Today I want to share my opinion on something that I know a lot of people have discussed before: feminism and chivalry. This is something I think about a lot because I am a feminist yet I also grew up on and love Disney movies and fairytales. There’s a constant clash in society’s ideas today where women demand equality but also enjoy being treated nicely by men, and somehow people think this negates the whole point of feminism.
I have a new idea about this feminism/chivalry rivalry every day and I don’t think there’s a straight answer to it.
Throughout history, women have largely been considered inferior to men and it’s gotten a lot better in the past century, but I for one have contrasting ideas of how I want to be treated. On one hand, I’m a strong-willed, educated young woman and I expect to be given the same opportunities and respect that any boy has. On the other, I dream about Prince Charming sweeping me off my feet and will flip my hair when I ask a male coworker to get a heavy box down for me (not to be lazy or take advantage of people, I just lack upper body strength and work in a restaurant with a lot of high shelves). I still consider myself a feminist even though I appreciate a funny chick-flick. It bothers me so much when people dismiss movies or music as “girly” to say that it’s dumb or frivolous.
I dislike stereotypes in general and there’s a fine line to be walked in the attempt to avoid them. It’s okay to let a guy hold the door for you. Don’t feel like he’s secretly belittling you by being a gentleman — just say “thank you” and hold the next door out for him like a lady. He’s just trying to be nice and make you feel special, so do the same for him. There’s no reason to make a huge deal and expect him to treat you like a princess then whine if he forgets to pull out your chair. But you also don’t need to give a ten minute long lecture about women’s equality if he does.
While I’m talking about dating and feminism I’ll add this: people need to get over the whole tradition of boys asking girls out and never letting it be the other way around. I appreciate the tradition behind it and understand that it’s scary for whoever’s asking to put themselves out there, but it’s about time it became more common for girls to ask a guy out. I realized how much of a problem this can be last April when I asked a guy I had a crush on to the senior ball at my high school. He ended up rejecting me very politely and we’re friends now. I was a little hurt but honestly proud of myself for what I did. What really bugged me was how shocked/mortified some of my friends and family were when I told them what I did. One person suggested that he turned me down because of how “backwards” it was for me to ask a boy out. I think it’s more progressive than “backwards” for girls to take some initiative and ask someone out. I’m a full supporter of the idea because it’s belittling to have such expectations for gender roles put on girls today. It is 2014 after all; we don’t live in a Jane Austen novel where women have to flirt with a fan before someone asks for a dance.
Chivalry shouldn’t be dead just because of feminism.
Chivalry should just mean that people in general, and especially in any sort of romantic relationship, treat each other with respect and thoughtfulness. Girls aren’t confined to a standard definition of what they should be and how they should behave because of tradition or society’s expectations. I think it’s okay for feminism to co-exist with chivalry as long as everyone understands how chivalry has evolved.
Anna is a sophomore at Hartwick College, majoring in anthropology and history.