”

AMANDA: Yes. It’s just an organizing principle for perpetuating misogyny, not any sort of solution.

SADY: Exactly. But, I mean, what’s the solution? For dudes to defect from the system? That makes them total pussies, bro!

AMANDA: Yeah. I mean … I have yet to solve the cultural problem of guys punching each other. I’m working on it. Right now, the tactic that chivalry takes is to say, “if you perform this certain type of violence, you’re a pussy. Only this other kind of violence makes you not-a-pussy.”

SADY: Right. I don’t know, I think focusing on how Traditional Masculinity Hurts Men is totally fun and I like to do it, but also, they’re going to be in the same situation as every other ally, which is: If you stop hating us, you’re going to get treated like us.

AMANDA: Right. Have fun with that!

SADY: So… stop hating us anyway? I guess?

AMANDA: Stop hating us and then realize that associating with guys who punch guys for being pussies may get you punched, so stop engaging with those types of people. Stop appearing on the “Jersey Shore” program, basically.

SADY: Yeah. We should make a pamphlet! “Have YOU, friend, been invited to appear in a reality TV show program for awful people? Perhaps you should consider your level of exposure to awful people! And not be awful!” That, I think, would solve a lot of problems. Except, like, Snooki’s.

AMANDA: Snooki’s problem is interesting, because, having watched the show, Snookie REALLY WANTS TO GET LAID. But she can’t just punch somebody in order to do it, because she’s a woman! Chivalry is preventing Snooki from getting laid, basically, and it needs to end, for that reason.



  1. alanna wrote:

    Sady and Amanda, thank you for this! This is an interesting topic for me, because I have a friend who gets into a lot of fights to “defend” women. In some cases this is good – like, he interrupted an attempted rape when he was in college. But the downside is that he gets in A LOT of fights because he doesn’t differentiate between “an immediate physical threat” and “some guy at the end of the bar being kind of a jerk.” He is really invested in being The Protector, like, it seems to be at the core of his self-image. In itself, wanting to protect other people is not a bad thing, but it also requires that someone play the role of the (as you point out, infantilzed) protectee.

    Also: the T-Rex metaphor made my day. Actually, my entire week. Quite possibly the month.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Permalink
  2. T. wrote:

    First, let me apologize for not being able to think of a really good, specific example. I know it happens all the time, though! This system of chivalry is very relevant in how we come up with movie plots (and comics, with all their Women in Refrigerators).

    Imagine a movie where a woman is sexually assaulted or beaten or otherwise harmed by the bad guy. She cries and washes herself and hides in her home, struggling to deal with what has happened to her, and she tells her amorous suitor, the good guy, who then has a choice of what to do. HE CAN: (a) comfort the woman the movie says he loves or (b) get revenge.

    Almost always, the good guy chooses Option B. He leaves IMMEDIATELY to go and punch the bad guy or even kill him, leaving his crying lady alone (or maybe some woman is left to take care of her, like her sister or something). This revenge-getting sequence often takes up the whole movie. At the end, the good guy comes home to be reunited with his lady, and he tells her about how he punched or murdered the bad guy. She stops crying, for she is avenged!

    And I’m thinking, damn. If I were harmed by a real-life bad guy, I’d want my boyfriend to stay and help me out. It does me no good to have that guy get punched. I mean, after I got a rape kit done and made a police report and everything, my good guy could be there for me while I try to seek justice through the proper channels. Or if I don’t end up doing that at all, he could support me in my decision that I am not able to press charges.

    I admit that’s a boring as hell movie, but at least it has three characters in it rather than just two (the good guy, the bad guy, and the plot device).

    This also affects woman in real life: I was in an abusive relationship once upon a time, and male friends and lovers always want to “find that guy” if I ever try to have a Serious Conversation with them about it. So I sigh and give up and downplay the circumstances so they’ll remain seated and listen to me talk for a couple minutes instead of buying a gun.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Permalink
  3. Beth Turner wrote:

    Oh my yes! I hate that crap. When I was a teen I started a rule that I’ve kept when it comes to doors. If I get to the door first, I open it for you. If you get to the door you can open it for me. That’s equal.

    I mentioned the “standing close to the traffic” rule to my husband and he looked at me like a confused terrier and said “But that’s the hand you need for your stick and you end up hitting me, also I can’t hold your hand. That’s stupid.”

    Genuine NICE behaviour from a man? My best friend has real trust issues and comfort issues with men. Knowing this my husband willingly absented him from the room/house when she came to visit because he didn’t want to make her uncomfortable. That’s being good to her.

