The Sexist

Sexist Comments of the Week: The Othering of Chivalry Edition

Last week on the Sexist, we discussed the subjugation of women via door-opening, book-carrying, elevator-waiting, rival-punching, and honor-protecting. (Bonus: Also sucks for dudes!) Stories from women with first-hand stories of enduring chivalry:

Shinobi doesn't appreciate being othered:

I think Chivalry works in insidious ways to remove a woman’s agency and break down gender equality. And chivalry is part of our culture in so many ways, not just the big concepts of honor but down to little othering things that men do to women because it is considered polite.

While men are to be treated with courtesy and respect, women are treated with chivalry, to be protected and coddled from nasty things like opening doors or rude people. It is part of what turns women into a different class of people, and I think every manifestation of it from opening a door to starting (or finishing) a fight in a woman’s honor is othering.

I think my least favorite has to be when men single me out from a mostly male group and apologize for cursing in front of me. It’s not like hearing the F word kills my eggs guys, I’ve seen a rated R movie, i think I can handle it. (Plus what if some of the men present are offended? Why apologize to the least offended person there?)

I personally would prefer to open my own doors, carry my own boxes, curse, and finish my own fights. I don’t need men to assume I need their assistance just because my sex organs are on the inside. (I am in fact capable of asking for assistance if I need it.)

Lizrd is a classless lady that uses the eff word:

I was listen to some Philly radio show about a Long Island Soliciter General who called a woman protesting some sort of gun function a “c-nt” and it was like a debate on whether he could be fired (which was inane, because his employer has that right, but whatever). But what offended me more than anything was the host claimed that it was acts like this that would lead to a society where “men talked to women the same way talked around other men” and while some women “said that eff word and acted classlessly, not all women do” and I was sort of shocked at this antiquated notion.

First of all, I am an eff word connoisseur, and this guy was from Philly, so his behavioral norms I doubt would go over well with other local women. But to say that men should hold their tongues because our lady ears might not be able to handle it, is the kind false respect that is held over women’s heads, promised to them only if they behave a certain way. That kind of “respect” isn’t promised to the classless ladies that use the eff word.

Katie says get out of the elevator:

Agreed. When they are able and feel comfortable, stronger people should help weaker people (i.e. in lifting things), first people should help second people (when arriving at doors), friends should stand up for their friends, and pretty much nobody should wait for ladies to get out of the elevator first because that is fucking annoying.

EmilyBites can get offended on her own, thank you very much:

The biggest fail is doods who says ‘Brilliant, chivalry is dead! Now I’ll go and punch all of those uppity whores in the face because you can hit women now!’

Way to uncover that not-so-latent misogyny.

This is why a man going way out of his way to open doors for me is insulting and irritating, and we will most likely get into a crazy door standoff. Infantilising and othering me is not a sign of politeness; you are trying to control me. Men who get offended ‘on behalf’ of the woman insulted in their presence are erasing the woman as a person in her own right, as though she is merely a device for communication between real humans, aka men. Why can’t the chivalrous men see this?

Saurs on the false "equality" of chivalry:

Men who believe they’ve an obligation to protect “womankind” from “those other guys” are behaving like paternalists, and they tend to get very sanctimonious and wounded when women try to calmly explain that, as they are adults, they are not in need of guidance, shelter, advice, or a bodyguard. [These men] like to sneer about how feminism has encouraged men to treat strange women as they would strange men (that is, as adults to whom they have no obligations beyond common courtesy and normal, human compassion) as though this were a terrible thing; that’s likely because he strongly believes in the inherent superiority of men and believes women, if they want to “achieve” “equality” (equal to whom, one may ask), desperately need a leg up in order to compensate for being intellectually and physically inferior.

This is hardly different from racialist arguments voiced by white people who erroneously believe that they themselves are the yardstick of all human achievement, and who classify people of color based on how well they measure up to themselves.

Men and white people: not the summit of human capabilities, not the default person from whom all other people measure their worth.

