Long Live Courtesy: Die Chivalry Die

“Women are to be championed and revered....” 

Does that statement make anyone besides me want to hurl their accounts into the chamber pot?

Aside from a few sound-bites of the politician making this statement, the only objection it drew was from a few blogs, a few discussion forums, and a relatively tiny social media dust storm. 

Chivalrous drivel (Yes, I did say drivel) such as this does nothing to empower women nor is it healthy for men and boys. Please read on, you might be surprised to find you agree with me in the end. If not, at the very least, you’ll have a better understanding of why you disagree with me and will be better equipped to defend your position.

The concept of chivalry does not mean — nor has it ever meant — common courtesy. 

Everyone should practice common courtesy and cultivate respectful attitudes and behavior toward all people regardless of sex (kindergarten 101 [excluding dangerous people of course]). 

When the idea of chivalry was first concocted, it had zero practical application. It was all a big romantic show, play-acting with no substance. 

Let’s get this straight, women were not revered in the days of chivalry nor were they protected. Women had no social or legal status beyond that of their most powerful male relative. Women had no recourse against domestic violence or abuse (which they needed protection from more than anything else). Both in public and behind closed doors, women had a place, were expected to stay their place, and faced [sometimes devastating] consequences if they did not — nothing new then or now. 

Chivalry was a demeaning and fraudulent concept to medieval women. It is still so when applied to present-day women.

How so? In, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A response to Evangelical Feminism, John Piper instructs men in how to subliminally exercise male authority over women who may be their superiors in the workplace by using exaggerated courtesies, such as speaking softer to women than to men, opening doors and offering their chairs to women. Is that not chivalrous? To a tee it is. 

Piper's advice makes a mockery of common courtesy. It is insincere, condescending, contemptuous, and demeaning. “Courtesies” extended from such motives should rightfully be scorned.

In explaining how courtesies can be used to masculine advantage, Piper, who also writes that it is inappropriate for women to hold equal or superior positions to men in the workplace, shames men and advises that they might want to consider changing jobs as a long-term solution to having a female boss. He says real men are not able to tolerate working for women. 

Man-shaming is common among complementarians. Men who buy into it, are psychologically crippled and trapped in a belief-system that places expectations on them that they can never fulfill. 
Let's be clear, men do not have a “chivalrous” responsibility to women — only a responsibility to treat everyone, including women, with respect and common courtesy.
Should the physically stronger always be ready to protect the physically weaker — regardless of age or sex? Absolutely. Try snatching a baby away from a mother and see what happens. Try assaulting a woman in front of her husband or boyfriend [or father or brother or any male friend who cares about her] and see what happens. 

Nothing is 100%, but most people are ready to stand and defend those they care about. Many people are ready to stand and defend (within their power) anyone who needs help. These things are not what this article is dealing with but rather the rhetoric and misogynistic concept of “chivalry,” which is one of the oldest and most successful shams in history...and shamefully is still espoused today as evidenced by almost a half-million results in an internet search on "How to be chivalrous."

The medieval concept of chivalry harks back to feudal times when culture and legal systems forced women into total dependence on men for just about everything. Provision and protection was not something women had access too unless they had a husband, father, brother, or other male relative as guardian. It is only in recent times this has changed in the United States, but women and children without a male provider are still statistically disadvantaged .
Chivalry was an ancient double-edged sword that provided a social facade of protecting women while keeping them in their proverbial “places.” In the days of chivalry (and in today's patriarchal complementarian movement), women had limited protection from the men who claimed to "protect" them. It has a modern-day counterpart in the organized crime “protection racket.”  
“Pay (submit to) me (stay in your “place”) and I’ll protect you.” 
“Who do I need protection from?” 
“Why, from me of course!” 
Let’s give benefit of the doubt, that the concept of chivalry (women should be revered and protected) has not been thoroughly thought through by contemporary people [ just as the popular term “rule of thumb” has not been thought through, but that’s for another article]. Let’s assume they simply do not understand its implications and sincerely believe chivalry is no different from common courtesy and is a good thing. Our job is to inform and educate. So, here goes with one not-so-small example…. 

The notion that women need to be “revered” should terrify any woman. Why? Because revering a woman, “ putting a woman on a pedestal,” is one of the early-warning-signs that a woman might be dating a potential abuser or batterer. this is red flag behavior.

Woman are not asking for special treatment. They do not need, nor do they want, to be “championed and revered” …unless the “championing” part is in favor of absolute and Constitutional autonomy and equality with men. 

The idea of “championing” women (unless it's championing autonomy and equality) is obsolete and unhealthy for both women and men. It is a continuation of a hypocritical and medieval idea that should have went the way of the dinosaur and jousting matches long ago but remains firmly entrenched as the double-edged sword it has always been and a thorn in the flesh to modern-day women and men.

The misguided idea of chivalry stands in the way of existential and Constitutional equality and autonomy of the sexes.

What about equal pay acts or violence against women acts or anti-discrimination acts? These are civil laws not Constitutional Rights and would not be necessary if women were protected under the Constitution in the same way men are.

Women ask only the respect due them as human-beings created in the image of God and born with the same “inalienable” (existential —innate and God-given) rights as men. Many men do champion the cause of Constitutional equality for women, and our thanks go out to them. 
Pictured here: Ryan Watson went the distance with me in the 2012 Warrior Dash. We ran in support of the Equal Rights Amendment. We brought much needed attention to it and were almost unrecognizably mud-stained head to toe by the time we finished. It was AWESOME! 

This writer is not saying there are no differences between men and women (Thankful for differences!), just that those differences are no basis for inequality and abridged autonomy. Reasonable people acknowledge and celebrate differences between the sexes without the need for gender-based hierarchy and phony fronts of outdated and overstated courtesies (chivalry) to keep harmful boundaries of social and Constitutional inequality in place.

Below is a picture that illustrates one remarkable difference between the sexes. You can read the story behind it HERE. But be warned, it's emotional.
A man might do this to his truck (unlikely though not impossible), but the driver of this 18-Wheel driver is a strong and courageous woman — who is not ashamed of being a woman — making a very special delivery
Common courtesy and respect that establishes and reinforces equality is in. Exaggerated outdated ideas about chivalry that establish and reinforce inequality is out.

Pastor, author, and researcher, Jocelyn Andersen, advocates for victims of domestic violence and abuse. She is outspoken in support of equality of the sexes. She writes and speaks about Christian response to domestic violence and how to end the evangelical caste system against women. 

If the topic of God and Women interests you, join the conversation HERE.

No comments:

Post a Comment