Chivalry is not dead!

Posted by JSYL on Wednesday, August 09, 2006 in
....but it is ageing...along with the rest of the population.

The other day, I left work with as usual, a million things to carry in both hands. I walked towards the door wondering if *the force* will help me telepathically open it, when I saw a correspondent, who shall remain nameless, walking in said door. We passed each other and he turned quickly upon seeing me, and held the door open for me.

A little context: I've worked at Reuters for 6 months, and this particular man still scares the crap out of me. The most he's ever said to me is a muttered 'thanks' when I drop mail on his desk and run back to mine (its all i can do not to scream like kids in jurassic park when they turn around and the T-Rex is right behind them). Its nothing specific, maybe just the aura of "I'm busy and important and probably linked to some royal bloodline overseas" he has around him...the black turtlenecks he wears...the hassled expression constantly carved on his face or the fact that his eyes never leave the computer screen while he's at his desk. No its definitely the non-talking aspect. However, I digress. The point is, the act of ordinary kindness surprised me.

When waiting for the lift, I came across a group of middle-aged white men in conversation, standing roughly in a diagonal line in front of said lift. When it came, I waited for them to enter first, since they'd been there first, were in a group and besides, I didn't expect that they'd noticed I was there anyway. Every single one gestured with their hand in a bellboy/chauffer/concierge manner towards the lift. I felt like I was in a Madonna video clip with the little cowboy manslaves waiting for her to strut past....in a very twisted work environment way. Hmm. Bad. Images. Disregard that last comparison. Perhaps more like Marylin Monroe in a "diamonds are a girls best friend" cabaret style, with the tuxedo men waiting on either side of a huge side of stairs for her to walk past...hm much more appropriate, with 20s class in tact. Again I digress.

In a reaction to both I responded, "oh/aww...THANK you"...such was the shock/awe factor. Its not that I'm falling over myself to praise these people. Far from it. I feel that to qualify the pushy feminist stereotype some may feel I now aspire to, this situation would illustrate my opinion on chivalry/common courtesy and how it reconciles with gender equality or feminist theory.

Now, its common for many to think "you want to be equal, but you still want men to put you on a pedestal! Hypocrite lesbians!" (okay maybe not the last part but you get the gist). But to that I say this: women and men will never really be equal, mainly because of that lovely part of the female anatomy starting with 'u' ending in 's' and containing 'teru'. Lol. Women are physically weaker than men, and that cannot, and will not change, without unhealthy doses of steroids and male hormones. To compensate for this inequality, small chivalrous acts in passing arguably do more to promote gender equality than if the above men had done nothing and treated me as they would a man of their age and status. They do this by recognising the inequality, and in slightly overcompensating, showing greater respect for women as fellow human beings, not as a weaker gender, and bring the two on a more equal level of status.

Some women don't like doors or chairs held open for them because they feel its belittling and demeaning in the vein of "What, I'm too weak to open a door now?" And to an extent, I also agree with that perspective. It would be ridiculous for a guy to stumble over himself to do perfunctory every day gestures in an attempt to lower himself to a level of, frankly, a slave. It puts him in too unrealistic a position/status relative to the woman and ends up appearing forced fake, or even worse, patronising. (Further, if a guy did that, you'd wonder what his motives were because no one, man or woman, can lower themselves that much forever.)

Alternatively, if you were a true feminist, you may not even read gender bias into those acts. You'd see them merely as ordinary acts of human kindness and nothing more. In that sense I'd be expected to do the same for those men had they been holding bags in both hands.

This is not to say that we shouldn't go on supporting efforts to come as close as possible to equality. But men should simply find a balance between 'overdoing' the kindnesses, to the extent that it appears they want to 'save' the damsel in distress, and not doing them at all. For whatever reason- to promote gender equality, to help out when a weakness does present itself, or just to do something nice for a fellow human being- I say go on doing it. Don't leave it to middle-elderly-aged white men in the office. Young adult Asian males should give it a try too once in a while.



I find this very interesting. I was at a taekwon do camp for uni students in RMIT, and I met this Tasmanian girl, who told me that she finds young Asian men to be very polite and chivalrous, far more so than any other race. She pointed out that much earlier that day she noticed that I opened the door and said "after you" to both boys and girls, and she said that she has only ever seen Asian males do that. Now I'm not saying I am the most chivalrous person, but letting someone in before you, regardless boy or girl is not chivalrous, it is merely common courtesy that everyone should learn.

This girl went so far as to dissing white guys and praising Asian guys, that for the first time in my life, I was dissing Asian guys and protecting white guys. It was the strangest feeling telling a white girl that not all Asian guys are 'gentlemanly, loyal and polite' and that not all White guys are 'rude, cheating, arrogant beer guzzling airheads.' lol... never thought I'd see the day, when I'd have to protect white guys over Asian guys. If only you were there to witness it.

I'm very proud of you =) =p And yeah it is a common courtesy, one that more people should extend to others, particularly when holding heavy bags haha...

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