Emily H. debunks chivalry nostalgia:

Another thing to consider when people express nostalgia for the good old days of “chivalry” is that in reality, it wasn’t just a system of behavior for “men” and “women,” i.e. it didn’t just encourage men to expend a lot of energy giving women the high-quality treatment they supposedly deserved. Instead it encouraged men to treat upper-class, respectable white women with the utmost respect, and let them get away with treating all other women like shit— or even encouraged that kind of treatment. Throughout most of history, would a courteous man be expected to extend chivalry to prostitutes, women whose behavior was “promiscuous,” or lower-class women who were presumed to be sexually available? No, of course not. Or just think of a culture like the old South, which probably seems like a high water mark of gentlemanly standards to a lot of people. Chivalry didn’t apply to servants, & certainly not to slave women.

So even if the “chivalrous” behavior of Ye Olden Tymes often included a lot of genuine courtesy and consideration, men of today are still held to a much higher standard. Being nice doesn’t mean all that much when you only have to be nice to a tiny sliver of the population.

Photo via TheTruthAbout..., Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0

  • Katie

    I'm glad Lizrd's comment was posted here because it reminded me to tell her what I wanted to say before: I love that you called yourself an "eff word connoisseur" because 1) "eff" is so cute and 2) I like to think of myself in similar terms, except with "jizz" instead of "fuck." I mean really, it is just asking to be added onto every word.

  • JY

    A hearty "gahhh YES thank you" for Emily H.'s comment!

  • Flutterby

    I'm cursed with actually being small and looking weak and, lord help me, being 'cute' by some standards. Because I actually do need help reaching high shelves and carrying some things, I'll often confuse chivalry with common human decency. Can't imagine how many guys I've confused by refusing help carrying groceries but graciously thanking them for the offer, then yelling some insult at their back when they walk away past older or less conventionally attractive women who are visibly struggling with their loads.

  • Helpful Male’s Brain

    Oh, I see a woman struggling with her bags.

    Should I help? She seems like she needs it and my parents taught me to be courteous and helpful.

    But... then again, I've heard that helping people can infantilize them. Maybe I should let her deal with her own problems. It's for the be-

    Ah! She dropped one! I'm gonna help!

    Wait... I've been standing here looking for a bit. Maybe she noticed me. She'll think I'm some stalker or that I want to get into her bedroom. Which I wouldn't mind, really. She is sorta pretty...

    Damn! See, it is just sexual thinking. If I help she'll think I'm a "Nice Guy." I've heard bad things about those guys on the internet.

    Maybe I should help anyway. She needs help and has dropped another bag. I know! If I help her, I can help somebody else in the immediate vicinity, then she'll think I'm a genuinely nice person in addition to being helpful! I should pick a homeless guy and two gay dudes. That's the full spread!

    Oh darn. Nobody else in the vicinity. She'll definitely think I'm a stalker now, especially since it's been three minutes.

    Maybe I should just not get involved. It's a whole lot easier that way.

    Why do I not feel better?

  • Katie

    @HMB: Haha, ok, that was funny. In my opinion - if a female drops a bag, or even before she drops it (since she looks like she's struggling), just ask if she wants help. If anyone gets pissed about you ASKING if you can help, that's their problem. At least for me, it's more the assumption that I can't do anything that would piss me off (i.e. opening car doors, etc), but everyone needs help sometimes. Plus, helping a cute lady with her bags is how true love starts - haven't you seen the movies?

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  • Lizrd

    @Katie Aren't we just a couple of classless broads! I think foul language is the next frontier in the feminist revolution ;)

  • k not K

    HMB, let me echo Katie. JUST ASK HER IF SHE WANTS HELP. It's that easy!

    Bonus: if she's in the mood to talk to you, even if she doesn't want any help, asking is a great opener for a conversation.

  • EmilyBites

    Men who apologise for cursing in front of a woman should be met with a smiling and courteous, 'I couldn't give a flying fuck.'