    Okay I’m tired and hungry and rambling a bit but I’ll say I loved the T-rex comparison and that this is just very true (oh and husband did almost get beat up once because I was drunk and spilled water on a guy, Husband just talked his way out of it and got us out of there which was sensible.)

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Permalink
  4. Andy wrote:

    AMANDA: and (c) confining your punching of women behind closed doors because punching a woman in public makes you a sissy also.

    This is nitpicking really, but punching women in private still makes you a sissy. It’s just more likely, because It’s Not A Crime If You Don’t Get Caught. If other dudes find out about your punching ladies it doesn’t matter what side of the door it happened on. Although obviously this has only been the case for a relatively short time, re: old school common law punishments for wives who were scolds.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Permalink
  5. katiemonstrrr wrote:

    Another interesting aspect of Chivalric Punching is essentially modern-day jousting: when Dude #1 punches Dude #2, not to defend the Honor of the Fair Lady/Vagina, but because Dude #1 is trying to win ownership of Dude #2’s Lady/Vagina by showing off his ability to dominate through Feats of Strength. And whoever is deemed to be the victor of this Chivalric Punching match, gets to claim the Lady/Vagina/Trophy for his very own. Thus once again, the Magic of Chivalry treats women as objects and assumes they are incapable of even deciding for themselves who they would rather bone.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Permalink
  6. jfruh wrote:

    YEAH MARK TRAIL MOTHERFUCKING PUNCHING PEOPLE! The thing about Mark Trail is that he never punches to defend ladies, thus proving he’s a true feminist! Oh, wait, there was that storyline where his wife’s friend was getting slapped around by her husband and he laughed it off. Well, uh, I guess it proves that he’s completely adrift from any kind of social interaction known to humans.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Permalink
  7. laura k wrote:

    Right on, again. You did make me think, though, about “chivalry” that is not attached to punching other dudes. For example, my current partner always walks on the street side of me, when we are walking, and it he doesn’t do it to other dudes. But he is also NOT a guy who’s going to punch another guy over me or any other lady. He isn’t someone who’s going to perpetuate the patriarchy through violence, because he is not a violent dude. He’s protective, but not aggressively. And I like it.

    I don’t like it because I like to feel protected or because I don’t think I can take care of myself. Honestly, sometimes it gets annoying and then I tell him to stop being so protective. But when he does little things like walk on the street side of me, or lift heavy things for me, it feels nice. It feels considerate. Does that mean I’m perpetuating the patriarchy through appearing to be weak and not able to handle exhaust?

    I don’t know, maybe. But I’m a feminist, and I like it when my partner walks between me and the cars. And that’s ok.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Permalink
  8. Sycorax wrote:

    My standard line to defenders of Chivalry is:

    Chivalry is the velvet glove worn by the iron fist of Contempt.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Permalink
  9. Michelle wrote:

    /“Chivalry” was code for, “stay in the house and I’ll protect you from dudes what might sexually assault and impregnate you, that I might sexually assault and impregnate you with no worries as to whose baby you’re having.” “Also you’re probably like fourteen.”/

    Oh dear gods yes. Modern example of this:

    I used to have this friend, who I found out after a while was in fact a huge douchebag of many varieties, but anyways. He was always VERY MUCH respect for the laydees. Like, stay away from my drunk female friends, and you know, opening doors for women and giving them his seat and never hit a woman and yada yada yada. It was kind of frustrating as a friend at times but I didn’t really think much of it (probably because I wasn’t as in to feminism at that time).

    The kicker? Guy is emotionally abusive in relationships (won’t let his girlfriends hang out with guy friends unless they are his guy friends, super needy, manipulative, etc.) and very possibly physically abusive. I had stopped hanging out with him by this point but heard several stories from a mutual acquaintance of, for example, him and his girlfriend getting in a fight and him physically keeping her from leaving the room (by holding her down).

    I didn’t realize it before then, but I definitely think that with chivalry there’s this idea that it’s very much not okay for someone else to be disrespectful/violent/etc. but very much okay for you to be, if you know, that woman is your property by means of relationship. ‘Cuz you earned it, with all that hard work of opening doors and sending glowering looks at any guy who came within ten feet of her.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Permalink
  10. Andy, I think that people like to *say* that (that hitting women no matter whether behind closed doors or not proves one is just a giant coward etc.), but very few people actually mean it. Seriously. Having spent some not insignificant time with women who are survivors of abusive relationships, and thus learning of the lack of respect they get, and the lack of disrespect their ex-whatevers get (when other people know about the abuse, and it is documented, and there are police reports and everything), I just can’t really disagree more.
    People will bend themselves into *pretzels* in order to not acknowledge that a woman is an abuse survivor (or alternately that the ex- was abusive to this woman who is just mysteriously, single-handedly, an abuse survivor). Very bendy pretzels. Pretzels with extra twists just for kicks. Like pretzels that string theorists might like.

