“Chivalry is dead,” they say.
Many claim that men are no longer opening doors and doing other things to show their respect for women the way their grandfathers did for their grandmothers. A good man is harder to find than he used to be, some add.
Every woman wants to be shown that she is special, to know that a man will go out of his way to show her that he actually does care whether or not she has her hands full or the door hits her in the face.
What used to be seen among men as a sense of responsibility to give that courtesy to women because they are women seems to have turned into a fear of showing any preference to the opposite sex.
If chivalry is dead, it is possible that women contributed to its death; at least, in the sense of what many women tend to mean when they discuss the topic.
There was once a time when women did not have the same opportunities as they do now. It was unheard of at one point for a woman to be a doctor or a lawyer or a company CEO — or even a newspaper reporter.
Now, young women find that job hunting is a much easier task than it was when their predecessors first began to chip away at the glass ceiling. While some women still struggle for the same level of social acceptance or pay within the workplace, most would likely say they feel like they are on equal footing with their male co-workers.
The United States has made great advances in gender equality, especially compared to countries where young women are required to keep their heads covered, stay home from school and concern themselves only with household things.
Still, based on my conversations with male friends, I have long sensed that men have been confused by the ongoing progress of women finding equal opportunities in their careers.
The confusion lies in whether or not they should still be chivalrous if men and women are supposed to be equal.
If Average Joe would not go out of his way to open a door for a male friend or co-worker, does he still need to do so for a woman?
Actions speak a trillion decibels louder than words. Yes, a man may still want to open a door for a woman if he wants his actions to communicate something positive.
There is one major detail that always seems to get left out of conversations about chivalry.
Despite how it has been illustrated in the past, it is not gender exclusive.
“Chivalry” is a word that dates back to the Middle Ages, according to the New Oxford American Dictionary. It is either “the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight, esp. courage, honor, courtesy, justice and a readiness to help the weak” or simply “courteous behavior.”
While the medieval knights were men, “courteous behavior” is something that should be practiced by both men and women.
I have opened doors for men who have been carrying heavy boxes and had their hands full. I have given up my seat to a man on a moving subway who was struggling to balance on a pair of crutches. That does not make me a saint; I was just treating those men how I would have wanted to be treated.
It is important to help those who need help, even if it means throwing traditional gender roles out the proverbial window.
I make an effort to say thank you to someone who opens a door for me because I appreciate the gesture, not because I think I deserve to have one opened for me just because I am a woman.
To be clear, whether or not a person opens a door for another is not the only issue of concern when it comes to practicing chivalry. There are many different instances in which someone can lend a helping hand to another.
As women and men both ponder what it really means to foster good professional and personal relationships, it is important to remember that things like honor and courtesy are not just tied to one gender.
Again, actions speak volumes. Loving gestures show love, and rude gestures communicate rudeness.
The issue I see to be of the biggest concern today is not whether or not men treat women with a one-sided kind of respect. The problem is that people in general need to be treating those around them with more respect.
If chivalry is dead, resurrect it by trying to treat well everyone you meet, and make “common courtesy” actually become a common thing.
What has long been known as “the golden rule” should still remain even in the absence of a more gender-based sort of courtesy.
Treat others how you would like to be treated, and they may take your lead and treat you the same way — regardless of whether you are a man or a woman.