Monday, June 16, 2014

Columnist mourns the death of gallantry

Rita Pahani has defended chivalry in today's Herald Sun, in response to news that men are no longer standing up for pregnant women on public transport.

I winced at her opening argument:
The lack of manners those women experienced made me think of Blanche and a line in the last season of The Golden Girls where she explains to a suitor: “I don’t want to be treated like your equal. No! I want to be treated much better than you.”

That should be the ideal all women strive for in life. It’s not only pregnant woman who deserve to be treated with all due deference.

The requirement for equal pay and opportunity shouldn’t spell the death of gallantry.

I don't like her definition of chivalry as women being treated better than men or as men deferring to women. And I'm not sure that you can run with a levelling philosophy in terms of social outcomes and then run with a differentiated philosophy when it comes to manners and mores. It's not easy, in other words, to drill constantly into the minds of men that women are just the same in social function and then expect the idea to flourish that women are different in personal interaction. The first ethos tends to depress the second one.

Nor does this argument help much:
AS a woman I am as capable, independent and empowered as any man, but that doesn’t mean I want to be treated like one.

I get that opening a door for a woman doesn't mean she can't do it herself, but if women bang on about how independent, capable and empowered they are, they are not exactly pushing the right buttons in switching on the male instinct toward gallantry.

However, Rita Pahani's argument does pick up later on. Most of the following I would not take issue with:
Being equals doesn’t mean we are the same. Do women truly want to be equal in every way? The simplistic equality-by-numbers approach fails to acknowledge that women, not all women but most, often have vastly different priorities from men.

Being truly equal means fighting in the front lines and being treated as an abnormal, ambitionless layabout for choosing to stay at home to raise children. As Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg wrote in her best-selling book, Lean In: “A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.” Is that really what most women want?

...I don’t consider a man opening the door, offering me his jacket if I’m cold or helping me with a heavy bag to be condescending or subjugating. It isn’t an admission that I’m inferior or superior; it’s merely an acknowledgment that we are inherently different.

...Chivalrous men are not only thoughtful but they are naturally protective; I recall Terri Irwin talking about her late husband, Steve, and how he would always walk ahead of her down a narrow spiral staircase so if she tripped, he would be there to cushion the fall.

That’s chivalry and there aren’t too many sensible women who don’t appreciate it.

Chivalry was once a matter of small gestures that signalled a man's protective instincts towards women and women's gracious acceptance of the man's gesture. It helped to create a good feeling between the sexes, and was an expression of a refined heterosexuality (which might be part of the reason why feminists disliked it so much).

At its worst, though, chivalry descended into a "defer to women as a matter of principle" attitude, which then meant that too many men were spineless in standing up to the demands of feminist women (it possibly encouraged, too, the idea that women were by nature morally superior to men, which then compromised the ability to men to lead in upholding moral standards in society).

Chivalry has to be properly focused if it is to be a positive good in society. If it makes men at all wimpy then it's going wrong and needs to be reset; if it is a happy part of the heterosexual interplay between the men and women of a society, then all strength to it.

14 comments:

  1. Bistro feminism at it's finest. Only wants equality when it's providing good stuff.

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  2. Chivalry was a military code with social responsibilities.

    They were:
    Believe the Church's teachings and observe all the Church's directions.
    Defend the Church.
    Respect and defend all weaknesses.
    Love your country.
    Show no mercy to the Infidel. Do not hesitate to make war with them.
    Perform all your feudal duties as long as they do not conflict with the laws of God.
    Never lie or go back on one's word.
    Be generous to everyone.
    Always and everywhere be right and good against evil and injustice.

    Feminists don't want chivalry, they just want deferential treatment.

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    1. Yes, at the very least the concept of chivalry has atrophied. Here's another attempt to describe it:

      When examining medieval literature, chivalry can be classified into three basic but overlapping areas:
      1.Duties to countrymen and fellow Christians: this contains virtues such as mercy, courage, valour, fairness, protection of the weak and the poor, and in the servant-hood of the knight to his lord. This also brings with it the idea of being willing to give one’s life for another’s; whether he would be giving his life for a poor man or his lord.
      2.Duties to God: this would contain being faithful to God, protecting the innocent, being faithful to the church, being the champion of good against evil, being generous and obeying God above the feudal lord.
      3.Duties to women: this is probably the most familiar aspect of chivalry. This would contain what is often called courtly love, the idea that the knight is to serve a lady, and after her all other ladies. Most especially in this category is a general gentleness and graciousness to all women.

      These three areas obviously overlap quite frequently in chivalry, and are often indistinguishable.

