If I were to read this title in front of a room full of feminists, I might get more boos than a polygamist.
Chivalry is a term often debated and sometimes hated with a meaning no one seems to agree upon, kind of like the N-word. Historically, chivalry originated between the 11th and 15th centuries as a knight’s moral code to protect those who couldn’t protect themselves (children, elders and widows). The definition has since dropped its original intent and simply means the respect and honor of women. However, some view chivalry as an insult to women. When you look at its original definition coupled with its current meaning, it can seem that it’s indeed suggesting women are helpless and dependent on men. And that’s where the problem lies. Chivalry was originally intended for babies and kids, old people, and women whose husbands had died. During this time period, husbands were the sole providers for their families and if they perished, assistance was needed. People are mixing one part of an old definition with another part of the current one. We know women are capable of the same survival skills as men. Chivalry isn’t about male dominance.
There is something deep-rooted about the state of men and women today. Only pain would allow us to disrespect and hate the very thing we want. In the 21st century, chivalry should just mean honoring the opposite sex. In relationships, chivalry shows a mutual respect for your partner. In everyday life, chivalry strengthens male/females relations. Whether or not you believe in gender roles, they shouldn’t shape social norms around courteous behaviors. Holding doors open in 2012 is more about courtesy and less about helping the defenseless. Courteous behavior isn’t limited to men. Chivalry is for ladies, too.
Here are six easy ways a lady can be chivalrous:
- After we open your car door and let you in, lean over and push the driver’s side door open. It’s a literal thank you, a reciprocating gesture that shows equal respect.
- If you’re on the driver’s side and we pump your gas, wait until we walk around to the passenger’s side of the car before you start the engine so the exhaust fumes don’t get all over us.
- When it’s cold and your man offers you his jacket, offer him your scarf…or a hug to keep him warm.
- If your man has been an amazing partner, take him out on a date and attempt to pay.
- If he cooked the meal, do the dishes.
- If a stranger is struggling for the door, prop it open.
Chivalry is a lifestyle that says, ‘I understand your value and acknowledge your worth.’ Chivalry isn’t for applause, but when someone displays an honorable gesture toward another, a signal of appreciation is warranted. Though it’s not required, a simple “thank you” is common practice. If you believe the golden rule is to treat others like you want to be treated, you can take it a step further by reciprocating with an equally kind action.
Gentlemen, this is for you: You can’t just put meat in the oven without heating the oven up first. Chivalry is foreplay. It’s dumb to demand intimacy but disrespect your wife. Treat your wife like a lady at all times. Love her, respect her and honor her. Be the man you want your son to be and the gentleman you want your daughter to date. Treat women like you’d want men to treat your mother.
Ladies, this is for you: There are many things expected of us as men and we work hard to provide. Though gratitude is vintage, we’re not looking for praise. Just don’t underestimate the value of a thank you or reciprocated gesture. Galatians 6:7 says “…A (wo)man reaps what (s)he sows.” So if you expect chivalry, then be chivalrous. Be the woman you want your daughter to be and the lady you want your son to date.
You don’t have to agree. As long as the conversation is created and the people are talking, my job here is done.
“Yo, I want a girl so real / Who’s not after material wealth, but gets dough still / Or maybe an educator, a lady with etiquette / Who can be from out the hood or even work for the President / As long as there’s no selfishness …” –Nas, “Cherry Wine”
– Enitan Bereola, II
Bereola is the go-to style and etiquette impresario and public speaker. He is also the bestselling author of BEREOLAESQUE: The Contemporary Gentleman & Etiquette book for the Urban Sophisticate. He is working on his follow-up book titled, “GENTLEWOMAN: A Lady’s Etiquette Book from a Gentleman’s Perspective.” Check his Website Bereolaesque.com and @bereolaesque on Twitter as well as Facebook.