12 September 2011 in

Chivalry, sexist?!

SEPTEMBER 12, 2011

I have been meaning to write about this for a while but have had difficulty finding the time, go figure! A couple months ago a friend forwarded an article my way "Chivalry isn't dead. It's just terribly sexist."  

I must say I had a laugh when I read the title. I knew right away that this was sent with the intent of poking fun at my somewhat feminist stance. The article talks about a recent study Seeing the Unseen published in Psychology of Women Quarterly. It proposes that we engage in sexist acts everyday without even realizing it. More specifically it argues that chivalrous acts translate into benevolent sexism.

At first glance I was appalled by the idea. How can holding the door, paying for dinner or helping with the groceries be considered sexist or demeaning to women? As far as I was concerned those were acts of kindness and the display of good manners. After giving it some thought I realized the issue is actually very complex and that the study touches on some interesting points.

On a strictly theoretical level, motivations behind the actions have to be considered. Is the help being offered out of kindness or is it offered with the belief that women are weaker? Although the study seems frivolous at first glance, it argues that sexism at the smallest level reinforces blatant sexism throughout our society. For example, the expectation that a man should pay for the first date reinforces the fact that men on average earn a higher wage and therefore should spend more in order to feel masculine. 

The reality is that sexism remains a problem. Not only because of the effect it has on women but because of the effect it has on our interactions with one another. In my opinion, there seems to be an attitude present that says 'women got their equality, so shut up about it already'. Anyone who looks at the issue a little deeper knows that equality is not quite there yet. Who knows maybe it never will be.

Women's fight for even footing has definitely shaken the masculine identity; the gender roles are not as well defined as they used to be. I can see how this is frustrating to a man. It seems that Feminism chipped away at what many men consider their rightful place at the "top", as if that wasn't enough. Now, holding the door open is wrong!

As the war of the sexes wages on this is what I think, practically not theoretically. If you have a guy who's willing to help with the groceries, dishes, technology, door opening or any other act considered chivalrous hold on to him. My guess is this - he's either wanting to impress you or he truly cares about you. It can't be disregarded that the well mannered behaviour was probably passed on by his mother. So maybe, sometimes we just need to give the guy a break.

I'd love to know what you think? Do you consider chivalry an act of kindness or an act of oppression?

the outspoken introvert

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