    Just sayin’.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 12:06 am | Permalink
  11. Andy wrote:

    @The Deviant E: You have a point. When I made the comment I was thinking about the reaction a stranger would have, and my own opinion. I’ve been lucky, no one I know has been abused. (On second thought, I don’t know that. I just don’t know *if* anyone I know has been. It’s not like they wear signs or anything.)

    My bad. Hypotheticals always seem to turn out sunnier than the reality they try to represent.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 1:54 am | Permalink
  12. Caley wrote:

    Amanda and Sady, your ability to combine hilarity and real, somber issues never ceases to amaze (and amuse) me. This is always my go-to site when I’m frustrated by the prevalence of misogyny, and for that I thank you.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 3:04 am | Permalink
  13. Belinda wrote:

    @Laura K

    I think it’s fine. My partner is very protective of me, which doesn’t bother me because there are ways I am protective of him that he accepts with grace and gratitude.

    Who doesn’t want a protective partner? Is that not kind of the point?

    The problem is if a partner (either) protects you in ways that are reactionary, stupid, or unnecessary. And especially, when male partners reject their ladies going in to bat (not literally!) for them because a) it would somehow diminish their masculinity, or more infuriatingly b) don’t actually see how a lady partner could have certain strengths that they might not have!

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 8:19 am | Permalink
  14. RoseG wrote:

    Yes, and you don’t even need to go to a “Die Hard” to get those lessons: like in the slightly traumatizing “Grey’s Anatomy” finale where “being a man” means [SPOILER!] “being driven murderously insane by one’s inability to respect a woman’s decisions about health care/end of life issues.” Women! always wanting to decide what happens to their own bodies…

    @Michellle: My sister’s ex is that guy, the super-performative chivalry guy. Also anger-problem, emotional abuser guy! A guy who is unable to *ever* let a woman open a door or pull out her own chair is a guy with serious control issues–just a huge red flag.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 10:20 am | Permalink
  15. CassieC wrote:

    My understanding is that chivalry is a mob-style social contract: protection in exchange of compliance. That’s why I actively resist acts of chivalry – I know there is a tacit expectation that I have to give up something in exchange: my autonomy. Not going to happen.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 11:55 am | Permalink
  16. tinamou wrote:

    The hard thing, I think, about the ‘What can dudes do to do their (our) part to get us all off this treadmill?’ question isn’t the part where guys who intentionally don’t do the gross chivalry nonsense lose a bit of respect or privilege from other guys. For dudes who attract that kind of misogyny-tinged violence (gay guys, femme guys, and so on), there’s not really a choice there. And for guys who get called ‘pussies’ because they have access to all of that privilege but choose to treat women like people, they can deal with the comparatively small backlash they get from their bros.

    The tricky part, I think, is the way that patriarchy encourages guys to stop listening to less-sexist guys post-haste. That automated disrespect is a built-in feature of The System that makes it hard as hell for less-sexist dudes to influence more sexist dudes. It’s a hard thing to dodge.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Permalink
  17. Casie wrote:

    I literally had a guy justify calling me a “Fucking cunt with a capital ‘C'” because I told him I had to take a dump, on the fact that he’s chivalrous, opens doors for women and such therefore women shouldn’t talk about their bowl movements in front of him.

    Note, calling women “Cunts” somehow fits his chivalrous identity. It’s another example of “if chivalry is dead (or women don’t behave like ladies) there’s nothing stopping me from punching them”. Or in this case, disrespecting them.

    When I explain to my peers why I disapprove of chivalry I explain it like this: If a man wants to hold a door open for me because that’s what he does with all people, regardless of gender, then by all means. I enjoy holding doors open for all people when the time comes. But when people start behaving that way simply because I have a vagina, that’s insulting and awkward. Like when men open a door letting you in first and then run in front of you to open the next door, and the next door, that’s awkward. It’s like, “Dude, I’m ahead of you. Just let me open a freaking door for you or myself. You’re not scoring any points or blow jobs.”

