The Thing With Chivalry

Here’s the sort of thing I run into very often:

Guy: Women are trying to be too much like men these days, man.

Me: Getting your chauv on, are you? 

Guy: What?! Me? A chauvinist? I open doors for my girlfriend. I carry shopping bags for her. I drive her around. I pull out chairs for her at restaurants. I PROTECT her. I do all these things even if she doesn’t ask me to. I RESPECT women. How can you call me a chauvinist?

Me: *shrug*

Guys like the one above are all too common. And they’re not faking it. They really believe that they are not chauvinistic. They really DO respect women in their way. They really, really think they’re doing their bit for the feminist movement. But none of that changes the fact that their views are still pretty chauvinistic.

A lot of people mistake “respect” for empowerment. They mistake the age-old concept of chivalry for feminism. They think that by opening doors for women, they are somehow empowering them.

It does not work like that.

Feminism is not about exaggerated, patronizing “respect” for women as a group. It’s not about opening doors and carrying stuff for them. It’s not about giving them special treatment and “protecting” them.

It’s about EQUALITY, first and foremost.

It’s about understanding that women are individuals.

It’s about realizing that women can open their own doors, can carry their own stuff, and are people who have their own likes and dislikes, their own limits.

It’s about respecting them as much or as less you would respect any other person of your own gender.

It’s about letting go of the group mentality.

It is about unlearning the idea of “we men” and “you women”.

It is about unloading the burden of a society’s perceived honor from women’s backs.

It is about refusing to subscribe to a fake, discriminatory morality.

It is about standing up to the cultural norms that define set places for men and women.

It is about a worldview that is free of the stereotypes and clichés and labels from a bygone era.


That’s what MY feminism is about. That’s the kind of society I dream of.


Open doors for women if you so wish, but do it WITHOUT the condescension. That’s all I ask.


27 thoughts on “The Thing With Chivalry

  1. what a fantastic thought process .. Bravo.i have seen a man berate his teenage son for not offering his chair to a woman and then in the course of the conversation say that women shld stay at home n only be a home maker … He is raising a confused teenager!

    • That’s a typical Victorian-era worldview at work. Offer your seat to frail ,weak women but never let them out of the house lest they faint from the exhaustion and forget their household duties.

      Just so typical.

  2. Cynical Engineer, Thank you for your posts and please keep writing. I hope other men are reading your posts. For a long time, it has become very apparent to me that if things need to change, we need to hear more men’s voices. Voices such as yours, who can have an influence (if even at a minute level) in spaces and people that may not necessarily even listen if the same thing is said by a woman.

    • Thanks, Richa! I’m not too optimistic about a lot of men listening to me either, but that’s not going to stop me from writing.
      Who knows? There may well be other like-minded people who just need a little push, a little consciousness-raising.

      I’m doing my bit here and having a lot of fun along the way.

  3. “It’s about EQUALITY, first and foremost.
    It’s about understanding that women are individuals.”

    That about sums it up for me. Doesnt matter whether its a Male or Female, it should be about fairness and equality. I admit, as a woman, it does feel good to have a Man open the door for you/carry shopping bags for you/show courtesy to you, if and ONLY IF you have been brought up with that kind of cultural norm. I was flabbergasted(it took me a few years to get used to the idea) to have “a man”(who wasnt related to me, wasnt an acquaintance of mine) do that for me when I landed in USA….being the skeptic that I am, I wondered “What does he want in return?”

    • I think most people feel good if someone is courteous and helpful to them. The world is a rough place, and everyone likes a moment of respite from the ubiquitous self-centered rudeness.

      As long as the courteous behavior doesn’t turn into patronizing behavior, I guess it’s all to the good.

  4. I seriously don’t get it. I mean the poor men are so exhausted holding open doors and pushing forward seats to women that they cannot be expected to do all the household work, can they now? Of course, we should not ask for equal rights because hey, the door has been held open for us! I mean it is such a tough job to hold open a door so that another human being can pass through. It entitles men to a lifetime rights over being pricks! Silly us, and we thought it was mere good manners!

  5. I’ve always objected to chivalry. The “she’s a woman” argument has never cut ice with me unless it’s a question of physical strength and her gender is actually hindering her ability. My wife shows much frustration at this attitude of mine, but that’s a cross she has to bear 😀

    At the same time, I expect nothing of any woman – I don’t expect them to wash my clothes, cook my food, clean my house and treat me like anything special.

    So women can either choose a “chivalrous” man who also expects her to behave like the typical wife, or choose a man who treats them with the respect they deserve as human beings.

    Nice blog btw 🙂 Adding it to my reading list on networkedblogs.

    • I guess it varies.

      I’ve known women who tend to take “chivalry” as a kind of personal insult. And I’ve known MANY women who’d take chauvinism as a fair exchange for being treated “like a lady”.

      Personally, I am big on good manners. I treat women about as courteously as I’d treat anyone else, but I don’t make any special allowances for their gender unless, like you said, there’s a good physical reason for it (which is pretty rare, considering). If a woman I knew requested me to carry something for her, I’d do it without a squeak. But I’d do the same for anyone else I know too, regardless of gender. A separate standard for male and female friends would be weird to me.

    • “Chivaly” can cut both ways, tbh. Why should a woman not be chivalrous? It is merely good manners! Holding open doors, opening car doors for others to get out, helping others lift stuff, pushing chairs towards other people, offering to fetch snacks and drinks for friends and family. I fail to understand why only women must be recipient of these things. A lot of women do these things too, only it goes unnoticed.

      • Chivalry is more than just good manners. It’s a display of good manners which occurs only when the one in front of you is a (supposedly) weak, frail woman. There’s a specific context to the term. If you are being chivalrous to a person, you are automatically assuming that you are the stronger, bigger entity. You are unilaterally attaching a “handle with care” tag to them. It’s patronizing and presumptuous as hell.

        Good manners are just good manners, without all the associated BS.

  6. ok so if someone tries to molest you, your male partner should just watch you being molested.. i m sure you will be first to call him a “coward” and if he tries to fight you will label him as “chauvanist and violent beast”

    stop labelling men bitch

  7. great to see this come from a ‘guy’ . . . its really hard to make guys understand how ‘equality’ and ‘chivalry’ are entire different things . . .

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