Is Chivalry Dead?

Modern society is in dispute over the value and role of chivalry. Originally the medieval knights code of honour it today references a range of - usually male - behaviours. While some see these behaviours as the mindset of warmongers, glorifying violence and demeaning women, most see it as a courtesy and gentleness to women

Chivalry is not dead, it just looks different these days and because of its comparative rarity, it gets noticed.

Modern ‘Chivalric’ actions include: opening doors (especially car), matching the pace you eat to keep time with your date, suffering through a chick flick, an unexpected and thoughtful gift, walking on the outside of the pavement, putting your partners jacket on for them, offering your seat for an old man or a pregnant woman on a train, a thank you card (rather than a text) for a gift, calling when you say you will, checking you got home safe, paying the bill (though this is a social dilemma all of its own)...

While often cited as chivalric, walking on the outside of the pavement needs addressing. In olden days, this was so slops thrown from windows fell on the man (because the second floors of houses literally hung over the street) rather than women and for the man to keep his sword arm free. Hands up if you think we’re past that now. Also worthy of attention is the once upon a time tell tale chivalric action of a man standing up when a woman walks into the room. This is increasingly contentious today - 2021 chivalry means respecting a woman’s strength and independence and this particular act probably needs consigning to the waste-bin of aristocratic drawing rooms and boys only public schools.

All of the above though are what can be termed ‘checklist’ chivalric actions, and while indicators of lifelong chivalry, are not what chivalry is all about.

The 'chivalrous gentleman’ or ‘gentle lady’ is an individual who uses courtesy and thoughtfulness to demonstrate respect, compassion and trust, not to score points or conceal their true intentions (for instance, wanting to have sex as soon as possible) in a new relationship.

If we are going to make romantic relationships work, shouldn’t we focus on the similarities between men and women, rather than the differences? A man or woman who is willing to consider the welfare of others, to make small sacrifices and to find ways to express respect and trust on a regular basis is far more worthy of chivalric intention than someone who pulls out the stops on a first date to appear like a white knight or genteel damsel.