Is the age of chivalry dead?

Or should the age of chivalry be abolished?

Twice over the past few weeks I’ve read from different sources that it’s somehow demeaning to a woman if a man opens the door for her or pays for her meal. In both instances, the people concerned were offended if a man held the door open for them because it somehow made women inferior.  They felt that a man being chivalrous towards a woman was in some way discriminating against them because it was rooted in the idea of a female being helpless. (The idea comes from the age of knights and dragons and heroines in need of rescue.) One in particular made it clear that chivalry is basically kindness and should be practiced by both genders towards others.

Those who read my blog know that I believe women can be very strong, warriors for the Kingdom, able to do and be anything that God asks of them. They can make disciples, baptize them, plant churches, teach and train, give communion etc. There are no barriers in the Kingdom of God for women. But what about at a cultural/social level?

I guess I was taught how to “be a lady” from an early age. I’d never thought twice about a man opening the door for me. I’d never even considered the matter until recently.

I’m puzzled as to how to react to this and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

What do you think about a man opening a door for a woman?

Is chivalry purely a cultural phenomenon? Should it be encouraged? Does it say anything about women at a spiritual level? Is chivalry a Kingdom quality?

    Photo Credit: InAweofGod’sCreation via Compfight cc

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Kris

    What is wrong with random acts of kindness. I open doors for men and found many open them for me. A smile goes a long way in sending out God’s love.

  • unkleE

    Yes I agree with Kris. Be helpful and friendly to everyone without being over the top, open doors for people who have their arms full or are pushing a pram or holding on to three young children, etc, or just when it is easy to do so. That may mean women receive this kindness more than men, but so what?

  • Kenneth Dawson

    No I think it should be open doors for each other no matter what the gender..it does not have a thing to do with spirituality..of course I understand it’s a generational deal but like that other person in the comments said..so what?

  • Mandy Taylor

    I hope the age of ‘chivalry’ is dead. It should be. Chivalry and kindness are not the same thing. Chivalry pretends to be kind and thoughtful, but it is one-sided, directed only from men to women, based on a faulty idea of females as helpless and in need of male assistance. It’s benevolent patriarchy in practice. It’s unidirectional, not mutual. Kindness on the other hand is one of the fruits of the Spirit. It is mutual, to be practiced by all to all, coming from the love of the Holy Spirit within our hearts, not the rules of some outmoded, silly gender game. God forbid we practice chivalry. God grant that we practice kindness.

    • Mandy Taylor

      Also, it is not that it is demeaning in and of itself for a man to open the door for a woman (or pull out a chair, or carry a burden, etc.). It is the intent behind those actions that are demeaning, when they are only done because the doer is a man and the recipient is a woman, and not because that particular woman was in need of assistance at that particular time. The intent of the act is what’s demeaning in chivalry. Kindness, on the other hand, sees everyone, male or female, as appropriate potential recipients of kind acts, not just women from men solely because they are women and for no other reason.

      • Scott Lycan

        Mandy, so sorry if I wrote in a manner that spoke to a wound. Your point was spot on with what I was trying to say. Vain,fake, or condescending demonstrations are not honoring.That is inappropriate to any culture or era. That can not be confused with authentic chivalry.
        But, honor and deference and small sacrifice – the kindness you rightly identify- must have a means of demonstration or they are just ‘nice thoughts’… and we have enough of those good thoughts without any actions already in this world.
        If I really want to cultivate a culture of honor and kindness, I must not just be a ‘hearer’ but also a ‘doer’. If I am misunderstood or misinterpreted then I also must be prepared to make an explanation of my actions and motivations with that same authentic flavor of honor and kindness.
        I appreciate your comments and I would be honored to have you hold the door for me in the coming days.

  • http://www.jondale.com/ Jon Dale

    When I take my daughters on dates (I have three), I always open the car doors for them…why, because I want to set a high standard for the men they later choose to date. It’s not disrespectful to honor a women…it disrespectful not to.

    The world is getting increasingly uncomfortable with there being any distinction between men and women. But Genesis is clear that God meant something when he created us as men and women. We bare something of the image of God in our gender. We don’t reflect God completely without both genders. That’s something to to embrace…not to be afraid of.

