I spent the better part of my childhood around women. I must admit that I am grateful for the experience because what I learned has served me well as a person throughout my life. One might ask why it would be any better or worse or how a man could benefit from being raised in a female-dominated environment? Keep in mind that while I was growing up, I did have some very strong male role models at the same time. For instance, my ex-paratrooper, hunter, all around resourceful grandfather played a major role in my life. Then there was my stepfather who was an engineer, and mining foreman and my father who was could fix any piece of machinery, weld, and build a house in his spare time.

Honestly, my playmates were girls more than half of the time because there were five girls in the family and one boy. The lessons I learned during those years, and that have been reinforced by my experiences as a father and husband is that a good person will always want to respect women and treat them in a way that acknowledges their stature as that of free and equal in all matters. Taking this into consideration, the basis of chivalry must be good manners.

Behaving kindly towards others without an ulterior motive should not be frowned upon. Being extra polite is never, ever a bad thing. Why should we not take the time to open doors for women or offer help to those who appear to be struggling? Honestly, nobody is saying you should throw your coat over a water puddle in a rainstorm for a lady to walk across but chivalry goes far beyond opening doors and walking a friend to their car in a dark parking lot.

A quick search for the definition on Google will bring up the following definition:

Chivalry is doing what one knows to be ethical or the “right thing.” What exactly is the right thing? How about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you? Is it caring about neighbors and community? Doing one’s best (whatever that maybe) in order to be fair and good to everybody around you? Most important of all, doing the right thing even when nobody else will ever know you did it. Chivalry is not a man or woman thing but a human thing. It is trying to be the best person you can be. Not because people are watching but because it is what you would hope your neighbor or son would do when placed in the same circumstances.

Many people say that feminism should replace Chivalry because it is an outdated concept. There are men who use the existence of feminism as a way to justify no longer behaving in a chivalrous manner. Some maintain that it is demeaning to women, but this is also mistaken. Chivalry was never about rules for dating nor is chivalry only something men should practice. Considering this, feminism in its basic form is not about a battle between men and women for control but the just treatment of women and men within society as a whole. The effort to remove barriers in society that unfairly deny women of merit the powerful or important positions is chivalrous in itself. It is because chivalry is concerned with doing the right and ethical thing.

Therefore, I maintain that the people who supported women during the suffrage movement, supported the abolitionists, and supported the elimination of Jim Crow laws, are all examples of chivalry within American society. You can attempt to do away with the word chivalry, but it is an idea that will continue to exist. Those who claim to be feminists and wish to eliminate acts of kindness done without the expectation of reciprocity are doing harm to the psyche of the society they reside within. Feminism should not replace or do away with chivalry but instead, be considered a part of it.

A man who opens a car door for a woman without the expectations of anything in return should not be a subject of disdain any more than a woman who does it for a man. Chivalry is for LGBT people as well, because it is good manners to be extra kind no matter who you are. Should not all of us hope for a kind neighbor? Is it wrong to wish for our daughters to be with partners who are good to them in every way, whether it is treating them as equal human beings, or being attentive to their needs? Is it wrong to wish for the same thing for our sons? Should one’s sex life disqualify them from being good to each other or receiving kindness? What would you want for your loved one if stranded in a strange place? If it were my wife, daughter or son I would want them to be treated in a kind way and helped as much as possible. Feminism will not deliver this but chivalry will. Instead of trying to replace chivalry, parents and schools should be teaching it.

I will admit that I do open and close car doors for my wife and daughter. That is just good manners. However, treating women and other people with equal respect, dignity and kindness are also good manners. Turning a wallet in without removing its cash, or keeping your word even when there are no repercussions is good manners. Stopping at an accident and calling for help even when you see other people nearby is good manners. They also happen to be chivalry, and if you want a better society, then there is no substitute.


Originally published in TheOdysseyOnline.com August 8th, 2016