Apparently, chivalry is dead. Or at least that’s what William Hanson, an ‘etiquette expert’ tells us in a recent Mail Online article. As far as I was concerned, etiquette focused on not talking with your mouth full or not barging into someone when rushing for your train – I wasn’t aware that chivalrous acts were reserved for men and I certainly wasn’t aware that there was a gender divide where manners were concerned? But Hanson seems to think otherwise. He acknowledges that chivalry can be ‘dated back to the mid-twelfth century’ but refuses to recognise that things might have changed a bit since then – seeing as we’re no longer ‘considered an object that can be bought and sold’, and with laws relating to rape so ridiculous back then with most cases being ‘thrown out of court because, according to medieval biology, a woman had to secrete a seed to conceive and this only happened if she was sexually satisfied’. It seems foolish to apply any of these laws, beliefs and gendered traditions to a 21st century lifestyle. If these are the kinds of laws and ideals that were followed in the twelfth century, can it not be deduced that society has somewhat developed since then? The fact that Hanson is trying to foist chivalry upon women further endorses acts of sexism when considering this old-age view.
In spite of what people think, feminists don’t hate men. Hanson seems to think that the driving force behind the demise of chivalry is that ‘women don’t want the company of men’… Ha – wrong! I’m a feminist and a lesbian – so by Hanson’s standards I shouldn’t want any contact with men (sexual or otherwise) however, this is not the case. Feminism isn’t about not ‘wanting the company of men’, it’s about equality. So many men and the Women Against Feminism group seem to think that feminists are a big bunch of man-hating women, but that’s not the case. We implore men to act as our allies, not as our enemies. But that’s so hard to do when articles like Hanson’s are given the go ahead. The premise of the article is chivalry and behaving in a ‘gentlemanly’ manner, but the language used seems to disavow its main purpose. Hanson demeans and insults women throughout by frequently referring to us as ‘girls’, as well as ‘loud-mouthed wimmin’ – not very chivalrous, is it?
Dissatisfaction at the death of supposed chivalry isn’t the drive behind this article, sexism is. Stating ‘but listen, girls’ doesn’t demonstrate basic, human respect, especially when followed by patronising statements such as ‘men really aren’t holding doors open for you because we think you’ll break into a sweat if we let you muster the energy to do it yourselves’. Mansplaining his right to open a door for women if he wants to is all very well, but infantilizing us into submission won’t work – I mean, what does he think happens if two women approach the same door? Do we faff about, dithering until one woman endeavours to open the door with her chin to avoid ‘chipping an over-adorned nail’? No, we fucking open the door with our hands. It seems that Hanson’s main drive for this article is men opening doors for women, in my experience this has nothing to do with chivalry but is used as a disguise for sexism – men tend to open doors or let women go first so that they can look at their behinds. The way I see it, general manners and politeness need to be the reason for opening doors or pulling out someone’s chair, not sexist reasons that rely on age-old male/female roles.
Further to this, Hanson offers his advice to men and states that they should ‘do it all’ when it comes to chivalry and continues to ask that ‘if she doesn’t like it, is she really worth dating?’ So basically, he encourages the male privileged lifestyle to foist traditional male dominance upon women, and if said woman resists this or protests, then she isn’t ‘worth dating’ – thus silencing her right to speak up and continuing to demean her worth as a woman. Hanson even goes as far as to say that if women don’t like this dominant male behaviour, then we need to ‘get over [our] selves’ – charming. Well Hanson, I think that you need to get over yourself… chivalry is dying a well overdue death and I, for one, am glad. Rather than one gender trying to use their privileged status to claim manners and politeness as theirs, maybe it can manifest into something that can be enjoyed by both? And if Hanson and certain others won’t even entertain this idea, then I suggest that they don’t let the door hit them on their way out.