Chivalry isn't black and white anymore.

I was on Twitter yesterday doing what I normally do when Paul Brunson, the Modern Day Matchmaker, posted a question about chivalry. He cited a Yahoo/Maxim survey which stated that 55% of the women that participated didn’t believe chivalry was important. He asked what people thought and you can imagine what it turned into from there. The discussion ranged from Caribbean and African men being more chivalrous to Black men letting doors swing and hit ugly women. I looked up the definition of chivalry for deep-voiced giggles on dictionary.com and found the following:

–noun, plural -ries for 6.

  1. the sum of the ideal qualifications of a knight, including courtesy, generosity, valor, and dexterity in arms.
  2. the rules and customs of medieval knighthood.
  3. the medieval system or institution of knighthood.
  4. a group of knights.

It’s interesting how the definition of a word changes over time. Chivalry is no exception. No where in there did it say anything about knights slaying dragons and walking across the mote before a dinner of boar meat and foot wine, or kneeling over so that a woman can step onto their back and up onto the horse. You also didn’t see anything about holding or opening doors.The only definition that seemed applicable today was the first one, which mentioned courtesy and generosity; 2 words that aren’t exclusive to either gender.

I started thinking about chivalry in the context of my own life. Thoughts of how my parents raised me linearly ran through my mind. Both my mother and my father taught me a great deal about how to treat women. Sh*t, they taught me a great deal about how to treat people in general. The back of my head still has an imprint from letting that door hit that woman with the shopping bags because I was trying to get to the video game section of some entertainment store.

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I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t spend a significant amount of time talking to my father specifically about women. He was old school. So you can imagine the wavy advice he gave me. Dad never spoke specifically of chivalry. Honestly, I learned a lot more from him about how to avoid getting a pot of boiling water thrown on me while I was sleeping and why condoms will increase my income. But with the tidbits on gamesmanship and avoidance all things scorching, including STDs, he taught me about respect and generosity without being taken advantage of by someone.

Regardless, I’d say I’ve turned out well coming from my 2-parent home, a catholic middle school, and a military high school. Even with that foundation, there are some things that I didn’t learn until later in life when it came to the treatment of women. For example, it wasn’t until about a year ago that I learned a man is supposed to walk on the outside. My thought was that if I walked on the inside, I’d keep her out of the way of people walking in the opposite direction. It was better for me to get bumped and nudged than her, the one I was supposed to be protecting.

It was less than a year ago that I learned I’m supposed to be the bodyguard of a group of women I’m with regardless of if other men are there and how well I know any of the parties. It didn’t seem like a big deal until I got dropped off by a car full of women in the middle of a Harlem street while intoxicated because I didn’t step in to stop a developing fight. I was more concerned with flying Heineken bottles and how I’d explain court appearances to my boss if I got involved with something that didn’t concern me. Little did I wonder what would happen if one of the women accidentally got hit. Fortunately that wasn’t the case. That would have been an awful look. I know.

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My dad didn’t teach me how to handle these examples specifically. I learned from talking to people about why that girl used to get so irritated with me while we were walking, and why those chicks were so furious about me going outside rather than getting caught up in a potentially violent situation. More simply put, both men and women schooled me. I have no problem admitting it.

The issue with some of these discussions echoes that of posts I’ve written previously. Many of you know how I feel about the “It’s a man’s job” and “Men should know” arguments. If you don’t, you can read here, here, or here. I mention this because I sent a message out on Twitter saying women should tell men the deal when it comes to chivalry if it’s important to them.

Some folks didn’t agree as expected. One person chimed in that teaching these lessons was the responsibility of fathers, brothers, uncles, and so on. I cosigned, but wasn’t going to open the can of worms on male absenteeism. With that so often being the case though, why shouldn’t a woman raise her children to understand chivalry from the perspective of someone that should expect it? If a woman values these little deeds or wants to return to the days of yore, what’s wrong with telling a man the type of treatment she expects upfront? If he chooses to walk, then let him take his sword elsewhere. He wasn’t the right knight for you anyway…unless you were just looking to be pleasurably impaled.

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Chivalry isn’t dead. I just don’t think we truly know what it is anymore. The state of Accountability, on the other hand, has suffered more casualties than I’d care to disclose. I don’t think I need any stats to back that up.

What do you think overall? What are your expectations when it comes to chivalry? Is it a cultural thing? Are men really running around letting doors hit chicks? Is that even about chivalry? Also, is there a version of chivalry that describes what is supposed to be expected of women? I’m curious.

Carrying Random Grocery Bags Like It’s My Job,