Does chivalry still exist?

By Phil Grech |

Everything has an expiration date, no matter how filled with preservatives. Milk. Veggie burgers. Canned goods. Pasta in a box accompanied by questionable powder mix. And apparently even chivalry.

Yes, we’ve all heard chivalry is dead. Passed away like a forgotten old man clutching onto expired beliefs. Expired like a dairy product that is now someone’s science experiment in the back of the fridge.

The Internet’s most reliable source, Wikipedia, states that chivalry is “the traditional code of conduct associated with the medieval institution of knighthood.” But chivalry means something else to us, if only because there aren’t a lot of knights around holding doors for women.

I have to wonder: has chivalry really passed away? Where is it buried? And if it hasn’t passed away, where is it exactly? In hiding? Guantanamo Bay? I still see men buying flowers and holding doors for the women they adore, so is this just another case of “things were better when I was a kid?”

A female friend complained to me recently that guys just don’t seem to care anymore. I could understand where she was coming from, but I think we had to fine tune the question. Do guys care? What does caring mean? What is this thing called chivalry anyway?

That’s what I wanted to find out, so I asked a few people to help me.

Tori Warenik, a 2011 Flagler graduate, related back to the original definition of chivalry and brought in a feminist perspective: “Chivalry can’t be a bad thing, right? Having men open doors, pulling over on the side of the road to help a fellow human, sticking up for someone who is being subjugated, none of this is bad and all of these examples are chivalrous to me. But why does chivalry have to be relegated to men alone? Can women not be chivalrous, even though the original definition in no way included women?”

But what if chivalry hasn’t died; it has just changed?

Jacqueline Dautel, a 2012 Flagler graduate, said, “The classical idea of chivalry is dead because classical scenarios are dead. I always think of the gentleman who lays down his coat for a lady to step over a puddle when I think of chivalry. That certainly doesn’t happen anymore … It isn’t dead; it has just morphed into new little acts of kindness. My boyfriend still opens the car door for me every time we get in so I believe some old forms of chivalry definitely still exist. But it is changing as people change.”

Caroline Young, who finished her degree from Flagler in journalism in 2011, took a more traditionalist approach: “I think in many aspects, it is dead. I am a firm believer in traditions. I believe a man should pursue a woman and gain her respect, and in turn, the woman will gain the man’s; however, females seem to have lost respect for our bodies and ourselves and like to give into our animal instincts faster than ever. I laugh when i hear girls say a guy stopped talking to them after they slept with them on the first date, so, I’m not going to blame males for chivalry’s decline. However, I believe chivalry can be revived from couple to couple, person to person.”

Erin Baker Bratic, wittily commented on chivalry: “[Chivalry is] … maybe not dead, but living in a low rent apartment outside Vegas and searching the couch cushions for change; maybe not dead, but in a rather sad state for the most part, in my opinion. I have become more aware of this as I have gotten older, so maybe I’m just cranky. Having been pregnant several times and being on public transportation in big cities and standing while young men all around me were sitting, pushing strollers toward store doorways while a man walks through right in front of me, and then lets the door slam behind him, and my personal favorite, waiting in line with my number at a supermarket deli while an older man bypasses the numbers and heads directly to the counter, not bothering to ask if some of us standing around were next in line. Some of it is just basic manners and the world is hurting because of a lack of such, in my opinion. Luckily I married someone chivalrous. When we go on family vacations, Alan [her husband] drives, which I appreciate. He does all the heavy lifting and ‘man stuff,’ respecting both my strengths as well as my more delicate sensibilities as a female. He makes me feel safe and that is chivalry to me.”

You may have noticed that only women responded to my call for questions regarding chivalry. That’s because only women responded to my call for questions. One more strike against men? I’ll let you decide.

With the diversity of opinions I got from everyone, I’m not sure what to think of chivalry. While everyone has their own opinion on what chivalry is, it seems to boil down to treating other people respectfully.

I’m not a fortune teller, but I would venture so far as to say that both men and women will be holding the door for each other, behaving politely, and performing random acts of kindness for one another for years to come, even if a few people grumble that it doesn’t happen anymore.

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