An interesting conversation has been taking place on Dalrock’s blog recently on the topic of chivalry, which sex provides more selfless help, and what words should be used to highlight the difference in help between men and women. Chivalry has been the word proposed and the word used but for a variety of reasons I have been left wondering if this is an appropriate choice.
What Chivalry Was Supposed to Mean
The code of chivalry was never meant to apply to the male population at large but rather a small subset who were the tough warriors of their day. These warrior ethos did not mean male servitude to women but called for a brotherhood between knights, courage during times that conjure up great fear, and dedication to king and cause. Part of the code did address taking care of the widow and orphan and being courteous to women but this was hardly the end all be all of this knightly code of honor. And back then, just as today, not all women were ladies; this was a title reserved for those of a certain social class not women who behave with a healthy heaping of decorum and propriety as the term is used today.
Taken in it’s proper context, chivalry is not dead today. Our society still has a small minority of men who feel called to serve in the military, a reality that is well illustrated when one reads the creeds and military ethos of today. Yet it’s not just on paper we see this modern day chivalry alive and thriving but in the way the media and justice system may treat military members who misbehave. In military towns it’s not uncommon for news reports to say that a soldier/sailor/marine/coastie/airman committed the crime as opposed to using man or woman. If the accused service member happened to be in an elite branch the media will eat this up much as they did in 2002 when the now infamous ‘Fort Bragg Wife Murders’ were committed by men who happened to be part of Special Forces and Delta.
On my blog and The Spearhead I’ve said several times that should my family’s home need to be defended from a criminal that legally speaking it would be best that I, not my husband, pull that trigger. This isn’t because I am a woman but because my husband is a trained soldier and I am not. A civilian man would make out better legally in such a case than my husband or his military peers would, just as would happen if it the case was their committing an assault. The argument would likely be made that the Special Forces soldier, well trained in combatives and other warrior skills, has the potential to be deadlier with his bare hands alone and should have had enough discipline to control himself.
To this day society expects and hopes that their best trained warriors are disciplined not only in the artifices of war but in self control as well and this is not without good reason. Nobody wants strength to be used inappropriately for the danger that comes about when tough meets evil. In short form: chivalry is the same as it always has been. Nothing has changed and it’s certainly not dead, just hijacked and twisted quite a bit.
Combating the Chivalry Perversion
If the idea of chivalry is kept in its proper usage–the honor code of a society’s meanest toughest warriors– the female entitlement that has been bred with the perversion of the word is all the more perplexing. The men who were required to give up their seats on the Titanic were not knights of that day. They weren’t men who were operating under an honor code they have willingly submitted themselves and shouldn’t have been treated as such. The code of chivalry never required that all men open doors, buy flowers, pay for dates, and bend over backwards for all women. To get from military ethos to male servitude to women was a wild crazy leap. Examining the modern day perversion of the chivalric concept blows out of the water the harmful and demeaning idea that all men must sacrifice themselves to the degree that a warrior did/does (to death if need be) in order to be Real Men. There has always been just a small percentage of men who felt “called” to this lifestyle; those who aren’t now and never were bad men or masculinity rejects. Society needs the poet, the engineer, and the brainy scientist and all other sorts of men just as much as it needs its warriors. How did we get from a code of ethics designed for a warrior class to male subservience towards women as a group and a limiting myopic view of how this ideal fits into “real” masculinity as we have today? It’s mighty odd…
In pointing this out those who espouse and expect and demand male disposability and deference to all women the reality of this perversion and the sickness of what they preach to men is out in the light of day. They are demanding something entirely different than what chivalry was instituted to be and this raises many perplexing questions, ones that don’t even require the feminist/equality angle. How do they justify their position? What makes women so special and more worthy of protection than their brother human beings? And if feeling especially brazen it could be asked what happened to the brotherhood aspect of the code. If we need to “bring back chivalry” surely you guys deserve “wings and beer night with the boys” or hunting trips or something.
Perhaps our opponents will not be so rational as to understand where their entitlement mindset falls apart but any rational individual who is listening/reading might be led to ask questions about this important topic. And even if they don’t, looking at chivalry in it’s proper context may provide men with the reality that they do not need to fulfill the obligations demanded of them to be Real Men. They may better appreciate that they can be successful men and fully masculine without the need to demean themselves or put themselves in positions they do no wish to be in. They might be able to not just ask why society has different expectations for men than women but put into practice what they, individually, believe they should do.
The connotations, misunderstanding, and baggage that come with the word are immense and it fails to drive home the most important point of the good deeds men graciously and freely give to women and others they help. It also keeps alive the perverted expectations that have been placed on the shoulders of men and may even keep men chained to said expectations. Chivalry today implies that men “owe” this service to women whereas a term like “selfless service” describes precisely what is being offered: men giving a gift of themselves that wasn’t “owed” but given by their own choice. To not highlight this reality and the beauty in the act does an immense disservice to men. Separating help that is given by choice versus that given by societal expectation would go a long way in highlighting just which sex gives more benevolently and freely to strangers than the other. “What a selfless giving man! He helped me fix my lawn mower when he didn’t have to!” should be how we think of what men give, not “grrrr why didn’t he carry my bags! Loser!” Controlling the language may be one way to change the minds at least of a few.