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Permalink
  18. C.L. Minou wrote:

    @Casie: or even when they’re chivalrous to you when you don’t have a vagina. Which happened to me, occasionally. And yeah, it was everything everyone has said.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 10:27 pm | Permalink
  19. roesmoker wrote:

    I heard an interesting thing recently while visiting relatives in the South – that it is considered bad manners to compliment a woman on her engagement, because it’s implying that she’s manipulative and has succeeded in “snagging” a man, whereas it’s okay to say it to a man because he’s considered the lucky one of the two. I think I’m not explaining it that well. And now I’m not sure if this has anything to do with chivalry.

    Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 12:56 am | Permalink
  20. innocentsmith wrote:

    I’m totally with you on the modern problems with what’s called “chivalry” these days, but this: “Chivalry” was code for, “stay in the house and I’ll protect you from dudes what might sexually assault and impregnate you, that I might sexually assault and impregnate you with no worries as to whose baby you’re having.” “Also you’re probably like fourteen.”

    …is kind of making me twitch, as it’s a major oversimplification, at best. That’s what the word has come to mean, maybe, but that’s because it’s gone through a lot of heavy 19th and 20th century filters about what the middle ages were like.

    Chivalry in the medieval sense could mean any number of things, relating to all kinds of social questions from “do what your lord says no questions asked” to “except if a priest tells you otherwise because God trumps all” to “also, maybe you should not beat up that peasant just because you think it’s funny?” to “btw, if you want to get with that lady you’d better be prepared to do a lot of sucking up first, all of it behind her husband’s back”. But to a considerable extent, it was actually a reaction against the Might Makes Right model of morality, which had been around Europe basically forever, but especially under feudalism.

    The whole “protect the ladyfolk” kind of chivalry is sort of a cross between the “protect the weak and helpless” kind of chivalry – which, as you point out, is founded on some really nasty assumptions about femininity, but also should be considered as a revolutionary idea that you shouldn’t, as knights, go around raping and killing anybody you want – and courtly love, which was a crazy, idealized system of behavior for upper class people that was really next door to performance art, but was – and I think this is kind of important – largely formulated and spread by (wealthy, landed, well-connected and educated) women. See: Eleanor of Aquitaine.

    So, not so much “You stay in my castle, my lady, and I’ll defend you” as “Well, crap, he’s locked me up in my own castle. How can I build a power base here?”

    As these ideas twisted and changed over time, they definitely led to all kinds of problems of their own, much like the slut/madonna dichotomy that was being constructed at roughly the same time. But the original chivalry was really sort of counter-patriarchal, at least in terms of the patriarchy in place at the time.


    Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 5:08 am | Permalink
  21. canomia wrote:

    A few years ago one of my best friends was dating a guy who was into le parkour and he had a friend from Zimbabwe he practiced with. We used to have heated discussions about feminism and he was supersurprised we didn’t have chivalry in Sweden, that’s not true of course but it’s certainly not as extreme as what he was used to. He would feel insulted to get flowers and if anybody held the door open for him, and he would feel insulted if he could not do these things for a woman, he would pretty much feel insulted any time women around him didn’t act according to genderroles and especially if he wasn’t able to. At one point we were flirting, he was gorgeous with extremely blue eyes and fantastic body, but it felt silly. At first it was nice because there was no way to miss that he was interested, he made me flowers out of napkins and I had his undivided attention but when he had to carry my shirt that I had taken of because of the sun, and wouldn’t stop nagging about it till I let him it just felt stupid. That time chivalry was what made him not get laid.

    Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Permalink
  22. Anna wrote:

    ‘This also affects woman in real life: I was in an abusive relationship once upon a time, and male friends and lovers always want to “find that guy” if I ever try to have a Serious Conversation with them about it.’

    This was even slightly improved upon when, on hearing out about my extremely fucked up, occasionally-raped history, my ‘I WILL FIND AND KILL THESE PEOPLE, FOR THEY HAVE WRONGED YOU AS A WOMAN!’ boyfriend slightly later proceeded to ignore all safe-words, and rape me! But, you know, it’s not ‘rape-rape’, it’s just a misunderstanding, because HE WAS MY BOYFRIEND AND LOVED ME VERY MUCH. Arsehole.

    Ah, chivalry. Where would I be without thee.

    Monday, May 24, 2010 at 11:54 am | Permalink
  23. canomia wrote:

    @Anna: Oh god that’s an ashole alright!
    But my first reaction, though I didn’t verbalize it, to hearing about a friends past relationship with a man who abused her was that I wanted to find him and beat him up. I didn’t find or beat him though but stayed with her listened to her instead. I do think it is natural to be angry when somebody hurts a loved one, angry feelings often comes with a desire to hurt the reason for that anger, but to give in to that desire isn’t good for anybody.