  • Scott Lycan

    Seems we are revisiting a discussion, or at least an attempt to respond to the recurring cultural doctrinal inability to parse the difference between “equality” and “sameness”. I remember being confronted by irate women back in the 70′s, whether I was holding a door, helping on with a coat, attempting to hold a chair, offering my seat to a woman on a bus, or walking on the ‘gutter side’ of the sidewalk as we strolled along.
    In every cultures there are customs of cultural conduct that are an attempt to confer honor and grace, small sacrifices of deferral. Some of my African friends are hesitant to make eye contact upon greeting me, not out of any sense of shame or embarrassment (my own cultural cluelessness at work here!), but out of respect and deferral. My mature response should not be to insist that they alter their culture of honor to comply with my demands -that completely dishonors their intentions.
    If our acts of chivalry are truly small acts of service and honor, and not signals of condescension, then they are altogether appropriate reminder of Kingdom values. To contemporize the old tradition,… When I walk on the gutter side of sidewalk as I escort a woman, am I really ready and willing to take a full bucket load of a household’s rubbish and toilet waste upon my head instead of her taking it upon herself? Am I willing to be doused in sewage on her behalf? Sounds like a “Kingdom of God” value to me, whether I am able to communicate that to her or not in terms she will accept.
    Let’s keep up those small acts of honor and grace. While we may have to let the images and vocabulary of ‘chivalry, knights, damsels in distress, and dragons’ die an appropriate cultural death, the truth behind them can be affirmed. And we can let them be Kingdom reminders.

    • Mandy Taylor

      “When I walk on the gutter side of sidewalk as I escort a woman, am I
      really ready and willing to take a full bucket load of a household’s
      rubbish and toilet waste upon my head instead of her taking it upon
      herself? Am I willing to be doused in sewage on her behalf? Sounds like
      a “Kingdom of God” value to me, whether I am able to communicate that
      to her or not in terms she will accept.”

      If she does not like or accept your action then it is not honoring her. And performing those prescribed actions is not a Kingdom of God value or evidence of the fruit of the Spirit. My second husband made a huge show of walking on the outside of the sidewalk (along with performing other “chivalrous” behaviors), despite his knowing it annoyed me. But he was thoughtless in many other ways. He was chivalrous, he minded the rules of chivalry that he’d been taught, but he was not kindhearted or thoughtful. Chivalry is just a cultural game and should be discarded, exchanged for true kindness.

  • MaryD

    After reading the comments, I feel like I just landed on a different planet. Many seem to be so insecure in their identities that any “chivalrous” gestures by a man sets them off on the woman/man equality thing!! I am 77 and am a product of a different generation, it is true. But WHY would any woman feel “put down” because a man was polite???? BTW shall we also do away with please, thank you, and excuse me? Should we turn into dour-faced “feministas” instead of softer versions of femininity?? Equal pay for equal work? Absolutely. Respect and equality in the work place? Absolutely. Equality in ministry? You bet. Do away with all images/”stereotypes” of femininity? Wait a cotton-pickin’ minute! If we want men to respect us and be “men”, then lets don’t strip them of their manhood in the process. Socially, we need to be “counterparts”, not “competitors” (not referring to competition in the workplace or academia). Not only do I appreciate men opening doors for me, I always tell them “Thank you”!

    • Mike

      The whole thing is crazy. If I open the door for a lady it is simply showing respect for her! (However, i am 73).

  • Angela

    Talk about another planet, I am not sure anyone understands where chivalry came from– French values in the middle ages. Courtly love was to serve and ‘prove’ your loyalty to a noble woman.There was never a feeling woman were helpless — that’s more of a Victorian extreme perhaps. Lots of the specific niceties were probably originally practical — gates and doors were incredible heavy or had cumbersome latches, chairs were heavy, it was hard to mount a side saddle, life was dangerous. I don’t know self defense, so I’d be quite happy to know that all the decent men around me would be willing to protect me. Those woman back then, and Victorian woman too, were probably way stronger and more capable at many things than the average modern woman, unless she is an athlete, works out, or does a manual labor job.

    The take-away is that if you want to be great, be the servant of all. Those who have share with those who have not. Men should use their strength to care for woman and children and elderly, and they need to be trained to do this vs. being selfish, which we all can easily fall into. Able bodied people should be trained to help others in the same way. Or maybe we will fall back into ‘barbarian’ ways of might makes right and the strong eliminating the weak like the Nazis did.

  • http://www.dl-webster.com/ D. L. Webster

    I think it’s an opportunity to show thoughtfulness, and respect, not a message of weakness or inferiority.

  • http://site.themarriagebed.com/ The Marriage Bed

    When the Titanic sank, it really was women and children first. A third class woman was 41% more likely to have survived than a man from first class? When the Costa Concordia went down, things were very different. On the Costa Concordia crew from poor parts of poor countries who took the most risk to help passengers. These are the men still being taught “old fashioned” ideas such as women and children first.

    Chivalry was not about putting women down; it was about protecting them, even at the cost of a man’s own life.

  • Jeff Herron

    Luke 22:24 Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them.25 Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ 26 But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. 27 Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.

  • felicitydale

    My apologies it’s taken so long to respond. When The Black Swan Effect launched, everything got behind.

    Thank you for a truly fascinating discussion! My impression reading these comments is that most of you think that a man opening a door for a woman is an act of kindness, not of condescension and certainly not demeaning.

    I love what MaryD says; equality in pay, equality in ministry, YES! But that doesn’t mean we undo our culture. I believe Paul said that we should use the culture in order to win people to Christ. If a guy opens the door for me and I believe he’s being condescending rather than kind, it’s going to hinder my witness.