In defense of chivalry

Chuck does an excellent job explaining why one shouldn’t be chivalrous. I feel that his argument needs a rebuttal, though I’m not sure how much distance there is between his position and my position.

Let me say first that we’re working with different definitions of chivalry. In Chuck’s example chivalry seems to include everything from opening doors for women to rubbing their feet. In my opinion, the former is chivalry, the latter is not.

Chivalry still serves one purpose: it guides social interactions. In this sense, it is still useful.

I spent some time a couple weeks ago talking to my grandfather. His memory isn’t what it used to be, but he still vividly remembers things that happened a long time ago. So, we talked about old things. I noticed that throughout his childhood and early adulthood, his family lived with people who were not part of the family. For example, a rural school teacher would live with a family in the area. During harvest season some seasonal workers would live with the farmers to supply extra labor. My grandfather would stay with some friends in town so that he could attend school. In these situations chivalry is necessary – these living situations would be impossible without relatively rigid social customs.

In the modern era, we’re wealthy enough to avoid coming into contact with so many people (thankfully). But we still do occasionally have to interact with strangers. In these situations, chivalry doesn’t hurt. Sure, I’ll hold the door open for a woman or let her exit the elevator or subway car first. After all, someone has to open the door and leave first. Plus, the wrong sort of people are not chivalrous and I tend do the opposite of what the wrong sort of people do.

Like most things, chivalrous actions can be performed in a alpha manner or a beta manner. With the right look on your face, you can make a woman wonder whether your holding the door open in an ironic way (a subtle neg) instead of supplicating way. In the end, we must defend that which we believe in. You cannot long for a return to an old fashioned version of morality while acting in an entirely modern way.

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