      Different weight given to different areas produced different strands of chivalry:
      1.warrior chivalry, in which a knight's chief duty is to his lord, as exemplified by Sir Gawain in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle
      2.religious chivalry, in which a knight's chief duty is to protect the innocent and serve God, as exemplified by Sir Galahad or Sir Percival in the Grail legends.
      3.courtly love chivalry, in which a knight's chief duty is to his own lady, and after her, all ladies, as exemplified by Sir Lancelot in his love for Queen Guinevere or Sir Tristan in his love for Iseult


      Something I find particularly interesting in all this is that the medieval mind recognised particular duties (to countrymen, to church, to God, to women) - there was not that abstractness that we so often find today.

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  3. What people want and what people can have are different things. For example I’d like to be able to walk into a Ferrari dealership and take a Ferrari and also have them pay me 700K for the privilege instead of me paying them. You might call that the “take and take model” of doing business. It doesn’t work so well in the real world though. In practice you will walk out with nothing if you try that. Give and take works much better.

    The feminist author is similarly advocating a “take and take” business model. Feminists wants to take the honour and respect that comes with being the “strong” and independent sex but also have the security of being coddled and protected. They want the honour and pride of wearing the metaphorical shinny armour but the security of knowing someone else will use it if the s*** hits the fan. They want to be thought of as knights in shinny armour who can fight their own battles and kick ass but want others to actually do the fighting should any be needed. They want the manly pride that comes with being a protector but want to be the protected. But it doesn’t work that way in the real world.

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  4. People long ago got wise to the feminists. They want equality of result when it benefits women but switch to equality of opportunity when it benefits them.

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  5. "It’s not only pregnant woman who deserve to be treated with all due deference."

    I agree! Women deserve to be treated with all the deference to which they are due.

    Which in most cases, is none at all.

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  6. "As a woman I am as capable, independent and empowered as any man, but that doesn’t mean I want to be treated like one."

    She sure doesn't -- especially when it comes to custody, child support, alimony, interactions with law enforcement and the judicial system, employment, opportunities for promotion, and university admissions.

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  7. "People long ago got wise to the feminists. They want equality of result when it benefits women but switch to equality of opportunity when it benefits them."

    Men are gradually being pushed out of any job that requires verbal intelligence without technical skills. It's already happened in human resources, PR and advertising, and it's gradually occurring among arts teachers, heritage workers and the law.

    My father used to work as a display technician in a museum. He says these days most museums have a gay male director, a couple of guys doing essential technical jobs and all the other positions are held by women.

    I tend to see it in class terms. Lower middle class men are very driven out of jobs by upper middle class women with better connections and a greater sense of entitlement. This is really obvious in England where upper middle class people tend to have a distinct accent.

    The social mobility that occurred in the 50s and 60s is now swinging in reverse.

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  8. "it possibly encouraged, too, the idea that women were by nature morally superior to men, which then compromised the ability to men to lead in upholding moral standards in society"

    In modern times, this is where chivalry will always lead. If it is to be practiced at all, it should ONLY be extended to a man's wife. That would send quite a statement through the entitled princess society

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  9. "Being equals doesn’t mean we are the same."

    Yes it does. That's the very definition of equal.

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  10. Warren Farrell has a lot to say about this sot of thing in his Excellent book The Myth of Male Power.

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  11. "I don’t consider a man opening the door, offering me his jacket if I’m cold or helping me with a heavy bag to be condescending or subjugating. It isn’t an admission that I’m inferior or superior; it’s merely an acknowledgment that we are inherently different."

    I wonder what, if any, obligations she believes women have towards men, to match these obligations she demands men have towards women.

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    1. Yes, she seems to have no concept of reciprocity at all.

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  12. A man needs to stop worrying about what people think of him. If we wait for 100% approval from everybody, we are going wait for ever, because we will never get it. Even Women understand that manners dont make a man if they cant get the sort of treatment even a Man will insist upon!

    As someone once said to me, when I was feeling sorry for myself because of my perceived lack of support, “get the support you need, from where you can.”

    You could be so pleasantly surprised where your support will come from. What we have to focus on is the positives, not the negatives. Because as we have all seen, there are knockers everywhere. (I feel like I’m doing my own version of “Desiderata”, but I’m sure you know what I mean.)

    I am convinced the knockers get a buzz out of working themselves up into a lather. When I think of them, I am reminded of “tazzie” the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Tunes.
    And as you said, Andrew, the Government needs to take on its critics with verve and wit.

    For example Ms Plibersek is revealed as the ugly school bully everyone hates, and a communist as well, but the media adore her, and TA’s wholly successful trip was ignored and she is revered.

    Honestly, where do you go from that? apart from freezing up and having bodyguards in case the media has stirred up some deranged person. A bit of manners wont go astray there!

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