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Did Feminism Kill Chivalry?









(Guest Post by Sweepy Jean)
Although women still fight many battles
, we have come quite a long way in the never-ending struggle for equal rights. But for all the gains that we have earned in the societal and political arenas, how liberated are we in our private lives—and how liberated do we want to be?

Although I’ve been married for 26 years, I’m hardly an expert on relationships. But I have always believed that a strong relationship begins with strong individuals, sort of a “you’re-only-as-strong-as-your-weakest-link” kind of thing.

When I got married in the mid 1980s, the term “Ms” was just gaining widespread recognition as a legitimate title. In part, the terms “Miss” and “Mrs” were sexist because they defined women by their marital status, whereas with the term “Mr,” does not define men by their relationship to women. Even though I was proud and happy to be a new bride, I immediately identified myself as ”Ms” instead of “Mrs” whenever possible. I still maintain that practice.

Among other injustices, American women still do not earn equal pay compared with men in a similar job, according to the National Organization of Women (http://www.now.org/issues/economic/factsheet.html). But what about the perks associated with being a woman? We do get special treatment, right, or is that old-fashioned thinking? Did feminism kill chivalry?

For instance:
The household chore divide - Back in the day, certain chores were considered women’s or men’s chores. To my credit, I taught my son and daughter with equal strictness how to do everything from kitchen duty to vacuuming to laundry—but not taking the garbage outside! In my head that’s a man’s job and I’ll only do it if I absolutely have to. Besides, quite honestly, taking the garbage out is nasty business and if stereotypes keep me from having to do it, I’ll gladly keep my mouth shut and reap the benefits. Is anybody with me on this?

Holding doors - On a superficial level, I don’t mind if a male stranger and I are approaching the door of a building at the same time and he goes in first, holding the door for me to walk in after him so that it doesn’t slam in my face. I would do the same for him if I arrived at the door first. But on a deep down level, I resent him just a bit for not letting me walk in first, although I would never think of doing the same for him unless he was holding a reasonably heavy package. I expect my husband to let me walk through doors first. He doesn’t have to open the car door for me; we’re usually in a hurry and don’t have time for that. In my experience, men usually carry on the tradition of letting women walk through doors first. Have you noticed the same thing?

Paying for meals/dates - As a married couple of relatively humble means, our money is intricately entwined, so it doesn’t really matter who pays for what when we go out on a date. Either the money is coming from the same pot or we alternate. But if I were single, I imagine I would expect the man to pay for everything. Do single women today actually feel the same way? Maybe some women prefer to pay their own way on a date?

Final Thought
So, how about it? Can we still be strong, independent, and liberated women if we still enjoy being treated like a “lady?” Or maybe one has nothing to do with the other? Let us know what you think.

Sweepy Jean is a poet and editor living in New Jersey. Her blog, Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, (http://sweepyjean.wordpress.com/) showcases some of her poetry and discusses the writing life, women's issues, and personal observations. Thank you so much, LaVonya, for inviting me to guest on your blog!

http://www.reboundlovers.com/




8 comments:

SJ said...

I think maybe the feminists have a lot to answer for in both the good and the bad stakes. Feminism paved the way for equality and still left room for women to be treated with dignity, with respect but then there were the extremists that denoted any gentlemanly act was considered sexist.

Fighting for equal rights and equal pay shouldn't mean that manners are dead, holding a door to me is a sign of manners not of chivalry, paying for a date - if he asked then yes he should pay but I'm not altogether comfortable with the expectations that can go with that, so buying him a drink is always good with me. Putting a coat down over a puddle so I don't ruin my 'Jimmy Choo's'(oh I wish I had a pair, I'd put my own coat down) would be chivalrous to me but no man is going to do that unless I go back 700 years and threaten to cut off his head. Those manners aren't taught anymore so I don't think it's dead I just think it's becoming forgotten. (Sorry for the essay :o )

Lonnie and Jan said...

The way I see it, is that if you are considerate and respectful in your relationship, he to you, you to him you have it made. Sometimes I open the door, sometimes he does, we always say thank you. I have had relationships where respect was minimal or non-existent, they all failed.

Alida said...

I enjoy being treated like a lady and my husband and I raised our sons to be gentlemen. I believe we all deserved to be treated with respect and that respect can be shown in different ways by either gender.

When we lived in Russia we saw young men give up their seats not just to women but to older men as well. I have no problem holding the door open for others if I get to the door first. Feminism did bring about advances for women but in my humble opinion also killed a sense of civility in some respects between people.

Widow_Lady302 said...

Lovely Post Sweepy!! Personally, I don't see it as degrading if a man treat me like a "lady", I am one. I treat men like "gentlemen", because if they are withe me, they better be one.

The only real point of feminism I agree with IS the equal pay for equal work. At the same time, I disagree with a woman being made to feel less than, if she chooses to make her children, and husband her work. Being a "housewife, home maker, or stay at home mom" is frowned on, and I disagree with that. There is no more noble profession than being the rock for your family, even if it isn't that glamourous. LOL

We are different, the sexes that is. We don't have the same skills, think the same, or behave the same...I don't think we should. A house needs boards and nails, not all boards and no nails. Neither function is more important because one cannot serve the purpose without the other. I think, that being valued as woman (ladies) and valueing men as men, playing to each others strengths, and weaknessess is the key to true equality of the sexes. So, yeah, the femminist movement has killed chivalry in many ways, not just the way men treat us, but the way we see our sisters. *rambling...lol

Wonderful post!

conboyhillfiction said...

I've lived through the times when women were 'girls' and secondary to men. In the 1970s, I could not rent a TV without my father's signature, even though I was in charge of an intensive care unit and my dad was 300 miles away. I got an education though, including a PhD (so no more Miss, Mrs or Miss-ing for me!), and I've had equal access to jobs & pay ever since.
When feminist activism first became prominent, it was arch and extreme and I did not want to be a miner so I became 'a feminist but..' which allowed me to be girly and still deliver lectures on neurochemistry to gobsmacked undergraduates.
For me, feminism gave rise to chivalrous equivalence whereby we can all, without cause for astonishment, open doors, pay for what it is right to pay for, offer seats, and retain our dignity without compromise. I tolerate the oiks because they have always been there and always will be. I love this world for the freedoms it has given me and the ones for which I have had to fight. That it is a world in which I could fight for my place, is even more gratifying.

Sweepy Jean said...

Great comments. There seems to be a consensus that "feminine" does not equal "pushover." We can earn our titles, contribute financially, and even hold open doors as is fair or our choice. Also, I'm glad that homemaker was mentioned as being a valued and valid choice (I did a stint as one). I think it defeats the purpose to say that one woman's choice is better than another's. As long as we are making our own considered choices for our own lives and within relationships, I'm for it!

Chris said...

This traditional gender role thinking is anti-feminist. Because feminism, by definition, opposes gender role assignments, such as chivalry. Common gender blind manners are not anti-feminist, however.

There is nothing strong, liberated or equal about expecting the man to be the ones to pay because of being a man, expecting men to perform chivalrous acts for women because of being the man, expecting the man to do all the dirty work (e.g. taking out the yucky trash, killing those scary spiders).

That is adherence to strict gender roles. To be consistent one should expect that women be the ones to do the cooking, cleaning and being called "the Mrs."

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