Saturday, January 28, 2012

Where is chivalry? Is chivalry Dead

IS chivalry dead? As my friend from Jungle, Charlene said when I asked this question... "a which lane him did live pon again? Mi nuh see him long time, so him gooda pass away"; she cracks me up every time. Let's start from the beginning.

Many people reading this may be wondering what is chivalry. Don't be embarrassed if you fall into this category. Chivalry is a word not often heard today, and a lot of people really don't know what it means. The Webster's Dictionary defines chivalry as gallantry, courtesy and honour. The noble qualities a knight was said to have, such as courage and a readiness to help the weak or the demonstration of any of these characteristics.

THE jury is still out as to whether chivalry is really six feet under, but one thing is for sure, more and more contemporary men it seems are thinking twice about helping damsels in distress or even picking up the tab after a date.

"Chivalry is dead, and women killed it," said self-labelled 'burned by liberal women too many times' PE teacher Edward Roche. "Men can't win anymore -- you're damned if you open the door for the ├╝ber feminist and damned if you don't open it for the spoiled neo liberal woman who wants to eat her cake and have it too."

Chivalry, according to Women's Media Watch, (WMW) encompasses, "acts of courtesy, consideration and gallantry by a man towards a woman based on gender roles".

This, the group said, includes pulling out her chair when she is seated, opening her door, offering her a seat as well as addressing her in a respectful manner.

A few of the women from the gender advocacy group who recently participated in an informal survey on the matter believed that a number of Jamaican men were chivalrous in their demeanour towards women. Others, however, were not sold.

"Some men appear 'chivalrous' because they feel obligated to impress women to get their interest. So in a way it's habitual but unthinking rather than genuine and thoughtful because of that pesky thing called socialisation. We are creatures of habit; when men stop being 'chivalrous' that may be because they were never genuinely thoughtful and considerate in their actions in the first place," said Georgia Love.
Relationship counsellor Wayne Powell had a different take on the matter. "Chivalry is alive and well among men born in the '60s and before but died with those born in the '70s and beyond," he said.

"Take a simple example; as a young man growing up in the 'old days' you were told that when you are walking on the street with a young lady you always put her on the inside. Observe the young man today as he walks with his date from Devon House to Half-Way-Tree. He will walk on the sidewalk while the young lady is almost on the road competing with the oncoming traffic. He is so engrossed in the conversation with no regard for the safety or protection of his date," he noted to illustrate his point.

Apart from offering protection, men were traditionally taught to assist a female with bearing heavy loads and even paying for the meal after a date. That, however, has changed, with women in some relationships now being expected to help foot the bill after a night out.

While WMW director Hilary Nicholson believes that a financial agreement reached between a man and his spouse could be the cause for this, her work colleague Patricia Donald believes this changing attitude among men could be due to the increasing financial constraints faced by some. Nicholson believes it doesn't have much to do with the demand for gender equality. "Gender equality is not about being the same, but it is about respecting the value of another person and not feeling threatened to show such respect and value. Someone who genuinely believes in gender equality would be quite comfortable with showing special courtesy and respect to another person," she said.

For male development specialist Marlon Moore, the reasons for the non-chivalrous nature of some men differ for the various classes within the society. Having spent most of his time working with inner-city youths, he has found that some working men in underserved communities are usually sought after by multiple women. As a result, such a man might not see the need to try and impress one woman because there is always someone else ready to take her place.

On the other hand, he finds that the man in the middle class usually finds himself dating a woman with a university degree and a job and upon this basis might not object to her helping him to finance any of their outings as a couple.

"I have a sistren who is very well educated, went to America came back with a Masters then came to Jamaica and did a Law degree and she met somebody and she was telling me about it. He drives a very fancy car and they went to lunch and were having a conversation and when he found out exactly how successful she was, he paid a quarter of the bill and she had to pay the rest," he shared.
Some argue too that sexism has replaced chivalry and so instead of feeling impressed by a man's deeds, some women instead feel offended. Even benevolent 'sexism' like opening the door for a woman might come across as being offensive.

"When the need to affirm his own importance supersedes a man's desire to make a woman feel valued and appreciated, it's sexism, not genuine chivalry. So in that way chivalry, when it's not genuine, is closely connected to sexism, which is why men need to understand why a woman may not be thrilled at a seemingly chivalrous act," noted Love.

Other sexist behaviour agreed upon by the group included using derogatory slangs to refer to sexual activities with a woman, making unsolicited comments about a woman's body, hiring a female based on her looks and not skills, and assuming there are things that a woman can and will do because it is natural for her, such as cleaning and cooking.

Powell differentiates between the two acts through this illustration: "To get up and give a lady your seat in a bus is an act of chivalry; to insist that she should not drive the bus is being sexist," he said. "The chivalrous man would regard the woman as the 'weaker sex' and would want to treat her with care and dignity whereas the sexist man would see her as the 'inferior sex' and treat her with much disdain and disrespect."
Love believes chivalry is an asset to any man and should therefore be encouraged.
"If you ask many women, they are looking for a caring, respectful and genuine human being," she said.

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