Mandating chivalry is mandating sexism

“Okay, now you HAVE to cook me dinner.”
A Latin teacher in Arizona has instituted a rule that all of his male students act like “gentleman” to the young women in class. Yes, that’s right – he’s mandated chivalry.

[Cord] Ivanyi announced the initiative on the first day of class:
• Boys would hold doors for girls.
• They would ask girls if they would like to be seated, and offer to take their backpacks before they sit down.
• Boys would stand if a girl leaves the room.
• They would allow girls to be served first if food is in the classroom.
• And, girls always had the right of refusal.
“All boys will understand chivalry,” Ivanyi said. “It’s teaching them social grace. It’s things they should know when they do go out on dates.”

First of all, this is Latin class – not Old-School Dating 101. But I digress. As I’ve been speaking on college campuses this Spring, several students have asked me how I feel about chivalry, and if promoting feminism means “giving up” men being chivalrous. In a word: yes.
Now, let’s be clear – there’s a big difference between chivalry and manners. Being a nice person that opens doors for others (regardless of their gender) and being respectful is something that we should encourage in all people. That’s being kind; it’s mannered and it’s nice. Chivalry, on the other hand, is straight up based on the idea that women are weaker need to be taken care of. It’s insulting. It’s also a trade-off – one that we’re supposed to be grateful for – for being at the shit end of the patriarchy.
There’s a reason that folks like the Independent Women’s Forum – an organization that fights against Title IX and VAWA – have full on campaigns to promote chivalry. It’s the same reason that conservative columnists bemoan how feminism has killed women being “ladies,” or how if chivalry still existed rape would magically go away: The world in which women are treated like delicate flowers who need dudes to pay for their dinners and put on their jackets is a world in which women are expected to live up to their end of the bargain by being submissive and embracing traditional gender roles. No thanks – I’ll take equal pay over paid dinner dates any day.

Join the Conversation