Every now and then (or, if you’re a woman with opinions, every 5 minutes) men publicly and loudly start to lament the decline in chivalry. They take to Twitter, righteous in their fury, to declare ‘Can’t even hold a door open for women any more. Bloody feminazis! #ChivalryIsDead.’
These men do have a point. Chivalry IS dead. But not because men can’t hold doors open for women (although to be honest, I’ve never seen a feminist have a meltdown because a man was polite to her). Chivalry is dead because chivalry was a Medieval and Early Modern concept that had more to do with jousting than it did with women.
In fact, if you look through the Ten Commandments of Chivalry (yes, they are a thing–although admittedly they were written in the 19th century long after the knights of the Middle Ages), there is absolutely no mention of being nice to women. There is no ‘Thou Shalt Pay for a Woman on the First Date’. No ‘Thou Shalt Dedicate Thine Life to Holding Doors Open for Womenfolk’. There’s not even a ‘Thou Shalt Treat Women with Basic Respect.’
“Fictional men have always been better at respecting women than real men.”
There are, however, two commandments about loving and protecting the Church, two about waging war, and three about generally being nice and polite.
In the Middle Ages, the chivalric code was less well-defined, but there were a few traits and behaviours that well-to-do men tried to emulate. These included being really good at jousting (and war in general), and being prepared to kill Muslims for the Church. Again, stuff about being generally polite and gentlemanly came up, but in general chivalrous men were more concerned with fighting than women.
In fact, it’s only when you start to look at literature related to chivalry and knighthood that the rules about loving and protecting women start to come up. The idea that chivalrous knights should be gentle, loving, and kind towards women comes mainly from stories about Sir Lancelot and his love for Queen Guinevere. This makes sense: after all, fictional men have always been better at respecting women than real men.
“It’s almost as if these men don’t actually care about women at all.”
But even in literature, chivalry isn’t about pulling out chairs or holding doors open or carrying heavy things for women. Chivalry is about respecting the woman you love–and all her female friends as well. And yet I never see these Twitter trolls telling off rapists for disrespecting the chivalrous code. I never see them condemning ‘locker room talk’ as unchivalrous. None of these so-called defenders of chivalry ever seem concerned about the rampant misogyny in our society. They only seem to care about the ‘death of chivalry’ when a woman asks them to call her by her name, rather than ‘oi darling.’
It’s almost as if these men don’t actually care about women at all. Who would have guessed?
So next time a man bemoans that chivalry is dead, scream ‘NO IT ISN’T’ and stab him with a javelin.*
*Please don’t actually stab men with javelins. Unless they like, really deserve it.