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December 05, 2008

’A Rock and a Hard Place’

Men just can't win for trying. It seems as though a number of women have given men conflicting messages on how to treat them respectfully. 

Here, University of Dallas student Ashley Crouch speaks out about the results of her chivalry poll. One paragraph stands out:

How do guys define chivalry? Three out of four responded that it had to do with respect, honor, and courtesy towards women. One man spoke openly: “Chivalry is the notion that a man has the duty to respect and serve women.”

But sadly, "too often . . . these same men lamented that their efforts to be chivalrous were met with scorn."

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I post the following half way tongue in cheek but wondering if there is something more to be said about what will be said. It seems to me to be quite unmanly if I whine and complain about how we... [Read More]


Rolley Haggard

I tasted that scorn once when I "chivalrously" held the door open for a female colleague, only to hear her snap, "I'm perfectly capable of opening the door for myself, thank you!"

My dentures bounced off the concrete floor. And I don't even wear dentures.

It hasn't stopped me from opening doors for women, and I haven't had a repeat performance. But maybe that's because now as a result of that experience I have a nervous twitch that is interpreted as a flirtatious wink.

Flattery evidently trumps chivalry. But, seemingly, "PC" trumps all.

Here's lookin' at ya.

o -
( ~>)


Kim, this topic fairly cries out for a response from an authority on history like Jason Taylor, rather than someone so woefully uninformed as myself. (I.e., Middle Age European knighthood and its code contrasted with, say, the Shogunates of Japan and how their "knights" led to the need to develop karate as a way for farmers and peasants to defend themselves.) So I'll just note in passing that when the cornerstone of chivalry, faith and fidelity to Christ (see http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/knights-code-of-chivalry.htm), is removed, then the rest of the arch crumbles. As Mr. Colson might say, this female rejection of chivalry is simply another manifestation of our post-Christian society. So I'm skeptical of the idea that simply having women respond kindly to chivalrous behavior will be sufficient.

And I've had experiences similar to Rolley's. I just chalk it up to the abuse one can reasonably expect for behaving as a Christian.

Jason Taylor

Actually in Europe, it was muskets and pikes that were a way for the peasants to defend themselves.
The Medieval knighthood behaved in a manner quite a bit differently from the ideal and arguably eighteenth and nineteenth century gentry were closer in spirit.
The difference between Europe and Japan was not in the behavior of the warrior class but in the fact that the commoners had more access to power, both military and economic.
Japan's isolation allowed the noble class to have confidance in their power.
In Europe the constant conections with the outside created both markets and potential invaders. The former provided a more influential "new money" to balence the Old Money. The later forced the Old Money to make concessions for the sake of military effectiveness. Thus Europes aristocracy was both more flexable and less overbearing(in reliative terms obviously)then others because there was enough pressure to make it so.


Chivalry arose primarily as a literary convention, and meant different things in real life than it did when Sir Gawain championed a lady... the story of chivalry is for another time, really, but that said...

Modern day "chivalry" is not a gender-exclusive idea. Chivalry is placing others first, plain and simple. A man may open a door for a woman... but he should also open it for other men, for children, for the elderly. The kind of chivalric behavior we ought to see is both men and women who give up their seats on the bus for a mother and her child, who lend a hand in a pinch... who will risk their life for others if the moment arises (hopefully it never shall, of course). Modern-day chivalry is Christ-like love for everyone, the strong defending the weak, kindness and charity in an unkind world. It is a call appropriate for both men and women to answer, in varying circumstances.

I've always thought women who flip out when men open a door must be stupid. But I hold doors open for people myself, if I get there first. Anyone who has a problem with people helping them needs to get over their preconceptions that anyone trying to be nice is sexist or thinks they're incapable. That's just plain silly.


Your expert insight is greatly appreciated as always, Jason, but I think you've addressed my minor issue in a major way, and my major issue in a minor way. Kari comes closer to what I was thinking: Are we being nostalgic for something that never was? Why would the Knight's Code be preserved for us at all, if the practice of it is merely a myth?

I'm thinking of two quotes. One is from Ravi Zacharias, which is (roughly) that it is better to have nostalgia than amnesia. The other is the one from C.S. Lewis, to the effect that if we have a longing in our hearts that nothing in this world can satisfy, then the best explanation is that we were meant for another world.

So, JT old friend, is this desire for chivalry a longing *for how things were* when at least some knights strove to have pure hearts and sacrificial lives, or is it instead a longing *for how things will be* after Christ returns? (And my apologies for putting you on the spot; you really only have the authority for the first half of that question, in my mind. And I'm not addressing this solely to you, anyway.)

And I think irrespective of the answer, Kari nails the bottom line: "Anyone who has a problem with people helping them needs to get over their preconceptions that anyone trying to be nice is sexist or thinks they're incapable." Accepting my kind act without judging it is simply a way of being... oh, what's that word again... oh, yeah: "tolerant".

But of course, if I actually expect everyone to be tolerant of my Christian behavior, all the time, then I'm not exactly being wise as a serpent.

Jason Taylor

In the first place the Code of Chivalry did modify people's behavior somewhat; it would be irrationally cynical to say it doesn't. Moreover no civilization practices it's ideals as well as one would like. But examining what it's ideals are tells something about it, just as examining it's practice does.

The Knights Code is worth remembering for us because it is an ideal. Honor is not tarnished because of the inconvenient fact that some happen to be dishonorable.

C.S. Lewis in one essay pointed out that the genius of the Chivalric code was that it taught the man of action to be meek and the timid to be brave and held out to both an ideal of a man who is rounded out and is "fierce in the field and meek in the hall".


LeeQuod, chivalry is real. It has evolved in form since we first came up with the idea; originally, real-world chivalry was meant to reign in acts of violence and target the military might of the strong men of medieval Europe towards Church-sanctioned violence.

What chivalry became lived on in the 17th, 18th, and 19th century values of the middle and upper class. If you've ever studied Cavalier poetry from the 17th century (such as Richard Lovelace's "To Lucasta, Going to the Wars" being the best example I know), read Ivanhoe, or thought Robin Hood robbed from the Rich to give to the Poor, you've seen the idea of chivalry in literary action. Much of the personal courage and heroism that continues to inspire many people today dating back to the American Revolutionary or American Civil War, and even the World Wars, are essentially acts rooted in literary chivalric ideals; kindness, self-sacrifice, charity, compassion, courage, and faith in action. We often shorthand chivalry as meaning "be polite to women", but it meant and still means a lot more. Chivalry is an ongoing vision of the "ideal knight"; it reached its top saturation period in society in the 18th and 19th centuries, when common men (and women) realized that they were the knights and heroes that were part of social consciousness and ought to start acting like it.

This is another example of why stories are important. The story of chivalry goes on, and is a part of our world today. King Arthur and his knights may never have been real, but as models of chivalry they lived and live. We need to bring back modern chivalry into our storytelling; our heroes need to be courteous and kind, just and brave. Our role models need to aspire to a higher ideal -- even if it is one that has never been "real" in the sense that a story can create.

Chivalry isn't dead. It's just lost a lot of its weight in the social consciousness. But we can change that.

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