Should chivalry die?

By Katherine Martin

Executive Editor

Last week after work I was at a bar with friends getting a drink. Across the bar from us a man and a woman in their early thirties were on a date, seemingly a few drinks in and getting along well. When the check came, the woman hurriedly stuck out her card first, insisting on paying. Her date, less confidently, offered his card instead.

The male bartender hesitated for a moment before reaching across the woman’s extended arm to grab her date’s card. The scene drew attention in an otherwise small crowd and was received with claps and cheers. One man commented, “See, chivalry isn’t dead.”

I have a problem with this. As an employee in the restaurant industry myself, I know that protocol is to accept the first card given to you – regardless. This woman, who appeared completely capable of picking up the tab was patronized as the bartender refused her card and took her counterpart’s, simply because he was male.

Chivalry, only seems to be applauded when it comes from heterosexual men. They buy a woman’s dinner, hold the door open for her, and offer to lift heavy things. Sure, these are all lovely acts. But why are they not applauded if a woman does the same thing? When a man holds his date’s door open, it’s a grand romantic gesture. About an hour ago I opened the door for a stranger behind me at Cumbies, not because I found them incapable to do so themselves nor to flirt, but because it was a nice thing to do.

That woman in the bar? She was left feeling chastised for wanting to pay. If that isn’t sexist, what is?

I find defining acts like this as chivalry an archaic way of applauding men for things that are simply common decency when done by women or anyone else.

Many men (perhaps this bartender) are unable to accept these acts in return without feeling a threat to their masculinity. Commending men for paying bills, lifting heavy things, and holding open doors while not allowing space for women to comfortably do the same reinforces the idea that men are superior–wealthier, stronger and more capable while women are less well off, weak, and dependent. Likewise, it puts an incredible amount of pressure on men to be the breadwinners, more physically built than their counterparts, and more independent.

What is it then? Do women want chivalry or equality? I don’t find the two to be mutually exclusive.

Supporting the equality of the sexes does not mean women aren’t allowed to want and to expect a man to pick up the tab once in a while. Wanting equality means wanting the space to feel comfortable doing the same on the next date and expecting men to be able to receive this gesture with the same ease a woman is taught to receive it.

Does this mean a man needs to think twice before holding open a door for a woman? Absolutely not. But when a woman does the same for you, don’t feel offended, or less than chivalrous. Simply thank her for the gesture. For the men who feel anxious about holding doors open for women, it is not sexist unless you can’t accept the offer in return.

According to Google Dictionary, chivalry can be defined as “a readiness to help the weak.”

If we create an equal platform for men and women, the word “chivalry” will likely drift away, or find a new meaning. Picking up the tab, holding doors open, and offering a coat on a cold night will then fall under the category of “human kindness” – something expected of all of the sexes.