Although I don’t always use the appropriate fork at dinner parties and I curse like a sailor, I am an adamant believer in good manners. Manners are useful lube in rather “dry” social situations, so to speak, but they don’t paint a complete picture of the complexities of social interaction. What I mean to say has been more eloquently stated by the lovely Ms. Nelly Furtado. In her post-modern analysis of 21st century hookup culture entitled “Promiscuous,” Furtado tells the illustrious rapper, Timbaland, that, “chivalry is dead but you’re still kind of cute.” I couldn’t agree more with the former part of this statement: Chivalry is dead. But I will argue that this is not a bad thing in the slightest.
As modern-day feminists, many of us struggle with cognitive dissonance in distinguishing between someone being “gentlemanly” and someone being condescending and chauvinistic. When I told a friend that I had coffee with someone and that we each paid for our own coffees, she commented that it was rude of him not to pay for my beverage. #cognitivedissonance: being torn between wanting to interact with men as an equal and with wanting to be “treated” to coffee or dinner or whatever. After much thought, I have decided that the only way to move past this psychological stalemate is to be the change I wish to see in the world.
As we all know, many career paths still limit women by functioning as glorified “old boys’ clubs.” These institutions perpetuate inequality and with every seemingly innocent wink or “thanks, hun” uttered in the workplace, the feminist movement is inching backwards. Since I have not yet joined the ranks of the workforce, the only way that I can do my part is on the microlevel of buying my own coffee.
(Does this small gesture of feminism mean that one day, I’ll be down on one knee and proposing to someone? Perhaps, but that assumes that I believe in monogamy; more to come on that subject in a future post.)
But back to the point: After a wild Friday night spent watching music videos with two of my dearest friends, one of these friends, K, suggested that Wiz Khalifa’s song entitled “I roll up” demonstrates 21st century chivalry. The lyrics are “whenever you need me/ whenever you want me//whenever you call, baby, I roll up” and Khalifa tells this girl that when her “man ain’t actin’ right” he will come over and be the other man.
My friends and I laughed about the absurdity that this is modern day chivalry, unconsciously agreeing with Nelly Furtado that chivalry is dead, but thinking that perhaps a potential suitor offering to show up at the drop of a hat may have to suffice as chivalry’s resurrection. But then, after some more reflection on the matter, I decided: no, this isn’t 21st century chivalry, it’s just 21st degradation of men. Rather than respecting women as men’s equals, Wiz Khalifa’s offer of “rollin’ up” is just letting himself be chewed up and spit out. Treating men as shittily as women are often treated doesn’t elevate anyone’s social standing.
Another facet of chivalry has been explored in the sociological research conducted by Peter Glicke and Susan T. Fiske. In their paper entitled “An Ambivalent Alliance: Hostile and Benevolent Sexism as Complementary Justifications for Gender Inequality,” Glicke and Fiske claim that benevolent sexism (chivalry that leads to the perpetuation of patriarchal power and female submission, often committed with the non-malicious intention of “protecting” women) can coexist with hostile sexism (the harsher views that women are trying to steal men’s power and that feminism is dangerous) and that both forms of sexism perpetuate gender inequality (Glick & Fiske, 2001). These theories empirically support what I have been arguing: what sometimes seems chivalrous may actually be motivated by chauvinism.
In conclusion: while I appreciate manners, I deem chivalry passé. Sure, who doesn’t love “pleases” and “thank yous,” but I don’t want a guy to hold the car door open for me, unless he would do the same for his “buddy” after a hard sweat session at the gym. And, I’m pretty sure, that most “dudes” don’t walk around the front of their pickup trucks to open the door for their “buddies.” So thanks, but no thanks.
thanks to my friend, C, for showing me the Glick & Fiske paper and for showing me this “ironically insulting” cartoon.