25-May-2011

Can we kill Chivalry now?


There are three or four of us in the lift – me and three men.

The lift races down. We stand in the polite silence.

We reach the ground floor.

Suddenly the Chivalry Tango begins.

The three men try to press themselves to one side of the lift to let me out first.

I have tried standing in the furtherest corner of the lift, behind someone, and still they do the Tango.

Everytime I feel like yelling ‘but will you just stop now’

Back in the days of yore, when women were considered delicate creatures with inexplicable female problems, a code seems to have been defined on how to treat women. This included opening doors for them and laying out coats in puddles so they did not wet their flowing dresses or their expensive shoes.

In today’s day and age is it still relevant?

I think not.

Women have come a long way. We work in equal opportunity jobs, we have incomes, we plan vacations, buy properties, open bank accounts and do pretty much everything that men can do.

So why this pretence at treating us like China dolls?

It is not logical and if anything, a bit presumptuous and sometimes, patronizing.

I can open my car door myself thank you. Infact since I may be driving, I would rather that you were belted up in the passenger seat.

I don’t know if this persists because of some sort of age old code that men pass on to each other about treating women well. I do know that it also persists because sometimes women themselves like to be ‘treated like a lady’

I just hope they remember that once upon a time being ‘treated like a lady’ meant not having the vote.

Taking away the chivalry code is bound to leave a vacuum in appropriate social behavior. Why not replace it with a new rule, one in which we agree to treat everyone with some kindness and a little bit of understanding?

Can we all open doors for arthritic, old men who suffer the indignity of fiddling with tricky knobs?

Can we let a young father managing a toddler and carry-on bags ahead in the airplane boarding queue?

Can we give up our bus seat for a college going boy with a plaster cast?

In all the above situations, substitute a woman, and it is still kindness and understanding, not chivalry.

So, can we kill chivalry now?


8 comments:

Isha Seshey said...

First, Good one
I believe you will be part of the 0.0000001% of the sample space, but remaning 99.99% still requires it, they even keep this as filters for judging men.
...but your case will happen only in a lift, try catching up a taxi when all these mens around especially in mumbai, then you will surely know chivalry is already dead...

Archana said...

I like chivalry in most instances! It's being treated nice - and I like nice treatment from both men and women no matter what the reason :-). I definitely do not expect chivalry. However, if someone is being chivalrous, I will definitely graciously accept it with a smile.

In many places in India, I feel that what seems like chivalry is actually a necessity. Especially in crowded places, when a man and a woman go together, the guy lets the woman go ahead of him just to save her from groping which may come from men walking behind her. Sad but true.

In the lift scenario you mentioned, it must have been most efficient for the person nearest the door to exit first. I agree with you there - people trying to be chivalrous at the expense of common sense slightly grates on my nerves.

Guess what I am trying to say is, I am okay with chivalry as long as it is not obstructive and there is not someone else more deserving of it.

Anita said...

Isha - I really wonder why the 99.99% keep this as filters for judging men. I assume they are ok with men keeping their cooking or homemaking abilities as a filter for judging women. There is nothing like a free ride and hopefully more people understand it.

Yes, Mumbai cabs is always about each for her own :)

Archana - Yeah, I like being treated nice as well. But I really would'nt want to be treated nice just because I am a woman.

And of course it is common sensical to see if you can avoid your female companion being exposed to groping. In the same way it is common sensical not to leave your 1 month old unwatched. I don't quite think that is chivalry.

Jasmine said...

I'm glad to see there are other women who know where chivalry originated.
:)
I similarly disagree with the female queue. We have to realise that being treated as an "equal" requires us to give up some luxuries which a lot of women take for granted. And have you seen women jumping queues and then pretending that they didn't really know what they were doing (typical damsel in distress material) when confronted!

Nice to find your blog, will read more...

Jerry said...

I guess its becoz of women like me that chivalry exists. I dunno which lifts these are, certainly in the ones in Chennai, I don't see anything of that sort.

Infact I am to wed the man I love, because he pulled those chairs, opened doors for me and simply never lets me carry a package. ;)

Anita said...

Jasmine - Jumping queues is an interesting example!

Jerry - Interesting point. I wonder if chivalry is confined to a certain segment of men (The elevator I refer to is in my office and it is mostly filled with MBA/CA type office goers). Which probably may also explain why chivalry in India can be equated with a certain degree of awareness and education and may be a criteria in choosing a mate for a reasonably educated woman. But I guess that is an entirely
different point.

And while the situation with 'the man you are to wed' does sound romantic, would you still be ok if the average guy were to treat you like a China doll? Wouldn't it be reinforcing gender stereotyping about women not being able to do certain jobs?

Mum's delight said...

After lugging a baby, a heavy pram and groceries up two sets of stairs daily, I could do with some chivalry :)
But completely agree with you, kindness to all who need it would be much more appropriate than the strange situation you described in the lift- though a certain episode in our early working days when you were in the lift with my ex boss comes to mind, where you mentioned, that he ran out of the lift as soon as it opened and actually tried to push it open
One thing I like about this place is that many people are thoughtul, they help people who are struggling with prams etc. Most times when I travel alone by tram/bus and am struggling to get the pram up someone gets up from their seat and comes and helps even without me asking. And its not just guys who do it.

Anita said...

Mum's Delight - I can't rem the lift story!

And agree being helpful when it is needed helps. Think new moms are the most appreciative in this category. One of my other new mom friends wrote a mail

"i am unable to post comments in the blog...so jus decided to mail u........

i really liked ur article........i fully agree with the alternative chivalry code u have mentioned......

jus last week i was travelling alone with my 2 yr old son by flight.....from mum to hyd.....at the airport i was buying snacks for my son.....when he suddenly became v irritable and demanded to get his fav chips immediately....he jus jumped out of my arms and was rolling on the floor........i was standign in a long queue.....and not once did anybody offer to make way.....for a person wit a small wailing (rolling) child and baggage...

n this continued even while boarding the flight and also at the time of alighting.......

be human...be kind.....this is the call of the day......."