Yes, traditionally chivalry was witnessed through the gestures of men when they interacted with women in an effort to be courteous. Yet today, there is judgment of chivalry although the term references traditional behavior. Hence the common claim that “chivalry is dead” begs the question – who killed it?
Things have changed and mannerisms are different, especially between men and women. So let us talk about “chivalry”, which is a practice usually illustrated by men who are defined as noblemen because of their admired behavior towards women. Great! Awesome! But wait! Is this the true meaning of the word, or has society polished the term for a modern purpose?
Chivalry (i.e. bravery, a behavior) is derived from the dichotomy of right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate, and polite and impolite. Okay, I applaud men who possess the quality of chivalry, but I wonder if it is appropriate to censor their peers who may demonstrate differently. Does the practice of chivalry set one man a part from the other?
The answer may surprise you because the root of the word has little to do with what is supposedly expected from men to that of women. Yet, what is expected from one person to another is the discussion at hand. Some questions that may resonate are: Am I capable? Am I deserving? What is your worth?
A simple reply will toss these questions aside. Yes! You are capable of opening your own door; you are deserving of respect when reciprocity is practiced; and your worth should not be in the form of a question because if you have to question it – oh, you get the point. Conversely, chivalry has little, if anything, to do with gender and everything to do with ethical standards.
So in the context of female and male relations, it may be reasonable to describe chivalry as the ethical standards or human guidelines about behavior that should be illustrated between people. Therefore, gender is not a qualifier for acts of kindness. Being a human being does!
Respect and empathy for others is what defines “chivalry” and the practice should be reciprocated. So when you see a person who is incapable of standing without support, open the door. When you witness a person carrying more grocery than s/he seems to bear, lend a hand. And if you reject a guy who is unaware of chivalrous acts, question your intent.
Remember: we must teach people how to treat people.