    Monday, May 24, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Permalink
  24. Agnes wrote:

    Justthe othr day, I had a guy get all huffy that I was in front of him and opened my own door. “See, I was gonna be polite and open the door, but no, you had to go rushing ahead, all feminist”

    Dude, the fact that I walk faster than you and have no reason to assume that we’re going to the same building is hardly something to get all worked up about, and you had already precluded yourself from rational interaction, which is why I totally ignored you.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 9:10 am | Permalink
  25. EM wrote:

    The T-rex thing makes me think of The Far Side panel where the T-rex family at dinner is trying to pass the potatoes.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Permalink
  26. mulierosity wrote:

    Friday, May 28, 2010 at 8:55 pm | Permalink
  27. moxicity wrote:

    I think it’s interesting how the chivalrous stuff like opening doors and carrying stuff up stairs raises your “manly status” in public, whereas doing things like that should be done to *anyone* needing help, not just attractive ladies you wanna bone.

    Like for example old people, who are often legitimately feeble. The country where I live has a lot of lonely old people and it is sometimes heartbreaking to see *no one else* want to lend a hand when they really could use some help. Or, hell, mothers with large baby strollers struggling to get on the goddamn bus! I see, all the time, a whole gang of young guys watching like idiots while a mother wrestles her stroller up the bus stairs (I do help if I’m boarding/on the bus myself).

    In fact, more often than not I see old people helping each other or those aforementioned mothers. So… uh… (where was I going with this? aw hell)

    Anyway! Common courtesy. And not being afraid of being kind to a stranger. Not just hot female strangers. We need more of the regular old common courtesy, methinks.

    Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Permalink
  28. Ellie wrote:

    @8 Sycorax: Oh yes, that’s brilliant.

    @20 InnocentSmith: Agreed, especially with the oversimplification bit.

    “But to a considerable extent, it was actually a reaction against the Might Makes Right model of morality, which had been around Europe basically forever, but especially under feudalism…the original chivalry was really sort of counter-patriarchal, at least in terms of the patriarchy in place at the time.”

    It’s interesting to note that chivalry, being instituted largely by upper-class women, was about as close as medieval women could get to “feminism.” And I think it’s just as interesting to see how quickly that was perverted into something extremely misogynistic (see: Jean de Meun, The Romance of the Rose for a disturbing example).

    Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Feminists don’t like the whole idea of chivalry much, no? I mean, ask this feminist, and I’ll probably tell you that yes, you should give up your seat to that pregnant lady, and yes, if you see me walking toward a door with a lot of heavy books in my hands, I would thank you for holding it open for me. But that’s because I would totally do the same thing for you! That’s called being polite! What feminists are really complaining about with the whole chivalry thing is that it’s something dudes sometimes use to prove how studly they are to other dudes by infantalizing women in the process. For example, dudes sometimes feel the need to beat up other dudes whenever the lady they are with is insulted. Now once again, if we are in company together and someone says something offensive about me, or another lady, or ladies in general, it is perfectly acceptable for you to speak up with a “wow, not cool” sort of comment, because again that’s just being polite. But if your immediate reaction to an insult directed at the woman you are with is something more like, “That’s MY woman you’re talking about!11!11  YOU HAVE IMPUGNED MY GENTLEMANLY HONOR, YOU KNAVE!!!1!!11 HULK RAGE!11!1!!1″ then I am not so cool with that. As Amanda Hess of the Sexist helpfully explains, when a woman is, say, harassed on a street while in the company of her gentleman associate, she may feel anger on her own behalf because someone thought she was a hooker, but she also feels: A secondary source of shame, derived from the possibility that someone “may have thought [her fiance] was with a hooker.” Since the woman’s fiance is responsible for her shame as well, he may have a similarly conflicted reaction: (a) anger at the harassers who devalued her based on her gender, and (b) shame that he is associated with a woman who is considered by other men to be valueless. Chivalry encourages him to take personal offense to this, inciting one of two reactions: (a) engaging in a verbal or physical altercation with the harassers in order to compensate for the woman’s shame with a display of manhood; and/or (b) chastising the woman for bringing shame upon him, i.e. “Don’t embarrass me in front of other men”; “Don’t go out looking like that”; “See what you made me do.” […]

  2. on eclipse* « like a goblin pieman on Wednesday, July 7, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    […] another when the ball’s not in their court.  This is shitty from a feminist perspective, because CHIVALRY, and, Bella makes virtually no active decisions in the entire series.  Even when vampire-types […]