One thing I find especially interesting about this city is the clash of Southern and Northern mentalities. D.C. is definitely below the Mason-Dixon line, but somehow, since I’ve been up here, I’ve lost my cool Louisiana accent as well as my tolerance for extreme heat, alcohol, and socializing in general. An old high-school boyfriend once asked me if I was “still living in Siberia,” referring to my 4-year stint in Charlottesville, Virginia.
I’m not sure where I fall in terms of this Southern/Northern divide, having grown up in the Deep South and then lost most of my outwardly “Southern” characteristics. For this reason, I feel especially qualified to comment in an unbiased way on today’s topic: Chivalry.
In my experience, Southern men are raised to be chivalrous. They see it as a sign of respect and politeness. The typical Southern man will automatically hop ahead of you to pull the door open, offer you his coat, give up his seat for you, buy your drinks at the bar, walk with his hand on your back (this one only in a romantic capacity). Northern men, I find, often see this kind of chivalry as condescending and outdated. In this post-feminist, post-women’s lib world, where women can run companies and countries while raising kids on their own, can’t they open doors for themselves and pay for their own coffee?
Well, of course we can. But that’s beside the point. Being a “gentleman” is about respect. The concept of courtly or chivalric love dates back to a particular period of cultural upheaval in 10th/11th century France and Italy when the rich, landowning men were off fighting in the Crusades, leaving their blushing brides to run the fiefs. Now that the women suddenly held all the power, the struggling serfs and artists began writing them poems of praise and endless devotion to gain their economic favor. That’s right- chivalry began with a bunch of gold-digging men who pledged to prostrate themselves before women in the hopes of gaining power and land.
Back then chivalry was a sign of respect for women, not condescension, and it was an acknowledgment of the social and cultural power of femininity. That’s not to say that failing to be outwardly chivalrous is a sign of disrespect; of course it’s not. Things are quite different today, admittedly, as women are incredibly independent and self-empowered. Traditional gender roles are not necessarily relevant anymore, but I don’t understand the cultural obsession with tiptoeing around the fact that men and women are inherently different. Our hormones are different. We bleed for a week every month so that one day we can endure hours of labor to pop out a little mini-me version of YOU. The least you could do is open the damn door.
While it’s easy to cross the line between being a gentleman and being a chauvinist, I would argue that most heterosexual women still appreciate it when a man goes out of his way to show respect for the Grand Vagina. Just because Hillary Clinton wears pants-suits all the time and rails on journalists who mention her husband doesn’t mean that she doesn’t love feeling a little bit feminine once in a while when Bill opens the car door for her. And she shouldn’t be called silly or high-maintenance for thinking that way. Know what I’m sayin’?
What do you guys think? Agree? Disagree? Thoughts?