Chivalry, according to the World English Dictionary is the sum of the ideal qualifications of a knight, including courtesy, generosity, valour, and dexterity in arms.
Knights were those blokes who pranced around on horses in medieval times saving fair ladies. Knights believed in the code of chivalry, promising to defend the weak, be courteous to all women, be loyal to their king, and serve God at all times.
Hmmm … can’t say I’ve seen many of those around lately. I’ve seen a few damsels in distress though, sitting in the gutter drunk or stumbling the streets in skyscraper heels with dresses hitched up around their bums. No knights in sight, but no ladies either. Clearly there were few knights on board the cruise ship Costa Concordia from where the Italian captain “fell” into a lifeboat. Reports that men shoved women out of the way to escape have shocked. Just as my father is shocked, on a much smaller scale of course, every time he sees a woman open her own car door.
When I asked a 19-year-old colleague if she expects the blokes she hangs with to open car doors for her, she too was shocked.
“Of course not!”
When many young women are drinking, swearing and bonking around as much as blokes these days, and wanting to fight on the front line with the boys, the point of difference between the sexes is rapidly narrowing. So why should women expect to be treated differently when push comes to shove?
As an executive producer in talkback radio I produced dozens of male presenters and a few women. Two women in particular come to mind for very different reasons. Both were very strongly opinionated, determined and assertive, you wouldn’t want to mess with them. However, one was pure lady, who’d disarm an aggressive male talkback caller in an instant with her calm, feminine charm. The other was full frontal bolshy, bringing on baroom brawls with the yobbos who’d ring in, pushing the boundaries with sexual innuendoes bordering at times on vulgarity.
“I’ve got to appeal to the boofhead blokes out there, the roughnuts,” she’d say.
But, I’d argue, if a woman was going to talk like a bloke, sound like a bloke and behave like a bloke, may as well put a bloke behind the microphone. Simple.
In generations gone, men expected women to behave differently just as women expected men to behave differently. Now the lines are blurred and no one’s really sure how to behave. As young women flounce about town, getting drunk and getting laid, fighting in the streets and and fighting on the front line, why should they expect to be treated differently in a crisis? Why should they be protected when they’ve proven they can be one of the boys and appear to look after themselves?
Perhaps old fashioned chivalry needs to be redefined. Chivalry is when a schoolgirl gives up her seat on the bus for an elderly woman, chivalry is when a person picks up someone else’s litter off the beach, chivalry is when a young man helps an older man across the road.
I doubt today’s modern women will ever be treated to the male chivalry our mothers and grandmothers enjoyed in decades past. But that’s because they’ve earned their own rite of passage, one where it’s every man for himself.