Apparently, I miss all the fun stuff when I go off the grid on weekends (and every other Monday). The target, this time, was an article from the Daily Trojan- Feminism to blame for the death of chivalry, by Josh Bass.
Oh, hooray! It's yet another article that takes opportunity to blame feminists for the downfall of something or other. In this case, it's the often reported death of chivalry. To which I say "Ding dong, the witch is dead!"
Bass, though? He's not so sure that this is a good thing. See, one of his friends had a bad date and spat out "Chivalry is dead" and it made him realize just how terrible the loss of chivalry has been for women. See, it's the evils of women's liberation and feminism that have led to the cesspool of immorality that makes it so hard for women to get respect in the world today. If only women hadn't fought for equality almost two hundred years ago, they'd be better off today.
But, I'm getting ahead of myself.
I'm forced to wonder what, exactly, Bass thinks he's talking about when he goes on and on about chivalry. Chivalry is one of those concepts that you hear people talk about, but nobody seems to want to elaborate on. There's this notion that times were so much better when men were Men and women were Women, and there was chivalry all around us. I think that most of us think of chivalry as being a product of the times of knights and kings and men riding around on horseback doing all sorts of Good Deeds. Given the inclusion of a knight's helmet as an illustration to the article, I think we can assume that Bass subscribes to this idea.
Which, of course, makes me wonder how he's coming to some of his conclusions. He suggests that marriages arranged for wealth rather than love is a product of the death of Chivalry. Because marriage in the Middle Ages was a product of love, clearly. Certainly, nobody arranged marriages for the benefit of families. Right?
Sure, if you ignore the rather unpleasant realities and look to Disney as your source of information, you might think that marriage used to be all about love, although I'm not sure how you'd come to the conclusion that now we marry for money, but, whatever. In reality, marriages in the Middle Ages were arranged by men for the benefit of the families involved. Women were married young to men they barely knew who were frequently a decade (or more) older than them. Weddings were arranged by fathers, and were largely treated like a transfer of property. If you were part of the noble class- the class most associated with chivalry- your marriage would likely have been arranged before you were even 10 years old, and you wouldn't meet your future husband until the day of your wedding. At which you'd be expected to perform your "wifely duties." Contrary to what Bass might wish to believe, it wasn't all flowers and hearts and loving embraces between couples who loved each other deeply. It was about uniting families and acquiring wealth. It was about property.
When people like Bass talk about chivalry, what they think they're talking about is "treating women with respect." They think that chivalry is about holding doors and carrying books and walking on the outside of the street. They think that it's about treating women like they belong on a pedestal, and that they're the "fairer sex."
And, of course, if chivalry of that sort is dead, it's because women killed it. And I say, why the hell wouldn't they? That kind of chivalry isn't a good thing. That kind of faux concern for the well being of other people isn't helpful. Concern based out of the feeling that women are inferior to men and in need of protection doesn't actually help women. And the sense of entitlement that so often accompanies that kind of chivalry is patently dangerous. Men who harbor that kind of chivalry don't think of women as people, they think of them as props in some grand play that they've created, starring themselves as the knight in shining armor.
And Bass almost certainly thinks of himself as a modern Lancelot. Look at Bass' article, and you'll see it steeped with the kind of cynicism and patronizing sarcasm that is so common in anti-feminist tirades. From his affected concern for the well-being of women, to the cracks about "warrior princesses affectionately referred to as Feminazis", to the labeling of women as "harlots"- Bass pulls out all the stops. He thinks he's got the answers to save women from themselves. I'd be surprised if he doesn't wonder why you're not already lining up to thank him for his helpful hints.
So, let's talk about real chivalry, shall we? Chivalry is the code of honor that knights were sworn to uphold. Chivalry, as a concept, you may be surprised to learn, isn't gendered. Nor does it involve treating women in some way differently than men. Chivalry is a sort of moral code that knights swore to uphold. It's a code of conduct.
There are a number of different Principles of Chivalry, but most of them bear a number of things in common. Essentially, chivalry is about five things:
1. It's about accomplishing the duties of your station- doing your job and doing it well and fully.
2. It's about being honest- not lying or cheating, or helping others lie or cheat.
3. It's about upholding that which is right- acting in a moral fashion.
4. It's about helping those in need and protecting those who cannot protect themselves- lending a helping hand, offering charity, and fighting against oppression.
5. It's about fulfilling your obligations- doing what you say you will do.
Given that chivalry comes from a time steeped in sexism and blatant misogyny, it's not surprising that many examples of chivalry are of a questionable nature. They involve protecting women and saving them from danger because those were the stories being told, because our cinema loves to glorify the damsel in distress. But, despite this, chivalry, as a concept, is alive and well. It's not feminists who are killing chivalry- it's people like Bass.
See, one of the important aspects of chivalry is that you do the right thing because it's the right thing to do. You're not supposed to save the princess because you think that she'll fuck you when you're done. You're supposed to save her because she's in danger and has been unable to help herself. You'd be just as obligated to save the prince if he found himself in that situation, or a bunch of children, or the king.
Modern chivalry still exists- it's the people who stop to help you if you've dropped your packages on the sidewalk. It's the people who hold a door open for the people behind them. It's the guy in New York who took a moment to ask me if I needed directions or anything because he thought I looked lost. It's the person who offers a quarter when you're 22 cents short in line at the store.
Bass doesn't want chivalry back, he wants a return to the days when men could make demands on a woman's body by virtue of having given her some service or some token bit of "respect." He wants a return to the day when not treating a woman like shit meant that you could demand a roll in the hay. What other explanation is there for the idea that women who have and enjoy sex without strings are harlots responsible for making men not respect women, but men who have sex without strings are just doing what is natural? Oddly, Bass makes no demands on his fellow men. He doesn't feel the need to label them for their behaviors. No, they're just taking one option.
At least Bass gets one thing right. Chivalry can be resuscitated. It still lives on in the hearts of a good number of men and women. I don't think it's where he thinks it is, but it's out there.
I can only hope that the new perspective his friend gained was "wow, my buddy Bass is kind of an asshole."